TL;DR: As far as my new player experience goes, Go is everything I hoped it would be, and more. If that’s all you want/need to know, great, go play it right now.
I’ve never been woken up by screaming before, and I always thought it would be a horrifying experience just as long as the thing being screamed wasn’t “Pokemon Go is out”. Luckily for me, that was the exact phrase being screamed. Repeatedly. Right in my ear. By my girlfriend who subsequently demanded that we embark on our Pokemon adventure immediately.
I told her to go grab the keys, and within five seconds I was already putting my shoes on.
We hit the road, on foot, and headed to the nearest neato-looking marking on our map while figuring out the ins-and-outs of the app itself. The UI is sleek and simple, and the graphical design, while not much like those of recent Pokemon games, looks wonderful and does well to complement the straightforward, bold designs of the Kanto region’s ‘mon. And speaking of the Kanto ‘mon, upon first use of the app, you get your pick of one of the three usual starters (Squirtle fans, holla at ya boy).
The spot on the map turned out to be a Pokestop, a place to grab items for free (assuming you count exercise as something“free”) - and there we each received three basic Pokeballs, and an egg. As with the games, it was going to take some distance before the egg would hatch - five kilometers, to be precise (that’s sixteen long-inches and four sixpence for those of you living in either the US or the past).
After that, we decided to use some incense (a consumable item which attracts nearby Pokemon), and continue walking and catching pokemon until we got tired.
It wasn’t long until we got our first hit: a Weedle. Or rather, Weedles - more than one player can encounter and catch the same wild Pokemon. Two well-aimed flicks of our Pokeballs, and the bugs were ours. From there, there was a stream of Pidgeys, a couple of Poliwags, and even one Pidgeotto - there was no doubt we looked like a couple of utter tools AR-ing our way around town, but somehow the rest of the world doesn’t matter when you’re on your way to becoming a Pokemon master. Nope, I’m not taking a photo of you and your child, I’m catching an Ekans.
The first “so this is how they’re going to make all the money” moment came when we hit a long run of Zubats (we weren’t in a cave; they’re just everywhere). These things are really tricky to hit with the one-use Pokeballs, and I probably wasted an average of four or five on each one. And once you’re out of balls, you can either drag your ass to a Pokestop for a small few of them, or fork out the funbucks for a more reasonable amount. Either way, I don’t think it’s much of a problem - with time, I’m sure we’ll all be professional ball-flickers, and even if we aren’t, twenty for a buck(ish) isn’t that bad a deal.
While we would have loved to hit up the nearby gym, as it turns out a minimum player level of five (xp is gained via catching Pokemon) is necessary before one can start battling. And at player levels three-and-a-half and battery levels of shit-all, all we could do was turn back and resolve to return when we were ready.
Overall, I had a great time. And even if the free-to-start game features an implicit pay-wall somewhere down the line, even just one more week of adventures like this will add up to some amazing value.