As most of us probably know, Pokémon GO has landed in a huge way. The absurd hype train that led up to this game had gamers and non-gamers of all ages (since Pokémon isn’t just for kids) alike thinking their childhood dreams would finally come true. We’d finally be able to wander our neighborhoods and local parks and find Pokémon hiding behind trees, in puddles, up in the sky ready to peck our heads for trying to capture it. We’d finally be able to show everyone we were the very best and catch ’em all. The Pokémon game we knew and loved would finally see the grand stage that is the real world.
The thing is, it’s totally different. Plenty of people will enjoy or are already enjoying the game. For some, it’s enough to just throw a few pokéballs at the odd Pokémon now and again. But when it comes down to it — and this may be an unpopular opinion — Pokémon just really fails to deliver as is, and has a long way to go to live up to the adventure that began in Pallet Town.
If you’re not convinced, let’s take a deeper look.
1. Looking like a lost idiot in my own neighborhood
This is almost unavoidable for anyone playing the game. You might not feel like a lost idiot, but there’s no helping looking like one. Anyone who’s walking around, constantly turning back, going halfway up one street, back to where they were, halfway across another street, and then heading in a completely different direction will look lost. The fact that anyone doing that and playing Pokémon GO will be holding their phone and constantly checking will only make them look more lost and incapable of properly using their map app.
2. Everything about the augmented reality
Part of Pokémon GO‘s pitch to fans was that it was going feel like Pokémon were really in our world. How? Augmented reality. The thing is, even Microsoft’s impressive and expensive HoloLens isn’t ready to push the kind of AR experience suggested by the promotional video above. So the hype was built on that experience, but what we get in actuality is a Pokémon glued over a shaky pass-through from our smartphone cameras. The only point of having the AR feature on is to take screenshots, because it will otherwise just make catching harder and drain your battery faster.
3. My smartphone battery hates it (and yours will, too)
I have a hard time imagining an app that was better designed as a battery hog. First of all, one of the best ways to kill a smartphone battery is to have the screen on. And the first rule of Pokémon GO is that you have to keep your screen on all the time to play. If your screen is off, you won’t encounter Pokémon, your distance won’t be tracked (so you won’t make progress on your egg incubation), and you won’t be alerted to Pokéstops. Add to this the fact that the game demands high accuracy GPS (i.e., the kind that uses the most battery), and remember that we can turn on AR to drain our battery even faster. It’s not just a problem that you’re going to have to charge your phone more frequently either. A battery’s lifespan can to some degree be measured in how many charges and discharges it can go through before it degrades. Running Pokémon GO is going to mean more frequent discharges and charges for a lot of people, which means shorter battery lifespans, which means higher smartphone turnover, which means more phones in the landfills faster. Each point is an issue, so pick your poison.
Note: I know there’s a “Battery Saver” feature, but all that does is dim the screen when the phone is turned down, and more often then not, it results in the game crashing the second I run into a Pokémon.
4. Basically no guidance
Thanks for the Pokémon professor, see yah later. Once the game starts, there’s hardly any instruction. Sure, we can all check the internet for hot tips on what every little thing means. Of course, if we check on our phones, then we won’t be making any progress in the game. And then there’s the issue of whether the internet tips are even accurate. Everywhere I’ve been seeing tipsters say that catching a Pokémon is easier when the ring around them is at it’s smallest, yet every time the game has given me extra XP for a good throw, it has done so when I threw while the ring was large, and never when the ring was small. So what’s the deal? Who knows! The game sure isn’t saying, and the bugs aren’t helping determine what’s a failure and what’s a fluke.
5. Throwing a ball has never been more perplexing
At first, I admit I was completely destroyed by the throwing mechanic. The first pokéball throw was awful. Why? Because of point No. 4, I had no idea how it was supposed to be done. Have I since figured it out? As much as possible. For one, the catching game has horrible depth, as some Pokémon will appear to be much closer than they are, so a short throw will land nowhere near them. The opposite can happen as well. Then there are curve balls, which the game also doesn’t explain, thrown by spinning the ball around a bit before throwing. Sometimes the game turns a normal throw into a curve ball at the last second (talk about a metaphor) making the throw go wildly off track. And in my experience so far, almost all of my actual curve balls no longer get counted as such when the Pokémon is caught, so no bonus points.
6. We don’t get to brutalize wild Pokémon
Go ahead and recall the old days of Pokémon, when you’d venture into the wild, stumble onto a crazed Pokémon that wants to beat you up, and you toss out a Pokémon of your own to give it a solid thrashing. Remember that? The wild wasn’t a safe place, and you needed skills to survive and grow stronger. Originally, you’d beat a little sense into a Pokémon and make it weak enough to catch, with the pokéball toss being the last step of the encounter. Now the first thing you do when you encounter a Pokémon is chuck balls its way. If that doesn’t throw a Pokémon veteran for a loop, I don’t know what will.
7. The questionable adventures
I haven’t gone deep enough in the game to be sure, but I suspect some of the Pokémon you can encounter will vary by time of day. A game that encourages people to go out late into the night isn’t necessarily a great idea. Then there’s the matter of where it encourages you to go. Wandering around for Pokéstops the other day, I found myself in a dubious alley. It was the middle of the day, no one was around, and it didn’t really seem too hazardous. But there was no other way to get that Pokéstop. If I were a kid, surely that wouldn’t be a good place for me. And combined with point No. 1, any local residents would be in their right mind to question my presence lurking in their alley. Now imagine a squad of 10 people in an alley in the middle of the night hooting and hollering about what could easily sound like drugs to the uninitiated. Don’t tell me “I caught a few Snorlax” doesn’t sound questionable.
8. Stopping to let it load
There are plenty of problems when it comes to connecting to the game servers, and this can mean a long wait for whatever Pokéstop you’re near to load. If you’re on the move, this can mean having the stop go out of range before it successfully loads. The alternative is that you have to stop and wait for it to load. This is annoying enough if you’re on foot, more if you’re on your bike, impossible if you’re on a train, and potentially hazardous if you’re driving a car. So, you have two options: You can either sacrifice your Pokémon GO success, or be a nuisance to yourself and society.
(Note: you should definitely not be playing Pokémon GO while you’re driving a car.)
9. It encourages bad behavior
Combining a couple of the notes, we can see that Pokémon GO clearly has the potential to drive people into the wrong. We shouldn’t be walking around looking at our phones constantly. Since the game requires players to go certain distances to hatch eggs, riding a bike or driving will allow players to go that distance in a shorter amount of time, but since the game has to be running for it to count, and since it will be hard to resist the temptation to swipe at Pokéstops and catch wild Pokémon, the game will encourage distracted biking and driving. That said, at least the crazy Pokémon GO traffic accident running wild in the news has been proven false.
10. Starting Pokémon are worthless
In the original Pokémon games, we built a strong bond with our first Pokémon because we had to raise it from being a little squirt to a powerful monster. We did that by having it battle all the wild Pokémon we encountered. In Pokémon GO, the starters still come weak as hell, but since we don’t use them in combat with wild Pokémon, they aren’t getting any XP. There are also a lot of wild Pokémon with much better combat ratings than the starter, and by the time you’re ready to go to battle in a gym, your starter is going to be a benchwarmer for that Rattata that’s got a combat rating almost 10 times higher. Sure, you can power up your starter, but since they’re a bit more rare, it’s going to be hard to find enough candies to do so. Try telling me you feel as attached to this starting Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur as you did to the originals.
11. Gym battles are whack
Part of this has to do with the fact that there’s no explanation of how these battles are supposed to go. Instead, you go in and get whooped and get to deal with a bunch of unconscious Pokémon or try again with your second stringers. It’s bad enough that these Pokémon battles are once again nothing like classic RPG-style Pokémon battles. It’s worse that they are just a sloppy thumb fest as your try sliding your Pokémon out of the way of enemy attacks as you try spamming the enemy with attacks of your own. Factor in the glitchy nature of the game, and you may find these battles not only dumb, but impossible. Try blocking an attack when the damage is registered on your Pokémon before the enemy attack animation even begins.
12. Pokémon GO is just a buggy mess
I’ve already mentioned a number of the bugs I’ve encountered in the game, and I’m not talking about Weedle. The game crashes all over the place. It crashes catching a Pokémon. It crashes trying to begin an encounter. It crashes when a Pokémon even appears. It fails to load a Pokéstop until I relaunch the app. It fails to launch the app. It crashes when I’m walking. It crashes when I use “battery saver” mode. It says I’m too far from a Pokéstop when I’m sitting inside the exact place. All of this on both phones I’ve tried it on. And the list surely goes on. Maybe it will get better with future updates, but it could just as easily get worse.
Pokémon GO is free for people to play. It’s not crammed full of ads. So naturally it has micro-transactions. The trouble? The things you can buy can actually give you an advantage in the game. It’s not as much of an advantage as a lot of games that truly suffer from the pay-to-win model, but the purchasable items in Pokémon GO still aren’t innocuous. Players who fork out a bit of cash can gain XP faster, encounter more Pokémon, and incubate more eggs at once than players who don’t pay. The result is that those paying players can have more Pokémon, and potentially more powerful ones. That probably doesn’t sound like a very level playing field. At least Pokémon GO isn’t flat out selling high-power Pokémon. Yet.
Follow the Cheat Sheet on Facebook