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Review – Movie – Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Pokemon ventures into the live action realm that’s popular lately with Detective Pikachu. It’s loosely based on the 3DS title of the same name, though there are quite a few changes to the plot and characters. The film follows Tim Goodman who teams up with a talking Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds as a wisecracking PG Deadpool. They set out to solve the mystery of Tim’s father’s death but end up unraveling a larger conspiracy.

The general plot is pretty straight forward and predictable. There are very few real twists and none of them feel particularly shocking, even probably the biggest one that happens at the end. The trip though is pretty fun. There are quite a few funny jokes and moments, the Mr. Mime Sequence shown in the trailers is pretty great, and pretty dark in it’s humor, for example. There is a lot of “Loony Tunes” style humor, that is, jokes that are funny for kids and adults but for different reasons.

It’s visually well done. The live action Pokemon all are very recognizable, and look pretty good in their “flesh and blood” style. The little Easter egg moments and little bits of Pokemon doing things in the background that really make the world feel alive. The city where this movie is set is, by way of the plot, special. Special because it’s dedicated to helping Pokemon and people live together in harmony, so there isn’t any battling or people throwing Pokeballs around. Everyone has a “buddy” Pokemon and they all work together to do their jobs.

Pretty much all of the flaws land in the 3rd act, when the villain is revealed, and his motives are a little dodgy, which makes the whole thing feel kind of odd. It’s executed well, it just could have been better. It’s also not particularly groundbreaking in any meaningful way. It’s essentially Rodger Rabbit with Pokemon.

It’s a good movie, it’s not an amazing movie. It does a good job at what it sets out to be.

Additional Spoiler Thoughts Beyond Beyond This Point

In tradition of how I tend to do reviews, I’m going to add a few additional thoughts that contain spoilers below. Read at your own risk.

So, like I said, it’s a lot of “predictable” so most of this will be about the endgame bits of the movie. So, the main villain Twist. This was probably the one real surprising twist, though it’s been done before so it wasn’t really shocking. Also, he’s not a huge actor, but you don’t pick up Bill Nighy to waste him on a throw away character in a wheelchair. That said, why the hell did he want to merge everyone with their Pokemon, aside from being “crazy evil guy”? I get why he wanted to do himself, but forcing it on everyone felt a little random and out there.

Not to mention it felt underused in it’s execution. Basically, all the humans vanished and the Pokemon all just sort of stood around doing nothing. This would have been a prime opportunity to do a few gags about the Human/Pokemon not knowing how to act or what to do. Especially say, Yoshida and Lucy, whom we have watched throughout the movie and can relate to.

This plot point also made the second twist of Tim’s father being Pikachu extremely predictable as well. Actually using Ryan Reynolds was a nice touch. It kind of sucks that they can’t really make a sequel with Ryan Reynolds Pikachu though, not without retreading the same plot ground.

A few other thoughts, the Torterra scene felt really pointless. The Greninja could have injured Pikachu and moved the plot ahead in the same way. I mean it was kind of neat seeing the massive Pokemons, but they basically just stood up and laid back down into the scenery. I guess the writers decided they needed an action sequence for the film.

Speaking of the action sequences, the other two Action scenes were both pretty good. Pikachu vs Charizard was cool, though Pikachu didn’t really DO anything. the final Mewtwo vs Pikachi was good but the whole Evil Ditto bit was what really made that scene. Plus it was a nice way to push the twist with the Father instead of the Son being the villain. Since the Son actually did something useful in the fight.

Pokemon Go Go-tcha Band

So, I should preface a bit by saying, I am a very casual level player of Pokemon Go.  I mean maybe I am overestimating the level of most players, but I often see people talking about burning through hundreds of Pokemon and eggs and stardust to maximize this or that.  There are gyms an raids that I barely ever participate in.  My interest in Pokemon Go extends mostly to “It’s Pokemon” because it’s not really Pokemon.  It’s more, incentivized walking.  Which is also why I care about Pokemon Go, at all.  Primarily I “play” at lunch, I eat, I go walk a loop downtown outside my office.  What I really wanted to help with this, was a way to spin Pokestops and catch Pokemon, without having to carry my phone in my hand and look at my phone constantly.

