I was struck by just how many people I saw playing Pokémon Go on my cycle into work – I spotted at least ten people walking around, glued to their phones, occasionally pausing to do a telltale swipe towards an imaginary monster. Then again, this is nothing compared to the huge mobs filmed in New York’s Central Park, all rushing to catch a rarely seen Vaporeon.
But still, there’s plenty of evidence of the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go on the (occasionally) sunny streets of Edinburgh. Indeed, the UK servers crashed at the weekend, such is the demand to play the game – and it’s the first time I can remember a mobile-game server outage making it into the main pages of The Guardian.
But is the game, you know, actually any good? I downloaded it on Sunday and went on my first Pokémon-hunting expedition today – and it was pretty damn fun. Looking down at your phone to discover the world around you is filled with invisible monsters, gyms and Pokéstops is quietly thrilling. It’s the doorway to a hidden world, and what’s not to love about that? No wonder people are going nuts about it.
The game itself is pretty simple – just walk about and wait for the telltale buzz that tells you a Pokémon is near, then time your swipes carefully to land a Pokéball on its bonce, and you’re done. I’ve managed to catch all of the creatures I’ve found so far, so I don’t know whether I’ve just been lucky or whether you can always capture a Pokémon when you hit it with a Pokéball, regardless of its strength or the Pokéball level.
In fact, my confusion about this is a good indication of just how little the game tells you about what you’re supposed to be doing – after a very brief intro from Professor Willow, you’re pretty much left up to your own devices with few explanations. To be frank, after the tedious hand-holding of the main Pokémon games, it’s a real breath of fresh air. I still don’t know how gyms work, or candy, or evolutions, but I’m looking forward to figuring it out on my own.
I’m still only on level 3, with just a handful of Pokémon to my name, but I’m looking forward to many a lunch break spent scouring the park for pocket monsters. And judging by the groups of twenty-somethings roaming the Meadows with their phones outstretched today, I won’t be the only one.