It's not a good year around here unless I have something to talk about that is pokemon related. Though Pokemon Sun and Moon are to come out in November of this year, the planets have aligned and given us all yet another pokemon game this year; the pokemon game of our dreams. It's been twenty years since we all chose our starter pokemon and went on this life-time journey of becoming a pokemon master. Many of us would fantasize what it would be like to find pokemon in real life, what kind of pokemon would be in our local area, and where each of them would show up. This year we finally got the answer to those ponderings in the form of the mobile game Pokemon Go which is available for Android and iPhone markets!
Is it all that that we had hoped and dreamed? Well, quite honestly you probably already know the answer to that one as traditional media and social media have gone berserk over the app within the first few days of it being released. Practically everything I have to say about this game has already been said by numerous outlets and is pretty much futile. However there is no greater example of extreme futility than my continued writing of this blog which nobody reads anymore so.... what the heck. Let's talk about the latest game in a franchise that I hold dear to my heart.
The main purpose of Pokemon Go is honestly to encourage you to get up off the couch and go somewhere. The game utilizes the GPS on your cell phone to pinpoint your exact location and follow exactly where you are moving. Why would you want to be moving? Well, pokemon show up at random locations on the map all over the world and the only way to actually encounter them is to walk towards a rustling grass area and try to find what may be around. Also while you are out you may stumble across some Poke spots. Poke spots are blue spaces of cultural, historical, or honestly unknown significance which will give you items such as pokeballs, potions, eggs which hatch as you walk, and berries when you visit them and are in-range. That's about it honestly from what you can do in the "overworld." However, there are a few other portions of gameplay to talk about in regards to this game.
What's Good About It?
This game truly is something that I personally had always dreamed of. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit this but even up into my adulthood, I would daydream about this very thing. What natural wildlife around my house would be a pokemon that I could capture. Anytime I went to the beach I'd think about all the cool sea pokemon I could potentially have brought back. Just going on a walk in the park would occassionally get my imagination running about coming across a wild Farfetch'd or Ekans that I could add to my team. Now, I can actually do that. I can walk around with my phone and see that Magikarp really are in the river near my house. A local shopping center is where I found my very own Tauros. I searched for a gastly (as ghost types are among my favorite) and finally found one at Chilli's. My meowth was found in my own back yard. Jigglypuff likes to taunt me by showing up super late at night when I'm not about to get out and find her. It's not very often that the collective imaginations of millions of fans actually gets created into an actual product. The feeling is truly magical.
There's also just a real sense of community with this game. Yes, I've seen many things be a craze and "sweep the nation" in my 30 years of life...but I've never seen something like this. I've never seen a video game become so mainstream and so popular that people everywhere are playing it. People of all ages, races, genders, and orientations are out there catching pokemon, talking with friends, identifying with each other over a silly little mobile game. You can actively see people playing it everywhere you go and you can connect with anyone even lightly and briefly because of this game.
One last thing that is good about it, is the data usage. I ran this game for a solid 3 hours and only used about 20 Megs of data (that's 0.02 Gigs). That's not bad at all!
What's Bad About It?
In the words of Jeff Foxworthy...
"Dear Lord, be with our guests and prepare them for the butt whooping they're about to receive!!"
Unstable servers wouldn't be that much of a problem in all reality if the game was able to be run offline in any capacity. However that's just not the case here. The game desperately need some sort of offline mode capabilities. Maybe it should keep a sort of small generalized database for your immediate area so that some pokemon could still be captured and then just synced up with the servers later. If that would be too much of a hastle then allow the game to be used offline and still count for our steps in hatching eggs at a bare minimum. Perhaps add in some functionality for pokemon catching training as well as gym battle training. Something to hone our skills without having to utilize any of our items so that we can actually do something when the servers go down. But...this isn't a thing. If the servers aren't working, the game isn't working... and believe me, the servers will often be non-functional which will make the game non-functional.
It's not just the servers that aren't working... it's the game itself. I'm not joking or over-exaggerating when I say that the game itself is a bit of a mess. I thought Bethesda products were buggy but this thing is far worse than anything I've ever seen in Elder Scrolls or Fallout. There are many times when the GPS signal will just suddenly go away even with clear skies. The game will sometimes just not have your avatar move though you have walked far away from that spot, it won't count the distance you have walked at all so that you can't hatch your eggs, or it won't load any pokemon in your area even with incense(which attracts pokemon to your location) turned on. Sometimes poke spots wont load and will just give you a white circle that you can't do anything with, or even more infuriatingly, it will load the poke spot but when you spin the icon it will just keep spinning and say "try again later" for an extremely long time. It will freeze on a moments notice when you are trying to catch wild pokemon or just simply walking around forcing you to re-start the app...sometimes every three minutes!!! There are two known and extremely irritating glitches in the game currently. The first is when you are catching wild pokemon, the pokemon will go in the pokeball then it will just land and sit there with the "loading" pokeball in the top left spinning. Once this happens you have no choice but to stop the app and re-start it. Now this is annoying in and of itself but what makes it infuriating is that the part which counts how many balls you throw is still active meaning WHEN THIS GLITCH HAPPENS, YOU HAVE LOST A POKEBALL FOR NO REASON AT ALL. The second known glitch involves Gym battles. Sometimes without warning, the gym leader's pokemon will be brought down to 1 HP and it will remain at 1 HP indefinitely. You cannot win the battle at all because of this. Speaking of gyms....
