I have never been as mechanically and emotionally invested in a game that’s as objectively mediocre as Pokemon Go. It’s not a good game, but I’m having an amazing time playing it. I can see myself playing this frankly average mobile game for months to come, if updates are rolled out in a smart fashion.
This deeply unimpressive game is the culmination of two decades of my childhood dreams, and bringing those dreams to life is enough to have me invested in the long term.
If you’re a fan of the main Pokemon entries is, Go is mechanically simplistic.
So, what actually is Pokemon Go? It’s an augmented reality smart phone app where Pokemon appear in the world around you. Players have to go to real world locations to collect resources, find Pokemon to catch, and battle other players’ monsters.
The most important thing to know going in if you’re a fan of the main Pokemon entries is that Go is mechanically simplistic. Catching Pokemon is boiled down to flicking Pokeballs at them. Battles are boiled down to swiping and tapping. Many of the central mechanics of the core series, like trading and standard PvP battles, are entirely missing from the experience.
Pokemon Go is a very reduced version of the Pokemon’s core gameplay. And honestly? I don’t really care.
To me, Pokemon Go’s appeal is nothing to do with its frankly shallow mechanics. Pokemon Go’s appeal is that it takes my childhood fantasy of walking around the mundane, real world, and encountering Pokemon, and makes it a reality. The sheer fact that Pokemon Go allows me to add a little magic and mystery to my daily life is enough for me to want to play.
Pokemon Go also manages to add some interesting changes to the formula of Pokemon that I did not expect. Catching duplicates of Pokemon allows you to build up resources towards leveling and evolution, and defeating gym leaders allows you to take control of the gym until you are defeated by another player. You can see what Pokemon are around you, and chose which Pokemon to engage in battles with, which feels like a nice evolution of the wild pokemon system introduced in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire
The social elements of the game are also deeply engaging. The presence of persistent locations in world and Pokemon populating in areas that are consistent for everyone encourages real life encounters and communication between players, which has done wonders for getting me excited about what’s going on in my area.
Yesterday I bumped into another player hunting the same Ghastly as me. We spent five minutes together talking about the game while comparing our map data and trying to track down where the ghostly apparition was. When we eventually found and caught it, we gave each other a friendly nod and went our separate ways, happy in the knowledge we had momentarily bonded over a Pokemon that only existed in our phones.
This morning I dropped a Lure at a Pokestop in my town centre, and fifteen players turned up in the span of twenty minutes. I spent almost an hour chatting with them about not only Pokemon, but general nerd and geek topics.
The combination of putting Pokemon into the real world around me, and encouraging me to bump into gamers with a shared interest in little fake monsters has me enthralled, despite it ultimately being such a mechanically sparse game. I find myself not caring that I’m ultimately just flicking balls at Pokemon and tapping on enemies in the hopes of achieving victory, I still want to eventually catch them all.
Oh, and the servers are NOT up to handling the number of players eager to jump onto the craze. Today I planned a trip to my local pier with my housemates to catch a Pikachu. We waited multiple hours, the whole time unable to connect to the game, before giving up on the whole idea.
Not being able to play a game I want to play is annoying. Getting booted out of the game after using a limited quantity, time limited item and being unable to log back in until after the item has run out is incredibly frustrating, particularly if you used microtransactions to get the item.
Pokemon Go is one of the most enthralling mediocre games I have played in years. I know it’s not a great on paper, but I’m in love.
We had momentarily bonded over a Pokemon that only existed in our phones.
Platform: iOS (reviewed), Android
Developer/Publisher: Niantic/The Pokemon Company
Price: Free with microtransactions
Release date: July 6, 2016
- Makes use of duplicate Pokemon
- Encourages social gatherings
- Lacks mechanical depth
- Inconsistent servers
Pokemon Go is one of the most enthralling mediocre games I have played in years. I know it’s not a great on paper, but I’m in love. I still want to eventually catch them all.