Pokémon Go has taken over the world, despite server issues, robbery, corpses and controversial Poke Spots.
The augmented reality game has soared since its launch a week ago, adding hefty billions to Nintendo’s market value and selling millions of Pokeballs and other products related to the video game classic.
The game has propelled people outdoors and has gotten kids, teens and adults alike off their couches for some exercise.
Pokémon Go seems incredibly simple – walk around and capture Pokémon in real-life places using GPS and a map. But things aren’t so cut-and-dried, and Pokémon appears to have thrown its players into a world where they have to master the mechanics on their own.
To help the uninitiated and those still struggling to understand and play the game, here’s a guide to help “catch ‘em all.”
Pokémon Go is similar to the original game in many aspects, but also has many differences. The Pokémon trainer, who is the player, gains experience points to increase in level. This is to see and catch more, stronger Pokémon and to unlock useful items that are available only at certain levels.
There are many ways to gain experience points, and each task is accorded a certain number of points. For example, capturing a Pokémon gives 100 points, while the method for capturing gives varying points: Nice Capture is 10, Great Capture is 50, Excellent Capture is 100, Curveball Capture is 10.
Hatching eggs also gives points: 2km egg hatch is 200, 5km egg hatch is 500, 10km egg hatch is 1,000. Evolving a Pokémon is 500, discovering a new Pokémon is 500, visiting a Poké Spot is 50 or 100, and points for training or battling at a gym depends on how well you do.
There are Lucky Eggs, useful items for leveling up. Using an egg gives a player a 30-minute window in which he or she gains double experience points. The best way to maximize this is by combining the Lucky egg with the highest points possible, like evolving several Pokémon.
There is one Lucky Egg given at Level 9, and others as a player goes higher. Lucky Eggs can also be bought at the stores with PokéCoins.
Pokémon Go starts by a player choosing among three Pokémon for an initial companion: Squirtle, Charmander or Bulbasaur. Pikachu is a hidden option – to get one, ignore the first three Pokémon presented by Professor Willow and walk away. The three Pokémon will follow, disappear then reappear. Doing this four times will show a Pikachu eventually, then just capture it.
To see what Pokémon are in your area, look at the bottom-right corner of the screen. Clicking the menu there will show outlines of up to nine Pokémon nearby, along with footprints. The fewer footprints there are, the closer a Pokémon is. The Pokémon are also sorted by distance, from top left to bottom right.
In Pokémon Go, there’s no need to battle other Pokémon to capture them, just flick a Poké ball on the screen at a Pokémon. Flicking it too near or too far won’t do anything, so players have to get it right by actually hitting the Pokémon with the ball. Pressing on a Pokéball shows a ring; if it’s green, the Pokémon is easy to catch but if it’s red, it’s more difficult. The ring also changes size as it’s held down, and odds are better when the ring is smaller upon releasing the ball.
Curve balls increase a player’s experience points if it captures a Pokémon. Just move a finger in small circles on the screen while touching the ball then flick it.
Once players get past Level 11, Great Balls and Ultra Balls will be available at Poké Stops, which are much more effective at capturing wild Pokémon, especially the rare ones.
Some players say that turning off the camera helps in capturing Pokémon better, as they are shown in the middle of the screen with the camera off, making them easier targets.
The Incense and Lure Modules get Pokémon to come out of hiding. The Lure Module can be attached to a specific location and is more effective. A Poké Stop with a Lure Module has floating pink petals, and make excellent places to find and catch Pokémon.
Quantity is the key to success in Pokémon Go, especially to collect Stardust and Candy. Capturing a Pokémon gives a player both, which are used to power up and evolve Pokémon. Stardust can be used on any Pokémon, but Candy is specific to the species a player got it from. Candy is also given when Pokémon are transferred to Professor Willow.
The Pokédex keeps track of all Pokémon a player has and shows how many species are left to find. It can be accessed by tapping the Pokéball on the main screen. The Pokédex shows detailed information on all species caught, including how they evolve.
Once a Pokémon is caught, they have to be trained. When training, there are three things to be aware of: Stats, Type and Moves. Under Stats are CP or Combat Points and HP or Hit Points. CP shows how much damage a Pokémon can deal in battle, while HP shows how much damage the Pokémon can take. Both are closely related.
