Pokemon Go Review – Not The Very Best

More like Pokemon NO, ha ha ha ha.

Ha ha ha ha.

01

Developer: Niantic
Publisher: Nintendo
Format: Android, iOS (reviewed)
Released: July 6, 2016
Free-to-play, microtransactions purchased

The central premise behind Pokemon Go is genius, something I think most of us can agree on whether we like the actual product or not.

Using GPS tracking to litter the real world with pocket monsters and inviting players to go hunting for them is perhaps the perfect way to bring Pokemon to phones. It not only simulates the series’ themes of adventure and travel, but it exemplifies its meta ambition get people off their arses and be part of a colorful community.

Undoubtedly, Pokemon Go has been a success in every single way. Financially it’s raked in over $1.6 million during its first day, and the press coverage has rivaled that of the Pokemon series’ original launch in the 1990s. Nintendo’s stock has risen dramatically, and it’s primed to make a killing off a renewed cultural obsession with the franchise that once owned the world and could very well do so again.

More than that, this mobile spin-off has achieved phenomenal influence over the behavior of others and created something human beings are genuinely bonding over. Stories abound of people having hilarious encounters with total strangers while hunting for rare Pokemon, it’s taking over schools and workplaces, and hot Pokemon gathering spots are drawing crowds.

02

This isn’t just something you see on the news or social media, either. It can be encountered just by going outside yourself. Yesterday I went to the park and was able to witness the huge crowd gathered around a small statue of a man with his dog.

This statue, designated a Pokemon Gym and surrounded by Pokestops, had drawn in people of all ages and genders. They all had their phones out, and they were all having fun.

At my local bar – itself a popular Pokestop – you can find plenty of adults merrily playing it. My server was boasting about catching a Pikachu just before she got my drink. Last night, a man stepped into the beer garden for a cigarette, and within seconds of appearing we heard his phone blast out the app’s signature tune.

Even here, in the humdrum realm of America’s deep south, you can’t move for budding Pokemon trainers. Whatever else I may think of this thing as a product, I cannot honestly claim to be unimpressed by its achievements.

All that said, the app itself is far from impressive.

Those looking for depth and meaning in this cultural phenomenon will be disappointed, as Pokemon Go is a threadbare nucleus of an app that does only the bare minimum in order to be considered a game. In fact, it’s honestly quite boring.

03

As noted, Go uses GPS tracking to pinpoint its users in the world. Players create their own avatar using basic customization tools before walking outside to look for creatures. Go builds a stylized map of the local surroundings and populates it with Pokemon that become visible once they’re within a trainer’s radius.

To catch a Pokemon, players tap its likeness on the screen to enter a minigame that plays out like a slightly more nuanced Paper Toss while the monster in question uses the phone’s camera to appear as if it’s prancing about “in real life.”

Capturing it is as simple as flicking Pokeballs from the bottom of the screen and hoping to hit the target, though there are some extra challenges to be mindful of. Colored rings circling the Pokemon indicate how easy it is to catch – the smaller the better – and an orange ring means the creature may need calming with a berry item before it’ll be ensnared reliably.

One can also “spin” the ball by rotating a finger before flicking it. This will toss a curve ball that’s difficult to land, but success will result in more EXP should the ‘Mon get got. Experience is good, since leveling up gets you free rewards.

Pokemon can be evolved by collecting candy and feeding enough of it to a valid candidate. Candy is found every time you catch a Pokemon, and if you have more than one of the same creature, you can trade it to Professor Willow (Go‘s virtual instructor) for a single piece of extra candy.

It can take a heck of a lot of candy to evolve a Pokemon, and the candy isn’t generic – you’ll specifically need Bulbasaur candy if you want to evolve a Bulbasaur or Ivysaur – so players are encouraged to capture dozens of the same type of monster.

Various real-world locations are designated as Pokestops or Pokemon Gyms. Stops are landmarks that give out free stuff including Pokeballs, berries, battle items, and eggs every five minutes. All you have to do is tap a stop once it’s in range, and spin its logo to produce rewards.

Gyms are a bit more involved and tend to be found in popular areas like parks or malls.

04

Once a trainer reaches level five, they can join one of three teams – Mystic, Valor, or Instinct – and battle to control each Pokemon Gym. Players leave Pokemon behind to “defend” a Gym, and any nearby players can fight these defenders in a bid for dominance.

The battle system itself is… not particularly good. In fact, it’s terrible.

You basically just swipe left and right to dodge incoming attacks while tapping on the opponent to deal damage. Aside from being able to unleash a secondary attack once a meter has been filled, there’s nothing much to think about. Just swipe and tap.

Each Pokemon is assigned a Combat Power number that denotes how effective they are in battle, and that’s what a fight really comes down to. Whoever brings the highest CP rating gets to run the Gym. Simple as that.

