Nath sometimes writes for the site. This is one of those times.
Unless you have been living under a Geodude for the last few weeks, you may have heard that Pokémon Go has been released across the majority of the world. The app has taken the world by storm, it is now one of the most downloaded apps in history and is currently on 10.8% of android devices. However, does the app live up to the hype? Hopefully this review will give you some clarity.
The start of the game is similar to the Pokémon games of old. This time it is Professor Willow who offers you a choice of 3 Pokémon: Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. The 3 Pokémon appear on your mobile phone screen and you tap the one you want to start off with. There is a hidden Easter Egg where if you walk away from these 3, you can catch a Pikachu instead. I went for a Charmander in this scenario as I have always started with one. To catch him, your phone camera turns on and you can view the Pokémon via your screen.
Once you have caught your first Pokémon, you will then have to visit Pokéstops in order to obtain items and experience. This means the app is forcing you to go outside in order to explore certain points of interests around your home town. I managed to visit one and swipe to obtain a few extra Pokéballs, then a Rattata turned up nearby. So like an eager Pokémon trainer, I went to catch my first Pokémon. To do this you simply point your camera at the Pokémon and swipe the screen to throw the Pokéball at the Pokémon. Doing so, earns you EXP, stardust (used to level up Pokémon) and candy (this allows you to level up or evolve your Pokémon)
Levelling up Pokémon is done by either giving it a mixture of stardust and that Pokémon’s candy in order to increase it’s combat power, or giving it a load more candy to evolve it. Increasing combat power doesn’t give you experience, but evolving them does, so the key would be to evolve the weaker Pokémon and level up the stronger ones to make them stronger.
Once you have a strong enough team, you can then head out and start taking down gyms. Before you do this, you have to choose a team to be on: Team Instinct, Team Mystic or Team Valor. There isn’t a benefit to choosing a certain team over another, so I chose Team Valor. Once you are at a gym, you can then battle your Pokémon. This is done by tapping the phone to use your Pokémon’s normal move to build up power for it’s special move. You can also swipe to dodge the rival Pokémon’s attack. If you win and take the gym down, you place your own Pokémon there to defend it.
There also many features of the game which I thoroughly enjoy, mainly the egg hatching, as the only way to hatch eggs is by walking the distance that is needed to hatch them. There are 3 egg distances, 2km, 5km and 10km. The 2km ones are for fairly common Pokémon whereas the 10km are for the more rare kind. I have managed to hatch 2 5km eggs and 1 2km egg. The 5km eggs produced a Staryu and a Paras and the 2km egg produced a Magikarp. I don’t have a 10km at present, but it will be egg number 1 when I do get one. It also seems that location doesn’t restrict you to what type of Pokémon you can catch. I once caught a Goldeen in the middle of a field, with no rivers, lakes, sea or puddles around me.
I suppose the best feature is how well the online community have responded in regards to the app. There are numerous pictures online of funny encounters with Pokémon, my personal favourite being one with a Magikarp in a frying pan. Twitter has gone mad with PokémonGo fans as well, lots of people sharing what they’ve caught, the hilarious names they’ve been given and the problems people have faced.
It has also been noticed by the media too, there have been many horror stories related to PokémonGo. You may have seen the news story about the girl who stumbled across a dead body whilst searching for Pokémon. I really hope that doesn’t matter to me. My favourite story is the Pokémon Challenge issued by Twitter users. This is a series of challenges that trainers must to do to cross it off a checklist. There is no prize, only pride but the first challenge was to place a Pokélure (a lure for Pokémon to come to) at a hospital. I did wonder why until I realised what they were trying to accomplish. Unfortunately there are children who are ill and cannot leave hospital for days, maybe even weeks or months at a time. So the whole point of the lure was to bring Pokémon to the hospitals so they can continue playing. I was genuinely touched by this story and it was fantastic to see how well the online community has taken to this game.
I did see a story recently where one user walked into an open road and got hit by a car. The girl blamed the app for this, however it clearly states that when the app is loading to be aware of your surroundings.
There are of course some issues with game. The servers have gone down a fair bit since release which has angered the community. The excuse mainly being that the developers didn’t think it would be so popular. I’m sorry but this is a terrible excuse, people like me in their late 20’s have wanted to catch Pokémon in the real world since the games first came out on the original Gameboy. The servers are back up and running which is great, but you do wonder what is going to happen when other countries get hold of the app.
Another issue is the battery life. Most smartphones use up a lot of battery anyway but this app is the ultimate battery drainer. You can turn on battery saver mode in the game and put your phone in stamina mode (Android users only) but it still drains. You will need to invest in a power bar if you plan on going on an adventure for a large amount of time.
There are also some questionable Pokéstops and Gym locations. One stop nearby to me is the Royal Mail Sorting Office. I mean seriously, it is not a point of interest but if it does get me a few potions then I can let it slide. There are some Pokéstops in rough areas of the USA and teenagers are already getting their smartphones stolen by wandering into those area. There is also a Gym right outside someones house and he is getting very aggravated that people seem to be loitering outside.
The biggest problem is crime caused by the game. There have been a lot of reports of trespassing on other peoples properties in order to catch rare Pokémon, as well as a lot of people using the app whilst driving to essentially drive-by stops, gyms and catch Pokémon. It is only a matter of time before we see a news article saying that someone has crashed their car trying to catch a Dratini or something and this needs to be taken into serious consideration.
That being said, I have now been playing the game for almost a week and I have to say it is fantastic to be a Pokémon addict again. I have assembled a strong team and have started to dominate gyms around where I live, much to the annoyance of certain kids who have shouted at me to leave the gyms alone. I have also caught one of the rarest Pokémon in the game (Aerodactyl) and have evolved many other Pokémon in order to complete my Pokédex. The app, even though as a bit clunky to begin with, will forever go down as one of the most popular apps ever created, bringing together a fantastic online community. I have to say a massive congratulations to Niantic for creating such a fantastic app and for attempting to resolve server issues as quickly as possible. I will give the app 9 towns full of Rattatas out of 10. There are a few things that need sorting out still and features that need fixing. Server crashes happen quite a lot at the moment and this does need resolving as it’s not just me that is getting irate about it. That being said, this is something that can be resolved hopefully in the long run. Also this is the first 151 Pokémon available, there are still many more to be added into the game. I am loving this game and I’m sure that I will be continue to play for this many years to come.