You could go up to any Pokémon fan and ask them, “Would you want Pokémon in real life?” and the answer would be an emphatic yes. That’s exactly what Niantic promised to give us with Pokémon Go. Prior to Pokémon Go, Niantic was a Google subsidiary who was most well known for their Google Maps based game, Ingress. Pokémon Go is more or less a reskin of Ingress, but there are substantial differences.
Pokémon Go offers many ways of finding Pokémon, and it’s as simple as walking around with the app open and seeing what pops up. To catch a Pokémon, you have to aim your Pokéball and throw it by flicking your finger across the screen. The fun part is that other players can also see the nearby Pokémon. When playing the game and walking through a park, I found many other people looking for the same Pokémon that I was, and that was an incredible feeling.
When it comes to getting the player outside, Pokémon Go has cracked the formula. Not only have I wanted to go outside more often than I have in my entire life, but I’m also meeting lots of new people playing the game. On one day, I unintentionally walked nine miles over four hours because I was trying to catch a wild Poliwhirl.
Between occasionally showing a rare Pokémon nearby, or the need to visit PokéStops or Gyms (for items or battling), Pokémon Go has nailed this in every respect. However, that’s about all Pokémon Go is good at.
Pokémon Go is a free to play game, and there are micro-transactions. You can buy coins which are used to buy items to make the game easier, incense to attract Pokémon, Lucky Eggs to increase the amount of experience you get, and of course, Pokéballs. I wouldn’t mind this as much, (because I honestly don’t mind spending some money on a game I like) but Pokémon Go offers some items that are relatively crucial to the experience, and no effective way to get the items or the coins without having to spend money.
A big part of Pokémon Go is hatching eggs. Pokémon eggs give you typically a better chance at a more sought after pocket monster, as well as giving you a lot of candy which you can use to evolve them (Catching a Pokémon gives you around four candies, eggs give you around fifteen). However, you need an incubator before you can start walking to hatch your eggs. You’re given one incubator, and you can buy more that have limited uses. But considering how common eggs are, and how long it takes to hatch an egg (anywhere from two to ten kilometers per egg), you essentially have to get more incubators.
Throughout the game, you’ll find large icons on the map, typically in important places like schools and town halls. These are Pokémon Gyms. These are places where you can represent your Pokémon team (Valor, Instinct or Mystic) by placing Pokémon in the Gym yourself. Other members of your team can also place their Pokémon in the Gym, but other players can try to take it over for their team. The entire concept of gyms is a solid idea that has been poorly implemented. Battling is boring and lacks any real strategy, and Gym battles are weighed heavily in the favor of a challenger. It’s actually gotten to the point where I’ve stopped fighting in Gyms altogether because it’s just pointless. I don’t get anything out of it aside from a few coins per day and a little experience.
I don’t want to say Pokémon Go has been disappointing. It’s primary gameplay elements are very well refined, to the point where I actively want to get out of the house more. But Pokémon Go doesn’t feel finished. It feels rushed out the door with promises of updates for features that should have been in the game in the first place. I love the community that’s come about because of Pokémon Go. It’s brought people old and young together; it appeals to both casual and experienced fans of Pokémon, and it’s incentivizing people to get out and exercise. This sense of community is something I’ve rarely been able to do with a traditional Pokémon game, but without trading or proper battling, there is very little I can talk to people about.
Pokémon Go is fantastic at getting people out of the house, and it's great for meeting people who play it. However, it lacks in its gameplay, and it's hard not to see those faults.