Each Pokémon has a type, which determines what other types of Pokémon it is strong or weak against. Moves include standard and special, also according to type.
Pokémon in Pokémon Go don’t have levels and experience points, but players can make them stronger by giving them a Power Up or evolving them. Power Up improves CP and HP, and can be given through accumulated Stardust or Candy.
Evolving a Pokémon requires only Candy, but large amounts are needed – we’re talking hundreds of them. Evolved Pokémon have larger CPs and give trainers more XP. But evolving the Pokémon also changes their moves. Each Pokémon has a CP limit, and not all of them are created equal.
As players get to higher levels, they will find Pokémon with higher CP maximums and rarer Pokémon will often have better capabilities.
Poké Stops are points of interest marked on the map with a floating blue cube. Tapping the cubes shows details about the stop, including a photo. Players can only collect items if they are close to a Poké Stop, which is any varying distance. Once close enough, just swipe the landmark image, and it will spin and give three or more items. When items have been claimed at a stop, the icon turns purple. Poké Stops refresh around every five minutes so players can just keep going back to collect more items.
For beginners, most of the items that show up at Poké Stops are Pokéballs and sometimes, an egg. The eggs are placed in an incubator to hatch into Pokémon after players have travelled a certain distance. All players begin with one incubator, and additional ones can be bought at the store.
When players level up, more special items start appearing at the Poké Stops. At Level 5, Potions, Revive and Incense appear. Potions and Revive help injured Pokémon, while Incense lures Pokémon out. At Level 8, players get Razz Berries and Lure. Razz Berries are fed to wild Pokémon to keep them from running away. At Level 9, Lucky Eggs will be available, while at Level 12, Great Balls appear. Ultra Balls don’ appear until Level 20.
In addition to Poké Stops, there are gyms that will appear on the map at Level 5. Once a player enters a gym, he or she will be asked to swear allegiance to a Yellow, Red or Blue team. Selecting a team doesn’t really make a difference. Each gym is controlled by one of these three, and so far, there is plenty of turnover in gym control, so there are no best teams yet.
There are three ways to handle gyms: train and test by battling Pokémon in a friendly game, defend a gym controlled by the player’s team and contribute Pokémon, or attack and attempt to take over other gyms from opposing teams.
Gyms in Pokémon Go are mostly for prestige, the goal being to stake a claim for a team and make the gym difficult to attack. Each gym has a level, which is equal to the number of Pokémon that can be used to defend it. A gym gains prestige for each battle it wins, even if it is against a player on its own team, so battling friendly Pokémon will increase gym levels.
Interacting with gyms gives players XP, which becomes more difficult to get once a player has caught the most common Pokémon. For each Pokémon stored in a gym, players receive 500 Stardust and 10 Poké Coins once every 24 hours – the only way to earn coins aside from using real money.
In Pokémon Go, battles only happen at gyms. In training, a player can send out a Pokémon at a friendly gym, but when challenging an enemy, six Pokémon can be selected to be sent out. If a Pokémon loses all of its HP in battle, it gets recalled and a replacement takes over.
There are four things to do when battling: standard move by tapping once on the screen, special moves by filling up the blue bar underneath the HP and executing with a long press on the screen, dodge by swiping left or right and swapping Pokémon by tapping the up-down arrow on the bottom right of the screen.
Special moves are good, but they are not always the best strategy. Depending on the situation, it might be best to leave it for a finishing blow, as a special move leaves the Pokémon unable to dodge as it cools down. Players can also take advantage of special moves by opponents by striking as the other Pokémon cools down.
Knowing the type of Pokémon goes a long way towards winning a battle, too. As mentioned, the type of Pokémon determines whether a player’s own Pokémon is stronger or weaker than it. Checking the opponent’s Pokémon will go a long way towards winning.
Swapping out a Pokémon leaves it vulnerable to attack for a few seconds, so it might not be wise to do it, but swapping can be really useful for mismatched types.
Healing injured Pokémon requires Revive and Potions, restoring a specific amount of HP: Potion for 20 HP, Super Potion for 50 HP and Hyper Potion for 200 HP – all of which can be picked up at the Poké Stops.