Thursday, July 07, 2016

Pokémon Go - Initial Impressions

Within minutes of the app being available, I had it downloaded and was already exploring the game to see what goodies it had to offer. Pokémon Go has been a long time coming, offering a new experience for trainers to play their favorite game in the real world - sort of. Using AR (augmented reality) technology and your cell phone, you are able to catch Pokémon around you, level them up, and battle in gyms. The internet freaked out a little bit.

Now that I've played the app for a while, I can say for certain that it has a lot of growing up to do and I hope they don't make players wait for long.

Since the beta, the game now introduces you to a mini tutorial and provides you with a starter Pokémon of your choice from the standard 3: Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. To catch a creature, you have to flick a Pokéball at them by swiping your finger across the screen. If you bop them on the head, you are more likely to catch them. Throw the ball too far off course and you'll miss your chance to nab them. After that, you are set out to explore the world around you and catch more Pokémon.

That's about all the tutorial will tell you. The rest you're expected to figure out on your own. Hint: The Pokémon in the wild will appear on the overhead map with leaves fluttering among the grass/buildings. That's not explained in the game.

It wouldn't be so bad if there were a robust FAQ or even a menu system with more then 4 options. So you have to fiddle around with the app to figure out what things do. You get a few starter items as well, such as an egg which allows you to potentially spawn up to 3 Pokémon near you, but it's not a guarantee.

Right now you can capture the pocket monsters, train them with items so they can become stronger, and battle against gym leader NPC's. You can also claim a gym and use one of your Pokémon to hold down the fort. Other people can battle your character this way, but there are no one on one battles at this time. There is also no trading. Interaction with other human's playing the game are almost non-existent. You can't event friend people (or if you can, I have no idea how since the menu system is so basic, there's little information to help you out). Hopefully these are all features that will be released soon.

Another issue to be aware of is your phones limitations. A number of people have been concerned about battery usage since the app not only requires you to turn on your GPS but you also have to keep the screen up if you want to pick up items throughout your day. GPS is a massive battery suck. Combined with the screen time, it's going to drain your cell phone's life; even with a charger plugged in. It's recommended that you turn on the Battery Saving option under the settings menu, and turn off that GPS when you are not playing. The developer is looking into a more permanent solution. I only played for a few minutes this morning and it took a 2% dip in my battery life. During my lunch break, I had to turn up the screen brightness. After 10 minutes of roaming, I was down 5% on the battery. Results may vary.

There is also the issue with the AR itself. Since the game is based off of GPS, if you have a phone that's older then a year, it may not have access to the latest software updates and/or is unable to utilize the newest content. As such, it can limit your range when the app refreshes the Pokémon available in your area. This is why you'll see some people catching monsters in their home with ease, but the rest of us have to walk a few blocks before we find one. As phones get better over time, so will the tech and Go. Until then, good luck trying to stay on top of the game!

I could see this becoming an addictive game, for all the right reasons. It's promoting a different means of exercising with the amount of walking one needs to do. And with the future inclusions of more one on one battles/trades, it'll only further the success of the app.

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