It’s not just another mobile game and it’s not another Pokémon game – it’s an entirely separate beast on the cusp of something vast; a glimpse into the future of widely accessible augmented reality. What does it matter now if the nuances of gameplay are clunky when there’s the possibility of catching a Gastly in a previously unfamiliar local park behind a sculpture you never knew the name of before? Or the glee of discovering an Oddish unbeknown to those around you, a little secret of the reality that exists only in the palm of your hands, beside the bell peppers at Tesco? When everyone street corner is a potential Pokéstop, when any passerby could ask, “Oh, wow, are you playing Pokémon Go?!” and become a new hunting pal, something much bigger is going on.
It’s fitting that Pokemon’s most significant evolutionary leap in its 20-year history is on a mobile platform, which mirrors its humble origins on the Game Boy. We’re going outside with Pokemon Go, catching Pokemon with friends, fighting over gyms, and making new friends along the way.
Much of Pokemon Go’s augmented reality infrastructure was already in place thanks to developer Niantic’s location-based MMO mobile game, Ingress. Both games feature point-of-interest check-ins and territorial conflicts, except that Go features three teams compared to Ingress’ two, designated conflict zones are now gyms, and landmarks are called Pokestops.
Assuming you’re in a densely populated area, you won’t have a problem growing your collection as there are Pokemon everywhere. The act of capturing these critters follows the single-thumb input of many popular mobile games. Simulating a throwing motion, a forward swipe toward your target (with a bit of finesse for specific distances) is all it takes to trap basic Pokemon. It’s a credit to the diverse behaviors of these wild beasts that you can’t lackadaisically throw Pokeballs as you attempt to capture them–you have to factor whether the Pokemon can fly, jump, or deflect incoming Pokeballs.
These pocket monsters litter the landscape often in accordance to their terrain. It’s not unheard of to come across a water-type Goldeen around a town square but they’re more abundant around large bodies of water. The simple act of leaving your familiar dwellings will open yourself to a wider, more diverse net of potential captures. This, along with the high gym count in cities, underscores the disadvantages of rural players, many of whom have relatively limited access to rare Pokemon.
It is through rampant collecting that Go showcases much of its depth, especially to Pokemon novices. The chances of capturing the same monster with the exact same stats are astronomically low, which makes capturing multiples of the same Pokemon a sound tactic. This, along with the initial storage limit of 250 Pokemon, spurs you to make judgement calls on which ones to keep and which ones to recycle.