It’s finally here! Well, sort of anyway! Pokémon GO has arrived!
We’ve been playing it through some slightly devious means, and it’s pretty much consumed our lives so far… but does it match up to the hype?
Let’s break down what Pokémon GO actually is. It follows the basic concept of the Pokémon handheld console games. You explore the wilderness, seeking out Pokémon to fill your Pokédex, battling other trainers and testing yourself in gyms. The one exception is that all of this takes place in an Augmented Reality environment. So, basically real life.
As you have the app open, a Google maps overlay appears and your character is placed on a map. As you trek through your city, town, the local beach, random city parks your character starts moving too. Wild Pokémon appear in front of you and you’ll have to throw a Pokéball Angry Birds style and hope for the best. Local landmarks will become Pokéstops which are havens for Pokéballs, Potions, Revives and Eggs.
Picture the scene. Dublin City, O’Connell Street. The Spire & The Charles Parnell Monument are Gyms and there are Ratata & Pidgey everywhere. Trainers are flocking to these areas & people are battling it out to control these landmarks for their team. Landmarks like Big Jim Larkin & Taxi Driver Jesus (this is a real thing) are providing people with Pokéballs, Potions and Eggs. Trainers are walking 2km, 5km & 10km in order to hatch eggs and obtain new Pokémon. And, get this, Pokémon Go is installed on more Android devices than Tinder. That’s how big a phenomenon Pokémon GO has become. We shit you not.
We have to say, that so far our experience with Pokémon GO has been one of pure addiction and nothing but fun. Taking a stroll around a town or by the beach have taken on a whole new meaning for Pokéfans and even more casual gamers who are not as familiar with the franchise wanting to get in on the latest smash hit to land on mobile devices. You’ll want to walk further and down oft-abandoned paths in order to nab yourself that Pikachu or Charmander. Sun, wind, rain, snow, 3am, 9am, 9pm – You’ll want to be outside because as the environment changes, so do they available Pokémon. In rain, water Pokémon become more frequent and near power stations and in thundery weather, the electric types come out to play.
The real competition comes when you pick your team. At level 5 you will qualify to take on gyms and at this point you will have to choose one of three factions. Mystic, Instinct & Valour all based on Articuno, Zapdos & Moltres. These factions have different outlooks & ethos and you will pick the one you believe in most. Then you must fight for your team and take control of as many gyms as you can. Facebook groups have been organised in order to co-ordinate taking over towns and areas in cities. Very Hunger Games, eh?
Pokémon GO has truly become a social phenomenon. And this is fantastic to see. People are getting out and about, making friends, catching Pokémon and while many of its detractors are stunned at the fact that this is a game, it has become a lifestyle for many in just a couple of days.
In order for Pokémon GO to truly find its place as more than just a fad, in our opinion it needs to add a couple of things. The ability to trade amongst your friends (and presumably the ability to add friends) is coming in a further update, but what we would love to see is a version of Wonder Trade that exists on the 3DS Pokémon games. Given that many Pokémon will be region specific, it’s very possible that you won’t be able to get all 151 without travelling to another country… or far off town at least. By implementing Wonder Trade, you will allow users to trade off a random Pokémon in exchange for another random Pokémon from someone around the world.
Another option we would love to see is a more selective battling mode, again amongst your friends. This would add to the social competitive edge and allow people to gain experience and level up by taking on their mates and taking the bragging rights. A mode like this would also be a great equalizer for those who have not yet gotten the app as new starts may well feel very left behind and have a lot of work to do when the app finally goes officially live… which has no set date yet.
The reason for this is that the game has been so popular that the servers cannot cope with the amount of people trying to catch ’em all. Nintendo are working on the issue but do expect plenty of down time, but this is normal with any new online based game.
That being said, by the looks of things there is still a whole lot of mileage (literally) left in Pokémon GO and given that it has more active daily users than Twitter seems certainly set to stay.
Long live Pokémon GO!