When I first heard that a new Pokémon was released a few days ago, I was pumped to give it a try. Being a 90’s kid, I was an early adopter of the Pokémon series; I owned both the red and blue versions of the original game. I went straight to the Google Play app store and downloaded the new Pokémon GO immediately.
I went through the basics, choosing my character’s clothing and style. After that there was a little bit of a tutorial about how to get started and then I was on my way. Almost immediately I saw a Bulbasaur on my screen. It was really cool seing the Pokémon on my screen in augmented reality. I saw Bulbasaur wondering around the grocery store as I shopped with my wife. I decided to try to catch him right away (I later found out that by holding out, you can actually choose between Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, or even a Pikachu with a little more patience). As soon as I saw the Bulbasaur, I kept tapping on the Poké Ball to throw at Bulbasaur. That didn’t work, so I tried holding the ball. At this point, a green circle formed around Bulbasaur and began shrinking, then getting larger, then shrinking again. This still did not throw the ball, but I knew I was onto something. Finally after tapping all over the screen (including on the ball and on Bulbasaur about 100 times each), I accidentally swiped the ball toward Bulbasaur. This resulted in a ground ball toss that fell well short of my first Pokémon. After several speed sensitive swipes, I finally made a toss that caught him. This sequence highlights my big frustration with Pokémon GO – the tutorials are seriously limited and make some picking up on some of the game play difficult to get the hang of.
After my first successful capture, I walked around the grocery store looking for new Pokémon to capture. This was a much more interesting way to go grocery shopping than my usual visits. I ran into a handful of Pokémon which I caught successfully. On a few occasions, the Pokémon would break free and I’d have to use another Poké Ball to try again. I soon realized that the green circle around Pokémon was showing the difficulty to catch the Pokémon; green means easy to catch, yellow is medium, and red is a difficult Pokémon to catch. The more difficult the Pokemon, the smaller you need to wait for the circle to get. However, the small the circle is, the more accurate the throw needs to be to capture the Pokemon. I found that if the Pokemon was green, it was easiest to throw when the circle is bigger because they would rarely break free and would also have a better chance of hitting the target.
When I got to work the second day of having the app installed on my phone, I was excited to see that there was both a Gym and a Pokéstop at a park near my work. Pokéstops are places to get a few random items (ie: Poké Balls, eggs, etc.) and Gyms are places for players of levels 5+ to battle each other and try to capture and hold the Gym. Once a player has reached level 5, they must choose between one of three teams to join to battle against the others at the Gyms. My employer has recently completed a walking challenge in which the employees formed teams and competed to see which teams could rack up the most steps over a five-week period. With the spirit of the competition still going after the challenge had ended, people are still walking around the park in the middle of the day. This was a great excuse for me to get to play a little Pokémon GO at work while working on my fitness at work. I took an afternoon stroll and took my first shot at the Gym. I sent in my 93 CP (combat points) Pidgeotto against a 300+ CP Gengar. I lasted about 20 seconds in the matched but was clobbered. I need to work on leveling up my Pokémon before I step into the ring again. At least I have a nice distraction at work when I need to get away from my desk for a few minutes.
Though the gameplay has been captivating, if not somewhat addicting, there have been some rough spots. Glitches run rampant with the early release of Pokémon GO. It’s hard to play for more than 10 minutes without a glitch of some sort. The glitches range from slightly annoying to downright maddening. Every five minutes or so, the GPS will lose connection for several seconds, but usually comes back soon. On several occasions, my player has just disappeared for minutes at a time and I’m not able to interact with anything on the screen. There’s also been a number of times the servers have been jammed so much that I cannot login, including when I originally tried to sign up; it took me five tries to get a user set up. Then there’s also another glitch when the sign in screen cannot authenticate my password. This has happened for more than five minutes straight on three different occasions. Finally, there has been multiple times when I click on a Pokémon, Pokéstop or Gym and the game will not let me interact with those items. As fun as the game is, the glitches have gotten frustrating enough that it barely makes the game worth playing.
Overall, it’s been a fun and nostalgic way to get reacquainted with a childhood game. The glitches/underperformance of servers have outweighed the positives for me. I think after the game has some firmware updates and additional servers online, the game will be worth a second look. Pokémon GO reminds me of the Sour Patch Kids commercials. At first it can be so aggravating trying to log into the game that I felt like throwing my phone to the ground, but as soon as it started up I was excited to get moving and catch ‘em all!
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