If you don't live in a major metropolitan area, you're going to have a hard/bad time. This game was clearly designed to be played by city people and not people who live in rural areas. Up until now, every picture I've shown with poke spots has shown multiple places to stop and get more items. This sort of thing is true for places like San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia, etc. But what about small town and rural areas? Well the picture I'm showing with this section will tell you exactly what you can expect to find living in rural USA..... piss all! Now pokemon can appear anywhere and everywhere in both urban and rural areas. I've never been without pokemon showing up for too long after walking a decent distance... but it's the items that I can't get much of. For me personally, there's no poke spot within walking distance of my house... and I live INSIDE THE CITY LIMITS... I'm not even out in the boonies! The point of Pokemon Go is to get you to go out and walking and if I want to just catch pokemon...yeah I can walk around my neighborhood, but if I need items I either have to plan a special trip to downtown (as downtown for most rural areas is a safe bet to find poke spots) or I have to spend real life money to refresh them...something I'm NOT about to do. So again, If I didn't have a job, wife, or the pitiful excuse of a life I have, I could certainly go downtown and farm for items every day. However, I generally can only get out there once a week at best because it is a good 15 minute drive and takes time out of my day. It would be so nice to have a poke spot in my neighborhood so I could take a quick 10 minute walk multiple times throughout the day rather than turning it into an evening's event.
Also can we take a moment to talk about how much of a battery suck this thing is? Sweet merciful heavens this game will absolutely decimate a battery. In the three hours I played the game, it depleted my extra battery pack and then took my battery down to 30%. Since my battery pack and fully charge a dead battery, that's 170% in only 3 hours!! Why is this? Well the game has to be open and running the whole time in order for it to be functional. That means you're constantly having to make sure the screen doesn't shut down, lock or anything. Now there IS a battery saver but the game doesn't actually tell you what it does. What battery saver does is turn the game screen black when you turn the phone upside down so that the game will still run without wasting quite so much battery. That said, unless you modify your phone settings to not lock/turn off your screen it becomes pointless because after "inactivity" on the phone, the screen will shut off. If the screen shuts off for any reason even in battery save mode, the app stops working so.....
The Pokemon Radar that is supposed to show you what is nearby and allow you to track down pokemon is... pretty much useless. The game doesn't explain the radar whatsoever other than "oh look here's a radar to tell you what's close kthxbai." The best that everyone can figure is... A pokemon with no footprints is right beside you and about to appear. A pokemon with one footprint under it is within 10 meters. Pokemon with two footprints are within 300 meters, and Pokemon with three footprints are within 1 kilometer. Pulling up the radar, they are supposedly listed in order of how far away they are and will move up and down the list depending on where you are going. So if you see something you want, pull up the radar and start walking... in theory the pokemon should rise up the list if you are getting close (or go further down the list if you aren't going the right way.) Again that's all THEORY. My own experience has painted a different picture entirely. Most things are 3 footprints away whether they are in your own back yard or a mile down the road. If you intend to find something specific you will never find it because the game doesn't even bother to tell you a direction. Since pokemon move and disappear throughout the day you're almost guaranteed that unless you randomly pick the right direction on the first go...the pokemon will disappear before you can catch it. I've never hunted for a particular pokemon and found him...EVER. The radar needs some additional functionality like pointing you in a generalized direction or even highlighting the area on the map where it's most likely to appear. As-is the radar is about worthless. It's so worthless that people have actually made a map website and app to help people see where pokemon are likely to spawn in your area...cause the radar sure isn't going to do that!
Now that was a boatload of negative things to say about this game. I wrote more in the "bad" section of this game than I did any other section... in fact I think I've written more negative points about this game than any other game I've ever covered. There truly are some horrible things about this game whether it being legitimately broken at times, or the fact that people's lives have been put in danger due to various things. That being said... most of these things can be fixed or aren't their faults at all.
Niantic and the Pokemon Company are already working on getting the servers up to par for us and in the last couple days I haven't seen a server error page at all. They are also actively working on fixing the bugs with the system that are causing the game to freeze. Remember those things that I said were left out like trading, battling friends, and more pokemon? They are actually planning to add those. They could easily implement some changes to the radar, gyms, and battery saver mechanics. There are a lot of things that could easily be done with an update or a patch...some of which they are currently working on. It's also no fault of either companies that people are being idiots with their products. So while there are some legitimately terrible things about this game that make it fairly bad.... the majority is stuff that can be fixed and will most likely be fixed.
A friend of mine, Jukan, made the following comment: "If it was anything but pokemon, this would be a pure flop." I honestly have to agree with him there. If this has been some original concept piece that was released it wouldn't have been tolerated. With the main game mechanic constantly freezing, portions of the game not available at launch, and rampant server issues, if this were any other game it would have been found inadequate and the world would have ignored it. In it's current state as of the writing of this post, it's in a mediocre (if not even pitiful) state.
But... it IS pokemon and that's exactly why people are willing to overlook the bad. They are willing to look past all of the glitches and server downtime because it's the game that we pokemon fans have been wanting for years. The fun and excitement of getting to actually go out in the world on your own pokemon adventure is too much to even properly describe. There's no story, it's YOUR story of going out, finding pokemon wherever you are, and meeting other people along the way. It's your pokemon adventure, which is something that so many of us had imagined in the past. It's the love of these 151 little creatures that are currently available to us that has carried this thing into the massive overnight powerhouse it has become. It's a worldwide sensation where people from all kinds of backgrounds are coming together in unity under one single thing in a time when terror attacks and media hysteria is rampant. So while it needs a lot of work, it's still beyond fun, exciting, and strangely enough a force for good in a time of trouble. In the end... fun and excitement is really the key when it comes to video games isn't it? Not to mention that you simply can't put a price on the amount of good it has brought to communities as people just get out and make friends... it also helps that the game is free.
If you are a fan of the pokemon series then...you probably already have this app unless you have a Windows phone. If you aren't a fan of pokemon, maybe you can find some enjoyment and exercise as well. Just get out there, find your pokemon, and be the best trainer/collector you can be!
This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!