Pokemon Go

I recently was lucky enough to get an official look at Niantic Labs and The Pokémon Company's upcoming, highly anticipated game, Pokémon Go. Though I haven't had a whole lot of time to spend with it, I already have a lot of opinions on the overall design and gameplay mechanics.

If you want to find out more about how to play it, check out our Pokémon Game Guide.

How much like the original Pokémon is Pokémon Go?

Pokemon Go

Pretty much not at all in terms of gameplay, but the heart of Pokémon is there and beating strong. Instead of wandering around the Kanto region, battling wild Pokémon, lowering their hit points, and then throwing a Poké Ball at them, you wander around looking for the little monsters right on our streets. When you come across one, you get to see what the mythological creatures look like standing right in front of you, thanks to augmented reality. Think about it. Right in your front yard, you might find a Vulpix.

The key gameplay involves catching Pokémon, not battling them. The more you get, the better, even catching multiples of the same one. Personally, my favorite part of playing Pokémon is collecting all of the variations of pocket monsters. So, I'm happy with the way Pokémon Go is designed.

If you are a fan of battling, don't worry, you'll have plenty of opportunity in gyms. When you visit a gym that your team owns, you can train. When you visit a gym that an opposing team owns, you can fight.

I love the way Pokémon Go incorporates this element of gameplay. You can help your team by leveling up your gym, or by taking down an opposing team's gym. It brings a bit of PVP action to the game without forcing players to be on edge, worrying about whether someone is going to try to battle against them at all hours of the day.

What about in-app purchases?

Pokemon Go

There will be in-app purchases. The game will be free to download, but of course, the company will need some way to make money on their investment. From what I understand, in-app purchases will be little more than a way to get items easier. For example, you'll get one free incubator for hatching eggs. But, you can buy additional incubators if you want to hatch more eggs at the same time.

I'm always fearful of free-to-play or freemium games. Usually, I'll play for a few months and then get bored with how difficult it is to progress without spending money. There is a chance that I'll have the same experience with Pokémon Go over time. But, I have a feeling that I'll love the game so much that I'll keep playing, even though it might take longer to get certain items.

I'm hoping it will be similar to Disney Magic Kingdoms, which I've been playing every single day (multiple times per day) since it launched in March. It takes longer to get many of the things I want, like unlocking new characters or getting big attractions, but I do get them eventually through patient gameplay. If Pokémon Go works the same way, then I'm in it for the long haul.

What about graphics?

Pokemon Go

Though I didn't get to put Pokémon Go through any serious paces, the time I spent with it, it ran super smoothly and had zero lag or latency issues. Even during a gym battle, where two people were fighting against one Gym Leader's Pokémon, there was never a slow down, glitch, or skip.

The graphics look good on small screens. They aren't overly complex, but they aren't super pixelated either. It is just the right mix of simple, but good looking.

What about battery consumption?

Pokemon Go

From what I understand, playing the game can really drain your battery. There is a feature, called "Power Saving Mode" which lowers the consumption significantly when you are not actively playing. You are supposed to hold your device downward while walking, which will automatically shut off your screen and activate the power saver. Then, when you are ready to catch a Pokémon or battle in a gym, you lift your phone and everything turns back on.

I know that the game designers are working on ways to reduce power consumption, but you are playing a video game out in the world, without Wi-Fi. So no matter what, it will have a negative effect on your battery. It is just something we will have to take into account when we are actively playing.

Is it more than just a mobile game?

Pokemon Go

There is no mistaking that this is a mobile game. You literally have to take it with you and walk around in order to play it. But, it isn't a simple game. It has complex mechanics and keeps you interested for long periods of time. You don't just catch Pokémon, you also evolve them, which requires a lot of catching first. You don't just battle monsters over and over again. You compete against Gym Leaders to take away their ownership and help your team.

It doesn't seem to have a deep storyline. You aren't trying to stop Team Rocket from stealing Pokémon or trying to beat your rival to earn the most badges. But, you are in direct competition with the rest of the world, which presents a storyline all its own. Your teammates are all over the world and the things you do throughout the game have an affect on the success of your team.

I do wish there were more story to Pokémon Go. It might be fun to go on missions that yield in-game currency. I would be more inclined to complete a task if it were part of a larger storyline that I am following.

Will you get the Pokémon Go Plus wearable?

Pokemon Go

Oh yes. The Pokémon Go Plus (sometimes referred to as the Poké Watch), is a small wearable device that alerts you when you are near a Pokéstop or when a Pokémon is nearby. The device will vibrate and an indicator light will blink. You can then use the Pokémon Go Plus to activate a Pokéstop or try to catch a Pokémon by pressing a button in specific patterns.

I can stay engaged with my surroundings, like talking with friends while on a walk, and still play the game. Just like using Apple Watch to triage notifications, I can use Pokémon Go Plus to play the game without halting whatever is happening in the real world.

So, what do you think of Pokémon Go?

Pokemon Go

For the short time that I had with it, I am in love with Pokémon Go. I can't wait to play it all of the time. It looks great and has a unique game mechanic that incorporates physical movement with virtual gameplay. Even though it plays out a lot differently than the original games, it feels very much like a Pokémon title.

I do have concerns that the fact that this is a free-to-play title will have a negative affect on my experience. I don't mind some in-app purchase content, but if I start to feel like I can't play the game without dropping $10 every month, I will probably lose interest. I have high hopes that this won't be the case, though.

What is clear to me, is that this title was designed by people that love to play video games and that grew up playing classic Pokémon titles. Pokémon Go is a fantastic extension of the Pokémon universe and its creators should be proud of their accomplishment. I can't wait to play it every day and totally immerse myself in the world of catching pocket monsters right outside my front door.

Your first impressions?

Are you one of the lucky few that have been invited to field test Pokémon Go in beta? Let us know your thoughts!

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