Released on: July 6 2016
Available Platform: iOS, Android
Price: Free (Has microtransations)
Published by: Niantic/The Pokemon Company Developed by: Niantic
Those that read my reviews of Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, and Pokemon Sword and Shield will know that I love Pokemon. With an over-abundance of creatures to train and collect, it’s no wonder that Pokemon is the phenomenon that it is today. In 2014, Google created an April Fool’s joke about trainers using their mobile phones to catch Pokemon using Google maps. People went crazy for it and became the basis for Pokemon Go. When it released in 2016, I was ecstatic. Pokemon Go was the closest thing to catching Pokemon in the real world as one could get. I guess the world agreed as, for the first few months of Pokemon Go’s launch, almost everyone was playing it! My inner child was going crazy. Naturally, I have been playing since its inception and haven’t stopped since. So is Pokemon Go worthy of the billions of dollars it brings in each year?
Upon first creating your character, the player meets with Professor Willow, a Pokemon enthusiast who likes studying Pokemon and the intricacies surrounding them. He asks the player to catch Pokemon to record them in a device known as a Pokedex, a comprehensive tool that automatically records the information of found Pokemon. Upon reaching level five, the player meets Candela, Blanche, and Spark. They give the player a critical choice to make; which team to join? The player can choose between Team Valor (Red), Team Mystic (Blue), and Team Instinct (Yellow). I do like how important this choice is, as it dictates who the player can team up with to take on gyms (more on that later).
Pokemon Go has the player catch Pokemon. The kicker here is that for the player to find Pokemon to catch, they have to go out into the real world and find these Pokemon. If the player stops at local landmarks that Pokemon Go identifies as either a Pokestop or a Pokemon gym, they can gain more items to keep catching more Pokemon. The Pokestops are very simple, the player walks near enough to it for the game to recognize it, and they spin it to gain items. Gyms, however, are a little more complicated. Most gyms nowadays are governed by which team took it over. If the color represents the player’s team, they can leave a Pokemon there to help defend it. If it isn’t the same color, they can challenge the gym to try to claim it for their team. The players who have Pokemon defending the gym will receive Pokecoins (Pokemon Go’s premium currency) dependent on how long they stay there. Once their Pokemon gets kicked out, they will receive the Pokecoins. I enjoy this gameplay loop, as the idea of actually walking outside to find Pokemon, Pokestops, or Pokemon gyms goes well with Pokemon’s explorative nature. I still find it funny that I can turn to my girlfriend and say: “I found a Bulbasaur just outside our house!”
I kept hearing online that people believe Pokemon Go is dead. That cannot be farther from the truth. Pokemon Go has been adding more features, more Pokemon, and more events since it’s initial release. One significant addition was the Field and Special Research. These Researches act like Pokemon Go’s story and sub-quests. If the player completes the requirements of these quests, they get in-game rewards. Special Researches give a more substantial reward for completing them but are overall more challenging. Field Researches are simpler but give fewer rewards, and the player can only hold three at a time. Once a Field Research is complete, the player needs to spin a Pokestop to get a new one. If the player completes 7 Field Research quests (one per day), they will get a big reward and a chance to find an incredibly rare Pokemon. If that isn’t enough of an incentive to play, Pokemon Go will sometimes give the player Pokemon eggs to hatch. These will hatch if the player walks a certain amount of kilometers depending on the egg. The number of things to do in Pokemon Go is almost staggering, which compels me to come back time and time again.
While it does a lot of things right, there are several criticisms I have with Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go has never been the most stable game. When Pokemon Go was first released, it had trouble staying online due to the sheer number of people playing. While stability has improved since then, it took a very long time for it to be noticeable. Even today, there are times that Pokemon Go will either not load correctly, its internal GPS will place my character in the completely wrong location, or take a long time for the game and the Pokemon to load.
Pokemon Go is a highly profitable free-to-play game. The way Pokemon Go profits from players is with its shop. The shop uses Pokecoins that the player earned by defending Pokemon gyms or by purchasing them with real money. While there are no surprises to what the player buys (i.e., there are no loot boxes), it is worth noting that the game does have microtransactions.
If the player lives in a rural area, they will find playing Pokemon Go quite challenging. Most Pokestops and gyms are churches, landmarks, particular businesses, parks, or even post offices. In a big city or even a town, this is ideal as there are often multiple Pokestops or gyms right next to each other for accessible item collection. For rural folks, however, these Pokestops and gyms are much farther apart from each other. Some very remote locations have no Pokestops or gyms. The way Pokemon appeared in the game used to favor city and town residents, but this changed to include them in more remote places. While that did fix the issue of no Pokemon appearing, it won’t do the player any good if they have no pokeballs to catch them. I am aware that the developers recently introduced the ability to nominate locations as Pokestops, but the player has to be level forty to do this. I have been playing on and off for three years, and even I’m only level thirty-one.
While still being a little clunky, Pokemon Go is still a great mobile game. It always feels nice to catch Pokemon (especially new ones), and the Pokestop and gym concept can help players discover neat facts about the local landmarks they might not have known. To those who are looking to add a little something to their leisurely walk, I would recommend Pokemon Go. It’s hard to argue with free.