Pokemon GO – (Not a) Review

Originally published on Trevor Trove on July 10, 2016

Well despite my lukewarm first impressions, I put more time into Pokemon GO today than probably the rest of the week combined. But it seems I’m not alone in recognizing that the game isn’t exactly good, but still addictive anyway. Ultimately, I’m writing this up as one of my “(Not a) Review” games because I just don’t think there’s enough game there to warrant it. But here are some more impressions on my experiences and adventures with the title.

So after I finished writing about the game last night, I came across a Pidgeot. I tried catching it but only had a few Pokeballs left and sadly was still pretty terrible at aiming. So I ran out of Pokeballs and had a choice to make: do I buy more or do I let this Pidgeot go? Since I’m still not sold on the game’s long-term viability I just let the bird fly away and went on about my night.

But today was a new day. I had a family lunch planned and my sister wanted to talk Pokemon and compare. So I left about a half hour earlier than I needed to for this lunch in order to scope out my neighborhood for some Pokestops. There a batch of six that I can see on the map from my apartment but I’m not really looking to go visit the Green Acres Cemetery just for a few items.


So I hopped in my car (with charger in hand) and started heading through the neighborhood. I wasn’t looking to catch any Pokemon on this trip (because texting and driving is dumb enough, don’t try to catch these things and drive) but I did leave the phone on so I could scope out the surrounding areas. First stop, the church down the street. They have a gym and a few Pokestops accessible from the parking lot so I pulled in, sat for a second while I swiped and restocked my Pokeballs, Next, down the street to the local park. As I slowly crept down the street here I managed to nab a couple more Pokestops before seeing a Hitmonchan pop up on the map. Like I said, DON’T CATCH AND DRIVE!!! So I pulled into the nearby parking lot, idled the car, and successfully added him to my collection. Then, continuing down this road, I came across my old workplace, and office building with ties to ASU. At least six Pokestops that were pretty easy to grab there, as well as a couple of gyms. That was all I decided to explore from within my neighborhood. On the way to the lunch place, I found a few more Pokestops on street corners down along the main roads but I only ever tried to interact with them if I was at a red light. The lunch meetup was in the neighborhood Cat and I used to live so I decided to scour around there a bit as well before everyone else showed up, swinging by the library and a couple other parks over there.

All told, this excursion netted me about 90 more Pokeballs (some I think from leveling up) so I was back in business. Over lunch, my sister, brother-in-law, and I explained the game to my family. They remembered the name Pokemon from growing up and apparently a McDonald’s employee had already told my mom a bit about his experiences. I answered some of my sister’s questions as best I could and throughout the meal a few random Pokemon would show up, including this Paras who hopped on my dad’s arm.

After lunch, I headed home, somewhat the way I came in order to hit a lot of those Pokestops again. Then I relaxed with some LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens and a nap. When I awoke, I figured, “what the hell?”, grabbed a water bottle, my phone and headphones, and set out for a walk (still in annoyingly hot 100 degree-Arizona weather). I headed down the same path I drove this morning, first walking by the church, then to the park, and then to my old office building (about a 30-40 minute walk from my apartment to the office building). This time, I had the safety and ability to catch a handful of new Pokemon as I went. I also started hatching the eggs I had been incubating, earning a Pikachu, Vulpix, and two more Geodudes by day’s end. By the time I finally got to the office building, I figured it was as good a time as any to try out the gym battles.

The Raticate on hand at this gym had about twice the CP of my strongest Pokemon but since it was six against one, I went for it anyway. Not really a fan of the combat. I just kept tapping my Pokemon to attack, swipe left and right to dodge a bit, and when I was able, held on the Pokemon for the super attack. My Arbok (named Rednammok) proved highly beneficial with his Sludge Wave attack. After the first battle the Gym was pretty weak, so I healed up my Pokemon and went in for another attack (well, after the servers crashed and then let me back on a minute or two later). Once again, I defeated the opponent Raticate and the gym was cleared for the taking. I gave my Arbok a few Ekans Candies for Power Up before leaving him to defend my honor.

And pretty much in the time it took me to tweet out that I had successfully become the Gym Leader, the guy I had defeated managed to retake the gym from me. Welp, that was fun while it lasted.

So I started to head back home. But on the way, as if a reward for my victory, I caught a pretty decent Magmar (at least stronger than anything else in my collection). I then walked by another gym, this one held by Team Mystic already so I added my new Magmar (nicknamed Phx Native) to defend the gym’s honor. And if I understand things correctly, he’s still got the gym icon so I’m guessing he’s still holding down the fort over there.

Next, I walked back to the park. This time, rather than just hit the Pokestops that border the street, I actually walked around the park. This whole route, by the way, is familiar to me from the handful of times I get motivated to get into shape and go for a walk/jog. So I’ve done this all before, but this time there’s some pointless Pokemon-themed rewards for it, which was apparently enough incentive to get me out of the house. As I walked, I appreciated seeing other people out and very clearly playing the same dumb game I was. I passed by a few couples who were out playing together. The exercise path at this park happens to circle a pond so I wound up asking a couple if anything good was biting. They had just caught a Doduo and Hitmonchan (as had I). After one lap around the pond, I continued on home, hatching my four egg just as I arrived back at my complex, getting the medal for 10km walked, and walking into my (thankfully air-conditioned) apartment as my phone hit 1% battery life.

Pokemon GO is not a great game. But it is getting people out of the house and exercising at a time where most other games and gamers are content to just stay sedentary. So at least that’s a pretty cool aspect to this whole little phenomenon. I’ll be interested to see how quickly Niantic and The Pokemon Company are able to continue the games expansion to other markets, as well as how quickly they’re able to provide anything else of substance to the main game itself.

All that said, I’m really worried for the first time we see an article about Pokestops that are given Lures by creepers to attract kids in a “candy from an unmarked van” kind of way.

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