‘Pokemon Go’ | Or No Go? (Review)

Written By: Traves Bezenar

‘Pokemon Go’ from developer Niantic and publisher Nintendo has taken the world, or at least some of it, by storm. The game/app launched in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States  late last week but due to the overwhelming demand on the game’s servers, it has yet to roll out globally. According to Niantic, ‘Pokemon Go’ should make it’s way to the rest of the world before the end of July but no exact date has been given. As listeners of the podcast know, I am one of the many unfortunate Canadian Pokemon fans left without (legitimate) access to the game. However, being the internet sleuth that I am I was able to find a workaround to access the game anyway and here are my thoughts.

Niantic wasn’t wasn’t joking about the server issues plaguing ‘Pokemon Go’. The game only works when it feels like working and will often freeze up while loading or crash mid game without warning. Some of that you could chalk up to my version not technically being supported, but a quick google search will reveal that everyone is having similar issues. Outside of the server problems I haven’t run into any major bugs with the game. Sure there is some noticeable lag when running other apps in the background but that type of thing is to be expected on a mobile game like this. The only other huge downfall on the software itself is how quickly it drains your battery. If your phone has battery life issues make sure you turn on the game’s battery saver option, and go ahead and pick up a new battery anyway, or you'll be without a charge in no time.

The game itself is less than I expected. I was hoping for a legitimate Pokemon game for mobile where you can battle, socialize, and train alongside your friends. ‘Pokemon Go’ really offers none of those things outside of a vague lure system that other players in your vicinity can benefit from. There are also gym battles but they’re also seriously nerfed compared to the rest of the franchise. Basically, you’re never going to get to battle against another living person, just an automated version of whoever controls the gym you’re trying to take over. Even catching Pokemon, the core concept of the franchise, has been watered down until it barely resembles the base games. Instead of raising, caring for, and connecting with your Pokemon; you’re encouraged to turn them in for in-game items to level up your more powerful Pokemon.

That last sentence leads to my biggest gripe with ‘Pokemon Go’, it’s a huge cash grab. There are ways to grind out pokeballs, potions, lures, incense, and other in-game items but like most mobile games in the ‘free to play’ genre, it’s much easier to just pay for them in the game's store. You can get items for free by visiting Poke Stops, real-life points of interest, that are represented in game by large blue towers, but if you’re not living in a big city Poke Stops can be few and far between. Where the “cash-grabbing” really becomes clear is later on in the game as you progress and train up your Pokemon. You need in game items to level, evolve and train your Pokemon called ‘Stardust’ and ‘Candies’ which can only be obtained by grinding capturing and abandoning weaker Pokemon.  However, in order to catch more Pokemon, you’ll need Pokeballs, and Pokeballs cost IRL money (you can get one or two at each Poke Stop but that’s hardly enough to keep the game fun). So what do you do when you’re out of Pokeballs, candies, stardust, and there aren’t a lot of Poke Stops around? You buy the items through microtransactions.

I’m not saying ‘Pokemon Go’ isn't fun, it’s actually lots of fun but it could have been better. The game in its current state is broken, repetitive, and designed to drain as much money from you as possible. It’s worth playing for the experience alone but I have a feeling it will fade away as fast as it took off, and it honestly deserves to.

Grade 2.5 / 5