Aforementioned eggs can be stored in incubators and will hatch into (hopefully) rare Pokemon once players travel a certain distance. Unlike other phone games, Go only registers progress when it’s open onscreen, insidiously ensuring nobody dares put the thing down.

My descriptions may make the game sound more elaborate than it is. Despite any attempts at complexity, Pokemon Go is an incredibly shallow game by design. Very little of one’s time is intended to be spent fighting, with the main focus being on walking about and intermittently tapping on pictures of fictional animals.

For those wondering if there’s a “point” to any of it – there isn’t.

05

What really holds the game back is the fact that it’s quite a poorly made game. In addition to having very little meat on its bones, Pokemon Go is an unstable piece of software, prone to freezing and crashing, regularly making players log in over and over even if it’s been set to remember one’s credentials.

It’s laggy as hell, often struggling to track one’s movements in real time or registering the touchscreen’s input. Many is the time I’ve had to repeatedly hammer a Pokemon with my finger to initiate a capture sequence. This is to say nothing of the game’s ability to stay online – server downtime is frequent and never convenient, and it’s not uncommon to have the game stuck in perpetual loading phases until it’s closed down and freshly rebooted.

Every single facet of the game can fail to perform. Whether you’re battling, capturing, opening the store page, or trying to use a Pokestop, any one feature is prone to locking up and staying locked up. Spending any significant amount of time with the game will see a lot of rebooting and more than a little frustration.

Though all essential items can be found from Pokestops, there are microtransactions for the impatient or immobile. Pokecoins can be bought with hard cash and exchanged for Pokeballs, as well as extra incubators, incense that attracts Pokemon, or lures that affix to Pokestops and turn them into veritable monster magnets.

06

Surprisingly, Pokemon Go has yet to use microtransactions as a way to create significant shortcuts. You can’t yet buy Pokemon candy or speed up egg incubation. You have to keep going out there and catching things to progress the game in any meaningful way – though we’re stretching the definition of words like “progress” and “meaningful” when we say this.

I don’t particularly like Pokemon Go. Nope, don’t like it. I’m not even sure I “get” it. I am, however, playing it like so many other people. There’s a compulsion to play, and it’s not actually a compelling game.

Thus we return to the notion of Pokemon Go‘s undeniable success. Despite being a pedestrian and uninspiring experience, it’s still conquered the hearts and minds of millions, and while I don’t know why, I’m still firing the thing up every time my dog goes out to take a shit, because there could be an Ekans out there.

So anyway, here’s a score I guess. One that is truthful despite not reflecting the time I’m putting into this damnable product.

5/10
Mediocre

Fallen Prime
Guest
Fallen Prime

…I’m a Pokemon junkie and I can’t see myself chomping at this bit. Maybe when they fix a bunch of shit.

PassingAtRandom
Guest
PassingAtRandom

Pff, here’s the reason: pure hype. “OMG, POKEMON IN REAL LIFE”, the thing is they are so focused on the idea of using AR in their phones that they pay no mind to the many, many limitations the system has and that i was calling out from the very beggining…

TJ Barke
Guest
TJ Barke

What are the odds that it could lead to hooking up with a cute nerd girl?

TheDels
Guest
TheDels

Thank you Jim.
Thank you for not saying this is a masterpiece like every facking people are saying it is.
Thank you..

Random J
Guest

I’m not a mobile gaming fan nor a Pokemon fan, yet I’m intrigued by this, purely because it’s everywhere and it’s gaining so much traction. But I’m already miffed by the dodgy roll out – which has seen APK’s go up online just in order for people to cop the game before the official regional releases and risk the security of their phones in the process. I don’t even think Niantic know when they’re going to release it in certain countries, which is perplexing and annoying. The real test will be if Niantic can fix many of the glaring issues… Read more »

woopywoo
Guest
woopywoo

As someone who has completed the Pokedex numerous times over in the main series, finding and catching the Pokemon themselves is where I get my enjoyment here with Go. There is something so distinctly satisfying and enjoyable about going out and literally hunting for Pokemon, or taking a walk to hatch some eggs. The weird, inherently positive sense of community surrounding the game is great, too. Me and a friend of mine happened to notice an unclaimed gym close by us yesterday, so we stopped by. As we pulled in, someone on Team Valor actually claimed it. I defeated the… Read more »

Christian Boler
Guest
Christian Boler

I think that the simplicity of the game does a lot to add to its success. It’s basically a simplified reskin of Ingress, and I think that with a game that encourages mobility and being social, adding too much complexity would be a detriment to the game. That being said, the core features could probably be improved upon, but from what I’ve seen the simplicity is why the game is so popular; a lot of people who usually don’t play games have been able to grasp and understand the app with fairly little difficulty, and have spent more time talking… Read more »

NakedAmericanMan
Guest
NakedAmericanMan

I’m always a bit thrown off whenever I see game reviewers say “there’s no real point to any of it.” Like, there’s no real point to any game is there? There’s no actual tangible reward, it’s all about how well any game’s presentation makes you FEEL like you got something. And that’s so subjective that just saying “there’s no point” has never felt like substantial critique.