Enter the Pokemon Go Plus, and in my case, the Pokemon Go-tcha band.  I had been looking at getting a PoGo+ for a while, but I had heard they were kind of flaky, and you still had to press a button to actually perform an action (catching or spinning).  Then I found the 3rd party Go-tcha band, which is identical in function to the Plus, except it auto spins and auto catches.  The Go-tcha also has an internal rechargeable batter, the PoGo+ has a replaceable battery.  After using the band for a few months, it’s not perfect, but the short of it is, it work for my needs.  It does what it proposes and works pretty well.

I have a few little gripes and there are some oddities to it, which I want to get into a bit and is the whole point of writing this, but I am 99% sure that these are all limitations put in place, intentionally or not, in Pokemon Go itself.

So a bit of an overview of what exactly the Go-tcha does, a lot of this applies to the PoGo+ as well.  Depending on the settings in the app itself and on the band, it will automatically scan the area and spin Pokestops or catch Pokemon.  It’s not an end all to auto-playing PoGo however.  The catching will throw one regular Pokeball.  That’s it.  If it catches, you get the Pokemon, if it doesn’t the Pokemon flees.  It doesn’t throw Great or Ultra balls.  This can be a little frustrating at times, I’ve been at a point where I had 100 Great and Ultra balls, but zero regular Pokeballs, which means the band does nothing.  This is a limitation of how Pokemon Go works however, the regular PoGo+ works the same way, except you have to click the button to do the throw.

The Go-tcha also has some options that can be toggled, by tapping the button, to cycle through, and holding it to toggle.  I am not sure the regular PoGo+ has these options.  The toggle-able options in order, all on/off, are Spin Pokestops, Catch Pokemon, Catch Unique Pokemon, Vibration, and Bluetooth.  You can conserve Pokeballs by either disabling the catching, or setting it to catch only Pokemon that you don’t already have.  In my testing, and this may be wrong, but it’s based on what I’ve seen, this has some limitations.  The Pokemon Go app itself seems to prioritize it’s actions, it will search for and target Pokemon then target Pokestops.  As far as I can tell, you must disable Pokemon scanning int he settings of the app itself if you want to only spin Pokestops.  I find I do maybe one walk a week with spinning only to replenish my stock of Pokeballs.  Depending on the density, it’s pretty easy to pull in 50 Pokeballs or so with 20-30 minutes of walking.

Now, like I said, turning off Pokemon scanning seems to be required, but only because of what seems to be a limitation of Pokemon Go itself.  Basically, what I have seen happen, is that the app will target the first Pokemon it sees, then stick to it, until you try to catch it with the band.  This also affects catching unique Pokemon for the same reason.  If you have the band itself set to only throw at unique Pokemon, it may catch on a Pidgey you have, while you walk past a Dratini or something that you don’t have.  Because it will get stuck on the Pidgey waiting for the band to do something.  The best use cases for the band, are to either turn off Pokemon scanning in Pokemon Go and only spin stops, or keep everything on full boar, and let it go to town.

It does keep up well in full on mode.  It targets and catches the Pokemon fast enough that it should also catch and spin Pokestops.  I also have found it works even when driving at a reasonable speed (40mph or less), often catching Pokemon that don’t even show up on the map.  Don’t play PoGo while driving kids, but if you’ve just got a Go-tcha laying in the seat next to your phone, you aren’t exactly interacting with anything.  In my experience though, the screen still has to be on, which seems to be another annoying limitation of Pokemon Go itself.  If the screen is off, it doesn’t seem to update your location, you can watch your character run to catch up once you turn the screen back on.  So when using the band you can shove your phone in your pocket, but it still has to be on, so it’s easy to bump the screen by mistake and screw things up.

There also isn’t really enough notification when you’re item bag or Pokemon bag is full.  The app simply stops catching or spinning when this happens.  It’s fairly easy to fill up as well, I find I am constantly tossing out berries.  You can of course remedy this by buying more bag space.  Once again, more of a limitation of the game than anything.  I have also had some connectivity issues which are usually resolved by resetting the app or phone, or deleting and repairing the device.  This is also a known issue with the official Pokemon Go Plus band, and it not unique to the Go-tcha.

