Is Pokemon Go a game?
Yes, yes it is. There is no dispute in this discussion. A game by definition is a form of play or sport, where there are certain rules that dictate what a player can and can’t do, and some sort of objective at the end. Pokemon Go’s objective, as would be expected, is to catch Pokemon and train them.
What does set Pokemon Go apart, however, is its unorthodox method of gameplay. Instead of catching Pokemon in a regular Pokemon battle, for example, player must physically swipe their smart device, throwing a Pokeball to catch a Pokemon. When battling gyms, for example, there is no intense turn-based battle system. Instead, the battle system is built on taps and swipes. There is a lack of depth, and I am absolutely okay with that.
At the end of the day, a game should be about fun, not the amount of different numbers it can cram onto the screen, or the number of buttons it can make you press. Sure, some games are far more fun when there are deep and interesting mechanics. For a game like Pokemon Go, however, none of that is necessary.
I ran around the mall with my younger brother for three hours, for example. No, the experience wasn’t complex, requiring my undivided attention. The experience was fun, though, engaging, and memorable. All of these qualities are integral when it comes to the quality of a game.
It was exciting to find each and every new Pokemon. I loved talking to new trainers, all chasing after a new Pokemon we hadn’t caught before. The rivalry between the different Pokemon teams added a layer of meta-lore to the actual gameplay, and I loved competing with Team Mystic and Team Instinct to figure out which team would be the best of the best.
Sure, Pokemon Go may not be the best video game, but it may very well be a memorable and incredible game, no matter what happens on screen.
Obviously, Pokemon Go still has several issues. My app would freeze, not just a little bit, but a lot. Sometimes several times per hour I would have to reboot my game in order to get it working again. This was not only frustrating, but broke apart the satisfying gameplay loop that I had — chase, catch, and evolve. Stability is still a huge issue that must be ironed out.
Similarly, the game does an atrocious job explaining itself to you. No, I do not need an entire book to read through before reading a game, but it would have been nice to have a deeper tutorial to explain the more in-depth gameplay mechanics present within Pokemon Go. Simply stuff — like spinning a Pokestop in order to claim items – isn’t explained to you, and that’s a problem.
I am also concerned on the game’s content. For a few weeks, the game surely has enough content to keep gamers entertained. Beyond that, however, things remain unknown. Level 20 seems like the soft-cap for the title, meaning that most people likely won’t hit any higher without significant amounts of playtime. At one point, most trainers will be more or less the same power level with an equal number of Pokemon.
Fortunately, Niantic has stated that it will release bi-weekly updates for the game — so, hopefully the company will release Pokemon from other generations into the game, as well as new battle and trading features. As of right now, however, it is unlikely that the game will keep players coming back for longer than a month.
Fortunately, the microtransactions in the title are far from necessary. Players can collect all sorts of items at Pokestops, including Pokeballs and potions. If a player likes, they can buy items like lucky eggs (which double exp) and incubators (to hatch eggs). These aren’t required, by any means, but do save a lot of time for players. For some people, it will be worth paying for these upgrades — as they will perhaps be worth saving time for — however, nobody will feel left out if they are unable to buy the items.
Overall, Pokemon Go is likely one of the most fun games I have played this year. Yes, the game has a lot of problems and still seems like a beta launch. However, in terms of its uniting social power, few games will be able to match the jubilant fun of Pokemon Go.
Final score: 8.5/10
Originally reviewed on Nintendo Enthusiast.