Video Game Review: Pokemon Go

Details: More information can be found at

Score: 7/10

Pokemon Go came out years ago to great reception. People were obssessed with the game and caused a great deal of real world problems from playing it. After some encouragement from a coworker, I decided to give the game a try July of this year, long after the hype has died down. I enjoy the game and I’m still playing it.

Keep in mind the following review is my opinion of the game as of the time as of the writing of this review and from someone who played the game since July of 2019.

Pokemon Go is a free-to-play (has optional in game transactions) game designed for smart phones. It uses the global positioning system (or GPS) used by cellular services and combines that with the maps provided by Google Maps in order to get your exact position in real life.

Sprinkled throughout the world are Pokemon creatures that randomly spawn as well as crowd sourced markers based on real world landmarks. These landmarks are known in game as Pokestops and Gyms.

The basic gameplay consists of walking around in the real world with your smart phone in front of you and the app open. As you walk around, the game will track your position in real life and move you according to how you move. As you walk around, Pokemon will spawn. You tap on these Pokemon creatures and you enter a mini game where you try to catch this Pokemon by throwing Pokeballs at it with the touch screen. If you run out of Pokeballs, you can go to Pokestops, which are based on real world locations. Again, you have to physically walk around in real life in order to play this game (unless you figure out how to cheat).

And that’s it. When the game first came out, lots of people were obsessed with doing just this. I think it was a combination of popularity, group think, and nostalgia, along with the basic enjoyment of just collecting Pokemon. Personally, this sound extremely boring to me. Luckily the game has added a few more features since then, though the waning popularity of the game in some ways a blessing and a detriment.

I think the first and biggest patched update was the implementation of the gym system and how that relates to in game transactions. When you first start playing the game, you quickly realize that the amount of items and Pokemon you can carry are too few. Further, many of the items that you need to progress through the game must be purchased with in game money. In game money is called Pokecoins and can be obtained by either purchasing it with real money or through the Gyms system.

Throughout the world there are Gyms, where players and add a Pokemon in order to hold the gym. You can only put one Pokemon in a single gym at a time. Other players can attack the gym if they are on opposing teams. There are three teams in the game and you have to choose one when you start playing. The teams only matter in regard to which Gyms you can attack and which ones are from your team and which you cannot attack.

A Gym can hold six Pokemon at a time, so if a Gym already has six Pokemon, you cannot add anymore. As time passes and you hold a Gym, you gain Pokecoins. I think you get one Pokecoin for every ten minutes you hold a gym. You can only earn fifty Pokecoins per day. Most items in the game cost about two hundred Pokecoins.

Fortunately, I didn’t find the purchases that necessary to playing the game, unless you are a hardcore player. If you are a devout Pokemon Go player, then Pokecoins are necessary to progress through the game and collect all the Pokemon. The fifty Pokecoin daily limit then becomes relevant. One the one hand, the Pokecoin limit is annoying and limits progress to real time. On the other hand, it allows newer Pokemon Go players a chance to hold gyms because the longtime players will get their coins, and then have no incentive to continue holding gyms, giving other players a chance to get their fifty Pokecoins per day. This is also one of the times where popularity of the game play a role because popular Gyms are almost impossible to hold, especially during peak hours (like lunchtime, rush hours, when school ends, basically anytime people walk around a lot).

Trading Pokemon is possible, but mostly useless as the game actively disincentivizes trading. In order to trade, you need Stardust. You get Stardust by playing the game and doing just about anything. Catching Pokemon, frequenting Pokestops and holding Gyms all get Stardust. Trading requires an immense amount of Stardust depending on what your are trading. If you are trading a Pokemon you have not caught before or a special type of Pokemon (shiny, legendary, etc.) it will cost you tens of thousand or even millions of Stardust. This in an of itself is bad, but Stardust is also necessary to level up your Pokemon and make them stronger (for similarly large amounts of Stardust). The end result is that there is almost no incentive to trade Pokemon rather than just catching everything on your own. It’s a disappointing design decision that discourages the social interaction of trading with your friends. I understand the security concerns (some kid stealing another kid’s phone and trading away all their Pokemon), but it still takes the fun away from the game.

Raids are battles where you need to team up with other players to fight a very powerful, rare and valuable Pokemon. Periodically, powerful (or legendary) Pokemon will spawn at Gyms and you will likely need to team up with other real world players in real life in order to defeat and try to catch these Pokemon. Up to twenty people can participate in a raid at the same time.

Raids highlight the biggest weakness of Pokemon Go, which is that Pokemon Go is a social game that requires other people. Many times as I played this game, it became obvious to me just how bad this game would be if I lived in a rural or sparsely populated area. I live in a big city. When I attend raids, I usually try to time it around peak hours and I can usually get into a raid if I’m one of the first people there. If you live in the middle of no where, you will never be able to win a raid or catch legendary Pokemon. You simply need other people with you, at the same real location and at the same real time. Needing real world things is one of the most amazing and lousy aspects of this game.

Updates and events occur regularly, which greatly help. There are constant new raids, community days, events, and new game mechanics are constantly being added in (like the upcoming battle system). The most recent one is the Team Rocket events where you have to battle Team Rocket bosses. While the event itself is reptitive and a little boring, it still does the job of keeping the game fresh and somewhat new.

Visually, the game looks fine for a mobile game. The music is fine, but I play on silent most of the time since I’m walking around.

Overall, the game is fun, even though playing this game in a sparsely populated area is boring, if not impossible. I didn’t go over all the game mechanics because these are the main ones that gameplay consist of. I would’ve discussed the battle mechanics more, but they are so simplistic so as to be mostly irrelevant. You can dive deeper into battling, but it still consists of just tapping your screen like an idiot. Also, there is an upcoming battle system has yet to be implemented, so discussing battling before that thing materializes seems pointless since it might make battling a less inconvenient and brain dead task. With all that said, Pokemon Go is still a fun mobile game that helps pass the time as you are getting to wherever it is you need to be.

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