Mobile games come and go (Pun intended…), and I only tend to stick to them for a couple weeks at a time… Yet I’ve found myself recently delving back into the world of Go, meaning I’ve officially been playing this for 2.5 years… So, 5300 Pokemon later, I ask, why is this so much better than any other mobile game I’ve played?
I originally downloaded this game before official release in the UK, managing to get it from some dodgy website, the game tells me this was in October 2016. Since then I went through a big phase where I didn’t touch it (After being addicted for a good year) as there was an endless stream of the same Pokemon, If I saw another Pidgey or Drowzee, I was going to scream! Then again last year I got back into it, took another break and here I am in 2019 not going anywhere without getting my little Pokemon out to play with. In case you don’t know, the idea of the game is to collect candy for each Pokemon to evolve it, instead of the traditional battling and earning XP. Candy is earned by catching Pokemon or trading them into Professor Willow, which you can then use to evolve your Pokemon into their various evolutions, or some into a special form using certain items (Which are obtained in various ways). Further to this you can battle friends or Gyms, and ultimately the goal here is to collect coins to allow you to buy items to get more Pokemon. The system developed is smart (If you buy into it) as you need to catch a lot of the same Pokemon to evolve it, with some requiring 200 of the same Pokemon or more to evolve! Personally I’m more into the catching them all then battling etc.
First up there’s the obviously appealing aspect of actually going outdoors, which a lot of mobile games don’t really do (I’ve not tried other AR / location games such as Ingress, for instance), but the appeal of going to a certain location to find a Pokemon and visiting real world places for a Gym or Pokestop is ultra appealing. It’s this that makes me spend a lot longer on my walk home, or actually go out for a walk on my lunch break. I rarely use the AR feature to look at the pocket monsters in the real world but I like how integrated it is with your location, and also certain boosts that happen depending on weather or time of day, I actually think this is ingenious. The recent addition of adventure sync reinforces this aspect, as you now don’t need the app open to track your whereabouts. The game now syncs to your phones GPS tracking at all times so you can continuously track any steps you take. So really this makes me enjoy it as it makes me go out and about and go to places I wouldn’t have bothered with before, meaning I’m not sat in one place tapping a screen (Just walking somewhere and tapping a screen) this adds another reason to always go on to check hatched eggs or buddy Pokemon, which leads me on nicely….
Pokemon are for life, not just for Christmas
The game has added so many aspects that keep you interested and engaged. First up you have the ability to put a Pokemon as your buddy to earn candy every X amount of kilometres you walk, and makes you almost care about your little bud. To help with the Pokemon’s spawn rates, you can also complete special tasks to obtain certain Pokemon which feed more candy into what you need, as well as this every 7 separate days you complete this you have a chance at catching a rare Pokemon. Additionally there are Special research tasks which eventually will lead to a rare Pokemon encounter, but in the meantime reward high XP and rare items. Thing is, if you get deep into it you can kind of stack all of this to earn the maximum rewards possible (It does take a bit of investigating), for example I’m currently needing to evolve a Sunkern which requires a certain item, but I’m not doing this until I have the field research which applies to this, which will reward me with an Aerodactyl; I’m also probably going to do this with a Lucky Egg, doubling my XP. So what I’m really trying to say is you can satisfy your inner (Or outer) nerd by properly min-maxing as effecitvely as possible.
Everything’s better together
Luckily you can now add friends, so you know you’re not alone in this path of GPS-related darkness. I recently discovered a couple of close friends play this as avidly as I do, which has fueled my desire to play further, and also re-assured me that I’m not alone. Friendship brings it’s own rewards primarily in the form of gifts containing items like Pokeballs or potions, meaning if you’re constantly trading gifts you’ve got a constant supply of helpful items. You also have friendship levels which take a while to reach (To be done by trading gifts) which reward XP and trading bonuses – This aspect I really like as I’ve now got a WhatsApp group with friends who play to discuss, and we’re organising some form of poke-pub crawl. There has been no other mobile game that has inspired this level of interactivity with friends, and to me this is capturing some of the charm of trading cards on the playground as a kid, just in more adult way.
My final point is that Niantic are clearly aware things were stagnant early on, so now have new events happening once or twice a week. This gives so much reason to keep coming back as you’ve a good chance of seeing something exciting or new. For example this week they have a new camera feature, to take AR photos, and if a certain Pokemon photobombs you, then you can capture it, meaning they’ve added a new feature to their existing feature. On top of this, due to Pokemon’s anniversary they have a special event right now where all gen 1 Pokemon are appearing super frequently, including starters, giving you that chance to finally evolve your Squirtle. These events I really do like as it keeps it constantly fresh, and always gives new Pokemon to catch or aim for.
So why am I still playing it years later when so many other have fallen in the dust? Because it’s fun, active and constantly updated. I always need a monster catching game in my life, all due to the fact that Pokemon Blue opened the gateway to gaming for me, and this really itches that scratch in the best way possible. This game will continue to drain my data and battery for a long time to come, simply ’cause I’ve gotta catch ’em all.