The Go-tcha band itself has a few quirks.  It has no on/off function that I can find.  So it’s always on.  You recharge it by sticking it in a little USB cradle.  The Go-tcha itself is maybe a centimeter by a centimeter by 2 centimeters, it reminds me a lot of my old Fitbit flex.  There are no ports on it, just two little contacts for charging.  It has one touch sensitive area on one end of the display.  There are little animations that play on it as it does things.  You can buy third party bands, which is good for two reasons.  One, the band that comes with it is this speckled red white and black thing that’s ugly as hell.  Two, the band that comes with it is effectively child sized, it doesn’t fit at all around my wrist.  I just carry it in my pocket.  A word of warning on this, I have found that having other things in your pocket (like pocket change) can accidentally change the settings on the unit.  It’s best to keep it in the band, even if you aren’t wearing it because frankly, it’s easy to loose, it’s so small.

Real quick before wrapping up, I wanted to run through a bit of other little thing it does and does not do.  It will spin Gyms, but it does not battle in gyms or raids in any way.  If the bag fills up, it won’t keep spinning stops, and there isn’t any filter for say, “only keep rare items and Pokeballs”.  It only throws once at any given Pokemon, no matter how rare, and afterwards that Pokemon is gone.  So if you want a particular Pokemon, you need to play normally and manually throw balls.  Pokemon caught with the band do count towards Field Research,  if it says “Catch 3 Water Pokemon”, it doesn’t matter if you caught them with the band or manually.  Spinning stops also counts towards research.  Using the band still lets you hatch eggs, though you don’t get a notification that it’s happening.

So wrapping this up, with a little TL;DR, the band works as expected, and frankly, if you want to be able to walk and play PoGo distraction free, it’s worth picking up.  I had my doubts going in but after hem-hawing about it for months, I just bit the bullet.  I wouldn’t pay much mark up on it though, I have seen the PoGo+ for I think $30-$35 and the Gotcha for $40-$45, but both are often marked up a lot more, the prices already feel like they are pushing it for the value depending on how casual you are about playing the game.  I kind of wish it included a little more incentive like maybe the one throw Pokeballs didn’t count towards your owned balls or something.




Review – Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (NDS)

Oh Pokémon, how conflicted you make us. On one hand, you’re a lot of fun. Your simple system of battling animals is easy to pick up somewhat difficult to master. On the other hand, you’re such a huge blatant marketing whore that we can’t help but hate you for it.

Pokémon is a franchise designed to sell… stuff. Lots of properties do this but only someone like say, Disney does it bigger than Pokémon. Ironically, both Disney and Pokémon use a mouse as their mascot, coincidence? Probably.

Anyway, Pokémon sells too. Kids eat up all of the toys, the card games, the peripherals, the games, the game systems. I am pretty sure this series didn’t pioneer the dual game version format but it certainly perfected it. This encourages people to own multiple copies of the same game for the sole purpose of being able to capture and control maybe a dozen additional virtual creatures. Well, it also encourages social activity among children so they can trade these creatures around. Unfortunately, no one wants to do an even trade for anything, they all want level 100 rare “Legendary” Pokémon for worthless normal types. That’s greed and a complete lack of how economies work that a million ten year olds will create for you.

And millions of ten year olds are out there to trade with. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl (D/P) is the first of the series to feature the ability to trade via the internet thanks to the Nintendo DS’s WiFi capabilities. See a neat or cute Pokémon used by an in game trainer that you’d like to add to your party. You can look for one on the WiFi network to trade for. Unfortunately you’ll likely not possess or be unwilling to give up the powerful Pokémon being requested. This is where the aforementioned balance issue comes into play here in force. Everyone is looking for Dialga, or Mewtwo, or level 100 Milotics. No one wants your Gyarados for their Murkrow. WiFi trading is not a good alternative to straight out hunting and catching things on your own.

This brings up a point I’d like to push about how broken the WiFi trade system is. It could really use a “Search for what’s wanted” sort of feature. Let’s say I have an extra Psyduck. Being able to see who out there wants a Psyduck then deciding if I want what they are offering would be much more useful than the current system. The current system being that I offer up my Psyduck for a specific Pokémon then hope some person comes along wanting to trade for my Psyduck using that specific Pokémon. Most of the time, I don’t care what I get for it just so long as it’s not something I already own.

