Twitter is abuzz with pictures of Pokemon existing in real life environments. These aren’t cute photo shops, they’re from The Pokemon Company and Niantic’s freshly launched mobile game Pokemon GO. The free to download mobile game utilizes AR (Augmented Reality) technology to superimpose digital Pokemon onto the image seen through a smart device camera, so that Pokefans can catch the pocket-sized monsters in their real life world.
Available on iOS and Android in the countries of Australia, New Zealand and the United States, Pokemon GO allows players to create a customizable trainer avatar and search their real life environment for hidden Pokemon using GPS. Creatures can be found in habitats similar to their type, for example, water type Pokemon are more likely to be found near an ocean or lake than on the sidewalk, for an added dose of realism. To catch a Pokemon players will swipe their devices touch screen to throw a Pokeball, no battling required.
Battles come into play at Gym locations. At Gyms players can battle other trainers but instead of using a Pokemon’s moves like in the classic handheld games, trainers have to dodge attacks using their touch screen. Players can also join one of three teams Valor, Mystiq or Instinct. Teams can claim Gym’s, strengthen or weaken their rankings and even take over Gym’s held by opposing teams.
The more you play, the more you’ll level up and that will enable trainers to catch higher level Pokemon and obtain more powerful items. Pokemon are evolved by catching multiple creatures of the same variety and a Pokedex will track your progress. Eggs can also be found in Pokestops and after walking a certain distance will hatch into a surprise Pokemon to add to your collection. Experience eggs can also be purchased from the shop but there’s no baby Pokemon prize inside.
An excellent way to encourage people to get out and explore this summer, players will have to walk around to different locations to find new and exciting Pokemon. A directory within the app will tell players in what direction they can find a Pokemon to try and catch. Understanding that walking around town staring at a phone could be dangerous to players’ health Nintendo has made a Pokemon GO accessory that will light up and vibrate when a Pokemon is near.
Trainers will also be able to catch Pokemon and other simple tasks by pressing a button on the Pokemon GO Plus device. This accessory is optional for the game and will connect via bluetooth. The game will not however, give players audio notifications on their phone when a Pokemon is near.
As Pokemon GO is free, in-app purchases are available for those that wish to use them. Pokecoins can be purchased for $.99 to $99.99 and a shop is full of helpful items like Pokeballs and storage upgrades. Pokestops can be found to replenish items and will restock after a short time limit. So the game is completely playable without spending a dime, you’ll just have to walk a lot, which is kind of the point.
Shortly after launch the Pokemon GO servers were having issues, preventing many users from playing the game.
Those issues seem to be resolved at the time of writing this article. Some players may still be experiencing server issues.
The inclusion of many notable Pokemon and all-new classic sounding music by Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda makes Pokemon GO a unique experience that still feels nostalgic. A casual game that integrates Pokemon into your everyday life, Pokemon GO can be downloaded for iOS and Android now in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. It will be coming soon to Canada, Europe and South America.