The first Pokemon game for smartphones is not what was expected
It’s still early in the app’s development but Pokemon Go for smartphones is already showing some weaknesses, not the least of which is the absence of any oomph in the battles
Pokemon Go has a killer concept: to bring the “catch ’em all” experience from the Pokemon games into the real world.
In practice, the app – one of a handful that Nintendo has agreed to put out as part of a push on mobile devices – lives up to some of the hype, although changes from the traditional video games might take the shine off for some fans.
Released this month, the basic idea is to combine augmented reality with your smartphone as the game uses real locations to anchor its digital world.
There are certain special markers, called Pokestops, scattered throughout that world that can offer various kinds of loot in the game. Other spots, designated as gyms, act as control points where you can battle other players for dominance.
Right off the bat, I was disappointed to find that the battles in this early test are very different from the traditional games.When catching a new Pokemon, for example, it’s just you and some Pokeballs against a wild Pokemon – no battle necessary.
Fighting between Pokemon is reserved for challenging other players at Pokemon Gyms. But even then the “battles” are about dodging your opponents’ attacks in real time, not choosing your attacks turn by turn. Battles are a core part of the app, so my disappointment is heavy, even as I recognise that it’s still early in development.
Still, there are other touches that make the game fun. The novelty of seeing a Pokemon superimposed on the pavement is delightful. So is the fact that the Pokemon are supposed to match their surroundings – for example, water Pokemon hang out near lakes and other bodies of water.
And, honestly, one of the things I ended up liking most about Pokemon Go is finding all the little murals and statues in my city, designated as Pokestops, that I either had not noticed or not visited before. I see this as an incentive to get your child (or adult) to exercise and explore.
To help players wander without tripping over kerbs in pursuit of Pokemon, the Pokemon Go team will also sell a US$35 game accessory that I did not test called the Pokemon Go Plus.
According to the developers, this device is about the size of a fitness tracker and can be worn on the wrist or lapel. It will connect with the app and buzz when a wild Pokemon is nearby, allowing you to tap the tracker to catch it, sight unseen.