WiFi isn’t just used for trading; it’s also used for battling. I think. Once again, the multiplayer options are a bit flawed and confusing in this game. There seems to be dozens of variations of two player battles going on in this game varying from fighting friends over the internet or fighting local players to team based battles. There’s supposed to be a way to fight other player’s champion teams as well though the teams become computer controlled. They all get initiated via different options and in world locations and what does what is not particularly clear due to conflicting in game terminology.

The key word here is friends. You can only battle people whose friend code you’ve entered. Anonymous random battles over WiFi would have been a totally awesome option in this game. Especially if there was some sort of server side algorithm for determining a balanced battle so you don’t have someone fielding a bunch of level 1 Pokémon against a party of level 100 legendaries. I suppose this would have made is possible that the other player had named his Pokémon “Penis” and some kid might get exposed to this but the simple act of not showing names would have fixed that. Besides, there’s no filters on the trading end of things and it’s not possible to rename traded Pokémon.

Anyway, enough about the broken WiFi capabilities of this game. Let’s get to the actual game play. If you’ve played any other game in this series, you’ve played this game. The only Pokémon game I have experience with is the original Blue, and I was amazed at how similar this game was to that game. There are a few new options and extras such as Pokémon breeding and shinny Pokémon and multiple hidden Legendary Pokémon that have been added over the years but the core is still the same.

You start out as a kid with his/her first Pokémon, you battle through 8 themed gyms and against an evil enemy “Team” while building an army of cute fighting critters, then you face the “Elite Four” and the current Champion.

The maps are 3D now but they are stuck in an overhead position and look essentially just like the old ones. The battles use the same cornered menu driven look. The newer games occasionally have 2vs2 battles but for the most part it’s 1vs1.

One of the main new features for the DS is the use of the lower touch screen as a Poketch (short for Pokémon Watch I believe). This takes up the entire screen and looks like an LCD wrist watch that your character would wear in game (it’s all grayscale except for the border watch part). It’s an extremely gimmicky way to present useful information on the fly while helping with the immersion feel of the game. They could have done the same thing with a pretty color interface but this simplified look helps give it some interesting charm. My only complaint is that once you get a lot of applications loaded into it, it takes forever to navigate. A “Previous app” button would have done wonders to help this. As it is designed there is only one “button” for switching applications.

The Applications range from a simple clock that keeps real world time, to a radar for finding hidden items, to mini maps that tell you where berries or markers are located. Some are extremely useful and required for finding everything. Others, like the customizable roulette reel are ultimately useless.

Now, I know I’ve been a little hard on this game, but the parts I’ve been hard on are a small and mostly unnecessary part of the game. The core game play is a lot of fun, especially if you like RPG style game play. Well, I should clarify that as “old school” RPG style game play. Modern RPGs tend to be a bit different than the simple turn based menu driven combat used in Pokémon. There is also the massive collecting aspect that can appear to a person’s obsessive need to well, collect things. The core game has 150 Pokémon in the “Sinnoh Dex”. After you complete he Sinnoh dex by seeing (not catching) all 150 Pokémon you unlock the “National Dex” which includes all Pokémon from every game in the series. We’re talking not quite 500 of the little critters.

This National Dex is of course empty until you fill it up by seeing or capturing all of the Pokémon. How do you do this if there’s only 150 core Pokémon in the game? After you unlock the National Dex additional Pokémon start showing up around the world. There will be daily swarms in certain areas, the master of the Pokémon mansion will import more exotic types into his garden, a whole new Battle Island will open with lots of Pokémon being used and to be caught from other regions. Also, you can trade Pokémon up into Diamond or Pearl from your previous GBA versions of the game. Unfortunately, this is a one way trip for your Pokémon and annoyingly, you have to do it 6 at a time to satisfy the Pal Park mini game requirements. The real challenge of this game actually comes AFTER you “complete” it.

