Capsule Review: Pokémon GO

A game that has you walking around the physical world to find and catch Pokémon, improve and evolve them, and participate in asynchronous multiplayer battles to take control of Pokémon Gyms in real-world locations. A lot of the depth and draw comes from the real-world social interactions that emerge from multiple players in the same physical area. The dynamics of coordinating community members to defend gyms and the opportunity to meet people via a shared activity are far more interesting than the relatively shallow gameplay. As such, the game may have been at its most appealing in the months after its launch when it was pretty common to run into groups of players.

Unfortunately, despite being shallow and repetitive, the gameplay also requires a lot of attention. Catching Pokémon isn’t just a matter of tapping on them when they appear - you must also swipe the screen to throw Poké Balls with the correct aim and timing. (I found it very difficult to do this one-handed and needed to steady the phone with one hand and swipe with the other.) You then have to sit through the series standard animation of the Poké Ball shaking twice and possibly failing to capture the Pokémon, necessitating another toss. Divorced from the strategy of mainline Pokémon games where you first weaken the Pokémon to increase capture odds, this is just a delay. Even visiting PokéStops to collect items isn’t just a tap either - you also have to swipe the PokéStop’s photo to release bubbles containing the items and tap them to collect them.

The result is that Pokémon GO requires frequent attention to play, even for its most rote activities. It makes sense for raid or gym battles, which are comparatively engaging and happen at specific locations, but not for the wild Pokémon and PokéStops encountered while walking to those locations, because to handle them effectively you have to stop walking. Bizarrely, Niantic seemed to recognize this issue but solved it by selling an accessory called the Pokémon GO Plus that turns both Pokémon capture and PokéStop visits into one-click actions. I don’t see why this couldn’t be an option within the game as well, and if it were I probably would have kept playing.

I Stopped Playing When: I tried it out as something to do while walking the dog but found it required frequent stops to pay attention to unengaging gameplay.

Docprof's Rating:

One Star: Not for me. While there might be someone out there who'd enjoy this game, I was actively repulsed by it or just found nothing to latch on to.

You can get it or learn more here.