Filling out a Pokedex with hard-won Pokemon is a lot of work as we all know from the plethora of Pokemon games, but the upcoming Pokemon Go (opens in new tab), headed to mobile devices, is the first Pokemon game to make you get up from your seat if you want to catch 'em all. GO works like a geotracking activity app, keeping tabs on your movement through the real world, counting your steps, and presenting you with Pokemon hunting activities as you stroll through your neighborhood.
The goal of Pokemon GO isn't to get players to exercise until they're as ripped as Machamp or to climb actual mountaintops in search of legendary Pokemon. The developers of Pokemon GO want players to simply go out and explore their surroundings a bit more than they typically might. The interface shows your location on the real world map and will highlight actual landmarks as Pokespots - which can be anything from a historical bridge to a neighborhood mural or other unique spot the community selects if you live out in a landmark-free suburb. When you approach these locations on foot (playing Pokemon GO while driving is probably a bad idea), you're presented with items like various types of pokeballs and potions that will give higher chances at catching stronger Pokemon and give you ability boosts in battles. And when you're out and about, you can learn more about your surroundings by reading the game's brief description of the world's historical and significant landmarks.
Of course, Pokemon GO's main draw is to collect as many pokemon as possible and this is done by visiting locations that the specific Pokemon types might make their home. So, if you're walking along the San Francisco piers, you are more likely to run into water-type Pokemon. Hiking up in the hills might cause you to encounter rock-types, and parks may yield grass-types. Once you spot a Pokemon on the map you're dropped into a minigame that challenges you to toss pokeballs by flicking them towards the Pokemon with your finger.
When you have a few monsters in your pockets, you can take them to Pokemon Gyms - which are also significant real-world locations - and pit your Pokemon against other players' Pokemon in asynchronous battles. If the Pokemon Gym belongs to your team (either Red, Blue, or Yellow), you can station your Pokemon at the gym to protect it from other teams, or try to take over that location if it's owned by another team. This allows you to play against other people's Pokemon without requiring them to be in the same place at the same time. The battles mainly consist of simply mashing basic attacks and special moves, and dodging incoming elemental enemy barrages rather than the tactical duels of the hand-held Pokemon titles. But there seems to be some degree of strategy; Pokemon elemental types are said to have an effect in battle, but the devs are still holding back the specific details.
Pokemon GO looks like it would be a pretty good motivator to get you up and walking. The more steps you take the more the game gives you, from education about your surroundings to a collection of cute digital monsters that can continue to build through collectible hatching Pokemon eggs and the process of Pokemon evolution. Taking the Pokemon hunt into the real world with Pokemon GO feels like you're going on your own Pokemon adventure and it's going to be interesting to see how the game grows. I can already see myself walking that extra block just to hit the next Pokespot.