Pokemon Go Review: A Shallow, Aimless Experience

It’s belated, sure, but I officially dove in to play and review Pokemon Go…and I officially I don’t get it. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Look, with something as huge as Pokemon Go has been, I cant help but recoil against the hype machine a little. I’ll admit that. It’s my human nature. But with what is now a cultural phenomenon, I was expecting more depth. More strategy. More heart. More fun. Just…more.

Don’t get me wrong – the first couple hours of Pokemon Go is stellar and fresh. The experience of walking around and interacting with Pokemon in your environment is the dream of millions of people who grew up on these games. Throwing Pokeballs, evolving your creatures, and steadily getting stronger is a pure treat, as was evidenced by how every person on the planet downloaded this game. You really begin realizing what tremendous potential something like this has.

Unfortunately, that’s the thing about potential–it exists as a what if that may or may not ever be realized. Just ask Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Turns out that as a brief experience, Pokemon Go is like cracking open that elusive treasure chest for the first time. And as a game, Pokemon Go is discovering the chest contains only pieces hot garbage–that is to say, it’s a shallow, aimless, and ultimately pointless exercise in redundancy.

Pokemon Go. No Really, Just Go.

Okay, maybe I’m being unfair….in the sense that I’m calling Pokemon Go a “game” at all. Because it barely qualifies. This Ingress-based, geo-caching clone with Pokemon skins painted over it is as surface of an experience as surface gets. Catching Pokemon is neat, but in the games, they motivated you to build your team by, you know, giving you objectives. Pokemon Go doesn’t have those. Or a story. Or characters. Or a variety of things to do.

It really only has two things that you can even do, and how much you enjoy these comes down to your tolerance for doing the same pointless thing over and over and over again.

pokemon-go-catching-em-all.jpg
The screen of what people living in rural areas will never witness.

Gym “battles: If you ever dreamed of Pokemon battles that involve no strategy and boil down to how fast you can tap your screen, then Pokemon Go must feel like an epiphany. If, however, you desire a system with even a hint of anything remotely resembling depth, then you have no doubt already been disappointed by Pokemon Go’s horrible gym setup.

I could go into some of the nuances of the system and how it connects to your overall team, your CP levels, and so on, but why? Even if you manage to tap your opponent to death and take the gym, it’s only a matter of tine (sometimes seconds) before you lose it again. Win, and you’ll be treated to a variety of rewards and perks,  like… wait, no, you barely get anything, even for holding a gym.

And once you’re at the top, that’s it. There’s no elite four. No badges. No anything that gives you any real sense of progression. In short, no incentive to bother with the damn thing at all. It’s like winning round one of a world tournament, only to discover that’s all there is. There’s no round 2. No one is a champion. Thank you and now please leave.

Catching them all: I’m not here to kill your joy if you find catching the same handful of Pokemon addicting simply for catching’s sake, but as a reviewer of a game, I cant endorse a system where redundancy is the only thing more prominent than its complete lack of purpose. You’re not catching them to build a team, you’re catching them just to catch them. That’s like scouring the floor of an arcade for tokens to spend at Wal-mart – the process just isn’t that much fun, and it’s also totally pointless.

You can’t even sell people on the bonding part of the game, because you’re encouraged to catch 50,000 of the same Pokemon in order to get stronger. The candy mechanic dictates you do so. As of writing, I’ve reached level 13 primarily by evolving my Pidgeys. I have a lock on the Pidgey market. I’m swimming in them. And it hasn’t been much fun at all (not to mention it’s a serious concern to me that the diet of these millions of Pokemons consist of just candy).

And finally, if you don’t live in an urban area, forget about enjoying this game as much as your city friends. You simply don’t have the same opportunities afforded to you. Sure, it’s the consequence of playing a social game, but at the same time, how can a game be recommended across the board if where you live dictates so strongly how you even experience it?

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“Eat it! I will shove this f***ing candy and you’ll like it!” – How I imagine every evolution in Pokemon Go

Ask yourself “why”

What’s sad is that’s all there is left to talk about. Once the novelty and nostalgia wears off, which it does at varying speeds, depending on the player, that’s it. Which means even when I was having fun during the first few hours,  I couldn’t help but ask myself “why am i doing this?”

Sure, we’re apparently getting new features around the corner. Well, when those come out, I’ll factor them in, but I can only review what’s out there now, and what’s out there now isn’t much of anything.

Depending on who you are, Pokemon go can nostalgic trip, an incentive to get out of the house and walk around, or a cool social app. But as a game,  it falls far short of anything close to satisfying, no matter how you slice it.

I give Pokemon Go 2 sacrificial Pidgeys out of 5.

pidgey_pidgey_pidgey.0.0.png
Needs more Pidgeys.

2 thoughts on “Pokemon Go Review: A Shallow, Aimless Experience

  1. As an avid player of the game for the first month it was out, I do have to agree that the redundancy of the game play kind of ruined it for me after a while. And because Niantic basically refuses to do anything new and engaging with its players, so many people have jumped ship. Including me. Give me some actual trading capabilities, player vs. player battles, and some more heart, and then I might crack it open again. As it stands, I’ve moved on to other mobile games that at least have objectives and hold my interest more.

  2. I haven’t played it. I wanted to, but my cellphone can’t run the game properly, and there is no way I am getting a new one (I am a total cheapskate when it comes to cellphones).

    However, from the outside looking in, I have the same impression as you, that it is an aimless game that will get dull after a week or so. The question you mentioned, “why am i doing this?”, perfectly sums up the situation.

    I will get my Pokemon fix with Sun and Moon.

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