Graham Miller
Guest
Graham Miller

I don’t really like the game either, but I’m up to 51 different types caught, and I keep going, just in the hopes that it will one day be something better than it is.

broli4000
Guest
broli4000

On point with everything. The most frustrating part is that if you aren’t constantly playing, you are quickly left behind. With about a dozen crashes while trying to take a pokegym, I gave up for the day. Now, two days later it holds pokemon that are more than double my CP. Just because I’m not playing 24/7 shouldn’t put me at that large of a disadvantage.

At the end of the day, if I can’t stay competitive playing the game then why play?

Kyle Pierce
Guest
Kyle Pierce

Gotta give Poke’mon Go props for putting “mobile” in mobile games & you aren’t waiting for things to happen like in most mobile games either. You go out & make stuff happen yourself. That’s a game changer right there & anything that gets fat asses like me out of the house is a good thing in my book.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

This…sure is a funny looking Technomancer review…

GeraltOfRivia 456
Guest

What I like about pokemon GO!:
Its making people do exercise.

What I dislike:
MICROTRANSACTIONS
bugs
phone battery drain
and most un fun… uses a crapton of data

Nickwolf
Guest
Nickwolf

I’ve been seeing reviews for this game pop up in a lot of places, and though I would never say a game shouldn’t be reviewed or should be excluded from criticism, the game is very unlike a traditional experience that its difficult to rank in the same way other games do. I totally agree that the game is kinda pretty shitty, and that its buggy and unstable as all hell and probably really deserves even a lower score than 5/10…but its just such an odd thing. I personally feel like despite all its flaws, it still shows potential down the… Read more »

Isaac Is Binded
Guest
Isaac Is Binded

Even tho I’m aware it’s a sub-par app, I’m still eager to try it out when it launches in my country. Hopefully Niantic get their shit together when it comes to fixing the servers, and maybe down the line add more gameplay features to it. Oh, and more pokemon in the future, of course (I WANT MY CINDAQUILL DAMMIT)

Milestone_RP
Guest
Milestone_RP

A mobile game that’s bare-bones and not very good, yet inexplicably popular? Naaaaah, that’s crazy. You’re crazy. Thing is? I’m all but certain that this game is made to be INTENTIONALLY kind of crap, as a way to get people all psyched up about Pokemon again, then they’d be turning to each other and going “hey, this isn’t as good as the REAL games, quick, let’s all go get our 3DS’s and play REAL Pokemon. There’s new ones coming out now!” Also, I was shocked when I was told that there’s no analogue of this app for the actual 3DS.… Read more »

GodzillaGuy92
Guest
GodzillaGuy92

It really is baffling how they created this whole game centered around collecting Pokemon, only to forget the step where the game actually gives you fun things you can do with the Pokemon once you have them. Still, though, I’m glad to see a game like this doing well, in my own way; hopefully after the exercise in Nintendo determinedly bashing its own face against a telephone pole and warding off anyone who tried to help them that was the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo will learn the lesson that doing the obvious things that everyone’s been shouting at them… Read more »

Sethzard
Guest
Sethzard

I’m normally pretty accurate with guessing your scores from the review, this one got higher than I was expecting.

cowboyjimmy
Guest
cowboyjimmy

do you guys think that this might be the first step towards making the handhelds obsolete?

ManuOtaku
Guest
ManuOtaku

Maybe it is like deadly premonition, the good kind of bad.

Howl
Guest
Howl

Very fair review, I hope, and am fairly confident, that the game will be expanded upon and improved in the near future, so what you will about Nintendo, but they rarely leave a game as is.

With soon to be 7 generations of critters to catch, this game could have a VERY long lifespan

Greyson Xiu
Guest
Greyson Xiu

It is just a mobile app so a 5/10 is pretty acceptable. just think of it as google map with pokemons.. there are already games that is just like this like that ship girl anime go. (its real.) but it does get people going outside. so I am okay with it being a thing. people just need to be aware like you are not in pokemon world they are still in the real world as in robbers cars and bad neighborhoods and people with guns are still a thing.

Zejgar
Guest
Zejgar

In case your phone does not have a gyroscope, the game offers you a non-AR mode, so you can still play it without the fancy projection of Pokemon onto the camera image.
I feel like this fact is helpful to mention.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Unless this app gets a massive overhaul in the next week or so (doubtful), I don’t see it’s popularity lasting too long.

Such an incredible concept wasted on such a mediocre game.

jomb234
Guest
jomb234

uh oh, you gonna get it now. Luckily I know you can take it. You’ve been tempered against mindless fanboy hate.

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