i3t on Pokemon GO

Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. The Augmented Reality Game, released last month for Android and iOS, sees players walk around the real world looking to catch, train, and battle little monsters. As a fan of the original games, in fact I reached the regional Championships for Pokemon Blue on the original Gameboy, I thought I’d give it a go and see what all the fuss is about and boy was I surprised.

I originally installed the game on my old phone, as my new phone was off being repaired, and gave up very quickly as it said to catch my first Pokemon I had to go to the field behind where I live. The problem with that? It’s over a 6 foot hedge and then over a 3 foot deep drainage ditch. It just wasn’t going to happen.

Then I got my new phone back and thought I’ll give it another go and now? I’m hooked but perhaps not for the reasons you might think. The gameplay of walking around to capture the Pokemon is a quirky one. Different areas in the real world offer up different Pokemon thus making you explore. The capturing of the Pokemon is done by flicking Pokeballs at them and pretty much hoping for the best. There’s a nack to it but even with the best aim in the world some Pokemon just don’t want to be caught.

To get supplies for the game you need to visit PokeStops. PokeStops are located in real world places of interest and this, to me, is the beauty of the game. There is one on my way to work, a place that I must’ve passed countless times, and it’s by a small Griffin statue on a plinth. I’ve never noticed that the statue was there before playing the game and it’s a beautiful, if subtle, piece of public art. I’ve found Pokestops that represent murals, at plaques that represent historic events, and many many other places like that. Pokemon GO is like a local history lesson that you actually want to learn from. For visiting these places you’re rewarded with more PokeBalls, plus eggs and other goodies, which all help with the capturing of more Pokemon.

I’ll also tell you something else about Pokemon GO that you won’t read in many other places. It’s buggy. VERY buggy. There is a glitch in it that affects my phone and means that I can’t use the AR Camera function to capture the little guys. I have to use the default pre-rendered backgrounds instead although, Poke-tip, that does make their capture easier.

It also crashes, a lot, and if you use it on public transport the GPS location can often lag too. All of which can lead to a somewhat frustrating experience. It’s worth pointing out however that the latest build of GO is 0.31. This is definitely a work in progress massive public BETA test so you do have to keep that in mind.

It’s also a massive, massive, drain on your phones battery. The screen has to be constantly lit, the GPS active, and it uses a lot of your data allowance. These issues are all inherent to the Augmented Reality genre and apps such as Field Trip (by GO’s developer Ninantic) also have the same problem. The only practical way around this is have a portable USB charger on you at all times.

Despite these flaws, however, there is something that is pure Nintendo magic about Pokemon GO. It’s a social experience like no game before hand. You have random conversations with people at Bus Stops, on Buses (yes I rely on public transport), plus walking around where you live about where you spotted that elusive Magikarp. It’s bringing people together.

Granted it’s also led players to become victims of armed robberies, several near fatal car accidents, and a dead body in the persuit of Pikachu.

If you go in expecting a polished gaming experience to rival the latest 3DS Pokemon offering you’re going to come out of GO a little disappointed. If, however, you aproach GO with an open mind and a thirst to find out some fun little bits about the history of where you live, to find murals and statues, and catch a Pokemon of three whist you do it, then you’ll enjoy Pokemon GO.

It’s our first glimpse at a potential new way to play games.