Pokémon, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.
Like tens of millions of other people, I have spent the last few weeks obsessively playing “Pokémon Go.”
The augmented reality smartphone game has been a smash hit, and with good reason: Of those that grew up with Pokémon, who didn’t wish they could catch the little critters for real, rather than just on a pixellated Gameboy screen?
But over the last week, I’ve soured on the game. Whether it’s the constant, constant bugs, or the actually fairly shoddy mechanics, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not actually a good game — and the time has come to quit.
More bugs than a Beedrill hive
First up: Those bugs. They’re everywhere.
Sometimes the GPS won’t register that you’re moving. Sometimes you’ll click on a gym and it will fail to load. Sometimes everything will be accompanied by an indeterminate lag, making it impossible to do anything quickly. Sometimes the app will fail to load altogether.
The one that really killed me was when you try and catch a pokémon only for the pokeball to sit there, forever, unmoving.
When I stopped trying to catch cool pokémon that were popping up because I figured the chances of the bugs letting me keep them were so low, I realised that was the beginning of the end.
I haven’t been able to log in to Pokemon Go for the last day and a half this sucks
— Elena Cresci (@elenacresci) July 21, 2016
Pokémon Go: Doubleplusungood.
But even if the app ran smooth-as-silk, that wouldn’t fix a deeper problem: It isn’t actually a very good game.
It’s Pokémon! And that counts for a huge deal. I’ve loved being able to act out a childhood fantasy. Catching a Lapras at Waterloo station was a Big Deal. And the stories of the game bringing people together are amazing, and sometimes legitimately inspiring.
But this doesn’t solve the fact that the mechanics of “Pokémon Go” are just not good.
Asides from outward appearances, the app has few of the elements that made the original Pokémon games such smash hits.
You can’t trade pokémon with other players. You can’t battle other players (you’re forced to leave your pokémon in “gyms” where they’re then controlled by the computer in battles instead). You can’t even battle wild pokémon before you catch them; you’re forced to just throw pokeball after pokeball, and pray.
In the original Pokémon games, your strength is dictated by the strength of your pokémon, which grow with you. You develop a powerful squad, which travels throughout the game with you; you become attached to them as a result. In “Pokémon Go,” early pokémon — including your starter — quickly becomes underpowered and useless compared to newer catches, good for nothing but throwing away for the candy bonus.
The real-world impacts of “Pokémon Go” have been pretty incredible — and a good reason to play! — but the hype is already beginning to die down, and the cracks in the underlying game are now showing.
Nostalgia isn’t everything.
Niantic, the development studio behind “Pokémon Go,” is promising new features will come to the game in the months ahead — notably player-to-player trading.
And who knows, if the game gets significantly overhauled, and the technical issues get ironed out, I could be tempted to give it another go. But for now, the nostalgic allure of a reborn childhood franchise isn’t enough to sustain my interest, when it has so little of what made the original so memorable.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a sudden craving to dig out my old Gameboy, and give Pokémon Blue another whirl.
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