Games

Review – Pokemon GO

Score: 6.5/10

I know that I’m writing this review late, but I wanted to give Niantic the benefit of the doubt and see what they do for a few months.

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Courtesy of Niantic, Inc.

Pokemon GO is a worldwide phenomenon right now, with millions of players attempting to successfully catch them all. The game has taken the world by storm and it’s hard to go on without hearing about it.  As of a while ago, Pokemon GO has become the biggest mobile game of all time and one of the most downloaded games of all time period.  Since its massive launch, it has become the fastest game to ever hit $500 million in revenue.

In Pokemon GO, players turn their real world into one filled with virtual Pokemon and Pokestops (dumbed down versions of PokeMarts).  The concept is awesome and something that I have wanted for a long time (I know Ingress was basically the same thing so calm down).  As a long time Pokemon player (I own at least one game of every generation), I was elated when I found out that this game was happening.  Upon the game’s launch, I quickly downloaded it the second I could and started taking part in one of the most interesting gaming phenomenons in recent history.  Everywhere I went, there were people on their phones playing Pokemon GO and I felt really happy that there was a game that both Pokemon fans and non-Pokemon fans could embrace.  I found it interesting that a few people who used to make fun of me for playing Pokemon as kids are now huge Pokemon GO fans.   That to me is a sign of a good community.

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Screenshot by Mohit Puvvala

The biggest positive I can give for this game besides the community is the Pokemon.  The 3D models of the Pokemon look fantastic and they really give me incentive to try and catch ’em all.  Also, the catching system is fun – a Pokemon pops up and you have to throw Pokeballs at it to try and catch it.  I wish the catching mechanism was like that of the main series, but I’m fine with the one we have.  Once again, this is AR Pokemon on Mobile – it’s freaking awesome!  I do, however, wished that the Pokemon could be more abundant in… you know… tall grass.  The only Pokemon I find in tall grass are Pidgeys and now I’m at a point where I don’t even bother tapping on a Pidgey when it pops up.

I also really like the Pokestop mechanism.  The central theme of the game revolves around exploration.  If I’m exploring to catch Pokemon, my items drain pretty quickly so the advent of Pokestops really helps keep the game going.  I know there was all that stuff in the beginning about Pokestops only being churches and it seems like now it’s just all commercial stuff, which is fine considering you could only find PokeMarts/PokeCenters in urban areas in the first place.

Another big benefit that the game has is a great soundtrack.  I wish the soundtrack had more music, but at the current stage of the game, the limited soundtrack will suffice.  The Walking theme especially is a fun tune to listen to while you are catching Pokemon because it is reminiscent of the old games, but it has that modern edge to it.  I know it’s a side thing, but I liked it.

I personally think that I was interesting that the game hit $500 million in revenue at all considering it is a freemium game.  Players can honestly catch them all without having to fork over money, but Niantic struck gold with this game.  The in-app purchases are your standard in-app purchases – you can buy more Pokeballs, incense, and all the other things you need before you go out catching Pokemon.  I understand that not many people buy in-app purchases, but in-app purchases seem kind of encouraging in this case.  If the game is about exploring (at least that’s what it was marketed as even though my local Walmart has more Pokemon than any nearby trail does), players would feel encouraged to “pack their bag” in order to catch Pokemon – they would be reassured to spend money on in game items in order to be prepared for exploring.  In most scenarios, in-app purchases are essentially f-yous to the player since the game forces it into your face, and you don’t even gain much from buying them.  In this case, even though I personally still think the in-app purchases are wastes of money, the items feel encouraging to buy.

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Screenshot by Mohit Puvvala

A huge issue that I have with the game is the battle system.  The game already has all the necessary components to lean towards turn based strategy.  Pokemon have HP and movesets so why is the battle system of this game the most rudimentary battle system ever?  To take over gyms in the game, players have to pick their best CP Pokemon and tap the screen to attack.  The game mechanic is literally tap spam the screen and you win/lose.   There is barely any skill in that so why can’t the game move to a turn based battle system? It is better, has strategy, gives value to Pokemon and their respective trainers, makes training actually rewarding, and is overall more fun.

My main problem with the game is that it gets old.  Fast.  Like I said before, I gave Niantic the benefit of the doubt and I thought that they would add new features after a few months of raking in a giant revenue stream, but they didn’t.  They claimed at San Diego Comic Con this year that the game is 10% complete, which means that the game has 90% to go.  This 90% could consist of a better battle system, trading, fishing, more character customization, a more advanced map, and let’s not forget MORE POKEMON.  I’m sure that at least one of these things could have been done by now considering that Niantic has a ton of money now and that Nintendo would probably be willing to put a ton of eggs in the Pokemon GO basket right now.  Instead, we have this.  And this.  I just want to say right now that I have no right to judge Niantic – they have some brilliant minds working over there, and the vision they have for this game must be amazing, but seriously?  Apple Watch Pokemon GO?  Now the game risks the chance of losing a ton of players if you don’t add stuff to the mobile versions.

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Screenshot by Mohit Puvvala

Niantic, you have something that is such a great concept and you’re making bank from it because you have united gamers of all types from casuals to hardcore professionals.  Don’t mess this one chance to create something truly special.

Overall, Pokemon GO is an okay game.  It manages to pack nostalgia in a mobile app that has a modern feel to it.  Boasting an awesome concept and great graphics, but lacking in complexity and investment, Pokemon GO ultimately sums up to a “meh” experience after a while.  With that said, I cannot wait to see what Niantic does in the future with this game because I think it will truly make something fantastic.  Right now, even after a few months of updates, the game feels incomplete.

So what do you think about Pokemon GO?  Feel free to let me know in the comments section.  Thanks!


Twitter: @MohitPuvvala

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