Ultimately, Pokémon is an experience that a player is either going to love or hate. There’s not much of an “Its ok” or “I guess I like it a little” ground. It’s a concept that appeals to kids and obsessive collectors and not much else. Fortunately, it still does a pretty good job of it. Now if only I could import my Pokémon Blue army into my copy of Pokémon Diamond.

Review – Pokemon Magikarp Jump (Android, iOS)

The Good

  • Charming visuals and art work
  • Magikarp
  • Magikarp

The Bad

  • Very repetitive game play
  • Weird overpriced Microtransaction Model
  • Shallow Gameplay

In Depth

Pokemon Go isn’t the only mobile Pokemon Experience available on mobile, Pokemon Magikarp Jump is a much more traditional mobile game with all of the usual caveats that come along with that.  At it’s core, Magikarp Jump is just your traditional old school Tomagotchi only with Pokemon.  You fish up a Magikarp, you feed it food and train it, and then take it off to compete in a Jumping contest against AI Magikarp opponents.  That’s 100% of the extend of the game.

The best part of this whole game is the art and animation.  It’s repetitive yes, but it all looks really great.  There are several dozen Pokemon that show up in the game aside from Magikarps, all of them rendered in this recognizable cutesy art style.

The more you play the more coin rewards you get which allows you to upgrade the various foods and training courses.  There are also Diamonds which are this games Premium currency, which can be used to unlock Friend Pokemon and decorations for your Magikarp tank.  The friendly Pokemon offer time based rewards such as bonus experience (JP or Jump Power) or extra coins.  The Decorations offer passive bonuses such as a blanked percentage bonus to coins or JP.  This offers up some variety of ways to raise your Magikarp.  The Premium currency can be purchased for real money but it also can be earned, slowly, by simply playing the game. After training, and league matches, you often encounter random events, some of which drop diamonds, others bonus exp and gold.

There is choice, and not really a lot of choice.  To keep things moving, you really need to keep upgrading food and training, which means needing gold, which pretty much steers all upgrades into getting more gold.  Spending a few hundred hard to get Diamonds for 2 extra food isn’t really as useful as spending the same amount for a bonus to gold drops or even just a boost to the experience food gives.

The whole system is of course, also designed on a sliding scale, so you get stronger, but you never really feel like you are getting “better”.  The leagues (all ten of them) all play out essentially at the same pace until you reach Level 100 Magikarps.  Every match is the same and entirely dependent on having more experience than your opponent, which is a fixed amount.  The only real way to make things move faster is to drop real world money.

Which brings up some weirdness.  There is a spending limit, built in, it’s something like $50 ever.  I suppose it’s to prevent kids from blowing hundreds on the game, except the entire point of this business model is to be sustained by “whales” IE the people who spend hundreds of dollars, to make up for those trudging through at the Free pace.  Spending $50 also gives you the Diamond Miner, which grants 100 free Diamonds per day, which pretty much enables all of the unlocks to be purchased many orders of magnitude faster than playing for Free.  the amount of Diamonds you get on basic purchases is also pretty low, enough to buy maybe 1 item.  Essentially the only reason to buy in, is for the Diamond Miner.

The problem here is, game doesn’t have anywhere near $50 worth of game play.  I get that some people will feel it does, but speaking for the idea of the vast majority, it doesn’t.  You don’t do anything interactive at all side from tapping food and pressing OK a lot.  Maybe, MAYBE if the Training rounds were actual mini games and you maybe some extra taps or something to help jump more in League battles and just in general if there was SOMETHING besides being a time waster to the game.  There isn’t though, and as it stands, being a time waster is ok, but it’s not really $50 ok.  I’m all for supporting developers, and I’d gladly throw $5-$10 at this game for the time I’ve spent on it and the enjoyable art and animation.

After you reach level 100 you can keep training Magikarps to higher and higher experience to see how high you can get your Magikarp to jump.  There’s no direct player vs player aspect but connecting to Facebook lets you see how your friends are ranking.

Don’t get me wrong on the negatives, the game is pretty fun as a Tomagotchi time waster, it just feels like there are some odd choices in the pay model and the gameplay itself just, completely lacks any real depth.  I have enjoyed the game a lot.  I’ve played all the way through to Level 100, which, takes months, just as a heads up, but it’s more than doable.  It just gets old after a while.