electronic brain surgery since 2001

Pokémon GO

The much anticipated Pokémon GO has been released this week to select regions only, but you can sideload the game from APKMirror. I did and I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed. Let me explain why…

Pokémon GO is an augmented-reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. […] The game allows players to capture, battle, train, and trade virtual Pokémon who appear throughout the real world.

As mentioned above, the game was produced by Niantic - the Google spinoff that created Ingress in 2012. Pokémon GO is basically the same game as Ingress, just with Pokémon. The “PokéStops” where you get items like PokéBalls or health- and revive potions are simply rebranded Ingress-Portals.

Being basically a rebranded Ingress, Pokémon GO suffers from the same problems: its a huge battery hog, the 3D graphics feel sluggish on non-top-tier phones and the memory requirements make it impossible to quickly switch to other apps on your phone without having to restart the game (and wait for it to load). It basically means you either play the game or you use your phone. That's a horrible mobile experience.

What really irks me though, is that game mechanics changed fundamentally to what Pokémon used to be on the GameBoy and other consoles. As far as I understand, there are no real time one-on-one fights. Instead you place a leveled up Pokémon on a “Gym” (just another rebranded Ingress portal) where it can be fought by other players. Fights no longer use the previous turn-based action system. Instead you just click for an attack and try to swipe at the right time to dodge incoming attacks. There doesn't even seem to be a sensible way to pick the right Pokémon to fight (like picking a water Pokémon to fight a Fire Pokémon). There is apparently no strategic element to Pokémon GO fights anymore.

I have no doubt that the game will be successful, but I feel like this is a missed opportunity to make a better game. Combining Gameboy-like topdown 2D graphics and well established fight mechanics with the multiplayer augmented reality aspects of Ingress would have been much better. Especially considering that Pokémon is supposed to be a kids game. Having an enjoyable experience on lower end phones should have been a priority.

Anyway, gotta catch 'em all…

review, android, game, pokemon, rant
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