Pokemon started when I was only 9 years old, and as a result, I always had a soft spot for it. When Pokemon Go for smartphones was released two days ago, you wouldn’t believe how excited I was. I guarantee you, every kid like me back in 1998/1999 had the farfetched dream to become a Pokemon Master. At the time, we only had the Game Boy editions to live that dream out. I didn’t even own a Game Boy! I had to settle for Pokemon cards, the anime, and playing my friends’ Game Boys and their Pokemon. Technology has come so far since then, to the extent now we can have Alternative Reality (AR) apps from our smartphones. The result? Via the smartphone’s camera, we can catch them in real life locations! The 10-year old kid in me screams in excitement with that proposal. Do you know how exciting it is to capture Pokemon from real-life locations? It’s the stuff that we dreamed about when we were kids. I went in to the city to have lunch with some uni friends of mine, and you wouldn’t believe the number of people – of various ages – who were crowded around the Queen Street Mall, which is a common meeting point of Brisbane City. I reckon one in three people there were using Pokemon Go finding Pokestops (akin to a Pokemon Centre, where you can get free supplies – without the rest stop for your Pokemon) and the Gyms.
Left: The main Pokemon Go interface. Blue cubes are Pokestops, the large red points are Pokemon Gyms.
Right: Yes, I got a Magikarp. Will take a lot to make it evolve in to a Gyarados!
The app is extremely easy to use. After you set up your avatar and profile, you get to choose from the 3 original starter Pokemon – Squirtle, Bulbasaur and Charmander. I chose Bulbasaur, mainly by accident! Haha. But the app will give you a tutorial on the battle system, and the features. The “battle” interface is a simplified version of what you find in the games. You don’t need a Pokemon to catch another. You just simply throw your Pokeball towards the Pokemon you want. This is a little tricky, as sometimes you miss completely. Also, like in the Nintendo console versions, there will be Pokemon that will break out. While simplified, it still has a feel of authenticity – however instead of Red/Ash catching it, you are! If you’re on battery saving mode, you can also turn off the AR camera.
Left: Look ma, there’s a Bulbasaur on my driveway!
Right: With the AR camera off, you get a generic background like in the Nintendo console versions.
A major gripe with the app though is the concentration of Gyms and Pokestops in the CBD, compared to the suburbs. For some of us, we don’t get to go in to the city as much, so it would be nice if the a higher concentration of Gyms and Pokestops in some of the outer-suburb areas. However, Pokemon Go has encouraged me to deviate from my regular walks in the pursuit of new Pokemon. That’s a plus in my eyes! In addition, the balance between in-game intrinsic achievement and in-game purchases is just right. You don’t need to buy more Incense or Pokeballs because you’d get most of them for free anyway at the Pokestops. This app is designed for you to go out and about – you can’t really play it in the local area. As I said before, however, a higher number of Gyms and Pokestops would be nice.
However, I’ve noticed there are some things missing! More social features like:
- Trading Pokemon with friends.
- Battling friends.
- The option to battle other people in a close radius, or at a Pokemon Gym location.
These are features which can be implemented, that won’t ruin the ‘physical nature’ of the game. It would just enhance the experience in my opinion. Overall, this game ticks the right boxes for me. It’s engaging, and you have to physically go searching for the Pokemon. You have to move. In this age of health and wellbeing, that’s a good thing. There are some rough edges that need to be fixed, but hopefully the developers can sort that out soon!