Hello! My name is Matthew, and I am the webmaster here at PidgiNet. The Pokémon Company International got in contact with me last week to grant beta access to Pokémon GO, and I gladly accepted. Due to time constraints beyond my control, I was unable to explore beyond a half mile radius, but there was more than enough to explore, as I was up at my college, DePaul University in Chicago, IL.
When I first got the app installed, I was at the DePaul University Student Center, which just so happened to be a PokéSpot. PokéSpots are different landmarks that you can visit every so often (more than once per day, not sure of the exact frequency), and you can get items from spinning the landmark’s image once you get close enough to it. Additionally, Pokémon tend to congregate more around PokéSpots! These show up on the map as little blue cubes, which turn into a blue Poké Ball symbol when you get nearby. If you’ve already visited that PokéSpot recently, it’ll turn purple – you’ll have to wait a while to visit them again.
The game starts off similarly to main series titles – while there isn’t a “Welcome to the World of Pokémon!” speech, it’s pretty similar. After choosing my player and customizing him a bit with the default customization options, I caught my starter (Squirtle, of course). Now I was ready to explore!
Walking around the atrium of the Student Center, I came across my first wild Pokémon, a Rattata with a CP of 70. CP, or Combat Points, is similar to how Power levels work in the Pokémon Rumble series. Most Pokémon you find early on have a fairly low CP, but Pokémon at higher levels are found later on. Additionally, many Gyms in the area had Pokémon with CP over 1000. For example, the Gym at St. Vincent’s Circle next to DePaul’s quad had a CP 1324 Electabuzz, which was no match for my CP 274 Haunter that I caught a few blocks north of campus.
Speaking of Gyms, there were quite a few in the area. Armitage, Fullerton, and Diversey ‘L’ stations all had Gyms, as did Julia Porter and Jonquil Parks. Event St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church had a Gym! Each Gym was either part of the Blue, Red, or Yellow Team, and members of the same team can add Pokémon to strengthen the Gym. I chose the Blue Team when I started, but many of the Gyms in the area were Red Team. (kinda hoping the data does get wiped so I can go and make Blue Team own the area, as it rightfully should)
And there were easily 10x as many PokéSpots. Walking to my apartment four blocks away from campus, I passed up fourteen different PokéSpots. Unfortunately, some were outdated, with one landmark (McGaw Hall) having been demolished earlier in the year. Another, a Mexican restaurant, had closed two years ago.
Some of the PokéSpots I encountered were of things I hadn’t realized existed, even though I walked past them almost every day. For example, there was a plaque commemorating donors to Lurie Children’s Hospital next to a bench that I’ve sat at multiple times before. Who knew Pokémon could help me explore my own city?
As far as Pokémon available in the area… it started off looking bleak (Pidgey, Rattata… and that was it), but as I walked around more, I encountered many more Pokémon. I caught two Drowzee, a Haunter, a Magikarp, a Caterpie, a Metapod, a Krabby, a Zubat, and a Fearow. Unfortunately, I failed to catch a Tauros and a Snorlax that I ran across, but hey, that’s life, right? Of note, the flying Pokémon (Zubat and Fearow, for example) were notably harder to catch, since you had to predict how the Pokémon would move, compared to other Pokémon which are more stationary.
Oh, I almost forgot – Eggs! At PokéStops, along with other items such as Poké Balls, Great Balls, and Potions, you can also get Eggs. These go into a section alongside your caught Pokémon, and you hatch them in Egg Incubators. In the Field Test, unlimited Incubators were available, but they were also in the in-game shop, so I’m guessing the full game won’t have unlimited available.
The game felt about as stable as everything else on the device I used, which is very graphically buggy. I would often get into wild encounters where the Pokémon would simply not display – sometimes I’d get lucky and throw a Poké Ball in just the right spot to catch the Pokémon. Again, this is like every other app on my 3+ year old Android, so I wouldn’t put any blame on the game itself.
Overall, Pokémon GO is a very fun game. I enjoyed my week with the game, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it when it gets released in July. Get ready to Go and explore!