The good news: Highly anticipated Pokémon mobile game Pokémon GO has finally started rolling out for iOS and Android devices! The bad news: Right now it seems it's only out for real in Australia, New Zealand and a few other select countries.
This is the part where I gloat about not having an iPhone. On Android devices you can turn off a security setting and install apps that aren't actually in the app store, via download mirrors, without jailbreaking your phone! Well, I did just that and have been futzing around with Pokémon GO for an entire hour and change. Needless to say, I'm still not sure what I'm doing.
Alas, that's not stopping me from giving you guys a first look at what it's like to play the game on your phone. Click through for my initial impressions and knee-jerk reactions to Pokémon GO, as a newbie!
When you first start the game, after linking it with your Google account and giving it permission to access your camera, your contacts etc., you're greeted by this scientist guy.
Sorry, I didn't catch his name because I was too busy thinking about what a bae he is. It seems this guy will basically guide you on your journey to becoming a Pokémon master. Think Professor Oak, but a babe.
After the brief intro, you're shown the main screen (which is the part tied to your GPS) and it sort of shows you where you are, in relation to streets and things around you.
Immediately you can see the three famous starter Pokémon, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle, surrounding you. You click on one and almost instantly you see the Pokémon as if it's in the real world around you, via your phone's camera (above).
You're given initial instructions on how to throw the poké ball to catch it, and then you're allowed to try it on your own. Beware: I don't know if I'm just an idiot, but it is NOT very easy to get the hang of throwing these virtual poké balls the correct way. It took me about 10 to 15 tries to catch Charmander just "sitting" there on the chair next to me.
Above is an example of the layout you see for most of the game when you're simply walking or driving around looking for new points of interest, battles, gyms, or just wild pokémon to catch.
The blue boards that sort of look like pins in a map are called "Pokéstops" and I haven't quite figured out what the point of them is yet. What is cool is that they are directly taken from real-life places around you.
For example, I was clicking around on the Pokéstops near my character and one of them was the actual lobby of the building the Fuse offices are in, including a picture of the actual lobby!
When I went to get lunch down the block, a wild Pidgey appeared right in the middle of the sidewalk! Yes, I stopped on a busy Manhattan sidewalk to "catch" a virtual pokémon. Don't judge me.
At this point I was wondering if I'll be the only 30-year-old man walking down the street playing Pokémon GO.
Once you actually manage to catch a wild pokémon, you get a full stat sheet on that creature, similar to the one above from when I caught Pidgey out on the sidewalk in NYC.
I'm not a Pokémon expert, and definitely not an expert at this specific game yet, so I'm not 100% sure what each of these things means, but I'll figure it out. FYI, all this info is stored in your handy Pokédex.
When I returned to my office building, the same lobby that had come up earlier as a Pokéspot (or point of interest), a wild Rattata appeared!
Again, I must ask, am I going to be the only adult stopping in the middle of streets and office buildings, attempting to catch Pokémon that aren't really there? Don't answer that.
Aaah! There's a wild Zubat in the elevator with me! Oh, this reminds me, you also have the option to "run" from a wild Pokémon that you don't want to catch (or can't catch for whatever reason).
I'm not ashamed to admit I ran from this Zubat...both in the game and maybe in real life when the elevator doors opened.
Another cool feature you can utilize when you spot a wild Pokémon is the camera! You can use this to take clean screenshots of the Pokémon as it moves around in your real-life environment (see above).
It's a lot easier than trying to take a manual screenshot and you don't get all the on-screen graphics/text, either.
I'm assuming (hoping?) the whole concept of taking photos of Pokémon will come into play in a more interesting way later in the game. Remember Pokémon Snap for N64?!
So far, the game seems pretty fun and how they've managed to bring it to life is cool. I haven't yet had the chance to battle anyone or anything like that, so we'll see what that's like.
I must note, while walking around outside with the app open, it was super distracting. I'm not trying to incite backlash or fear, but I can foresee some people (kids, teens, even adults) not knowing how to properly balance playing this game and being aware of their actual surroundings. We've already seen what walking/driving and texting can do, let's just hope that's not the case with Pokémon GO.
However, if played responsibly, I think this could be a really awesome experience. If you're even just a casual Pokémon fan you'll get some kind of enjoyment out of this—seeing the virtual Pokémon in the real-world around you never gets old! Without a doubt, hardcore Pokémon fans will love this game.
Will Pokémon GO catch on with the general public? Only time will tell.
Want more? Watch our video special on the 20th anniversary of Nintendo's amazing N64 console: