Posted in Gaming, Mobile Gaming

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Ambivalence

In a previous post, I noted that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was one of my anticipated games of this month. So now that it’s actually released, and I’ve spent some time with it, how do I feel about it?

Well, it’s complicated.

It’s not complicated for the reason you might think, either. I’m really not bothered by the micro transactions in this game. They’re background noise, things that don’t tempt me in the slightest, because I’ve already seen them in so many different games in so many different forms.

I think what bothers me is that in order to squish Animal Crossing into an app, they had to cut a lot of what made Animal Crossing what it was. Now, I never expected this to be on par with a real Animal Crossing game, but it feels like an app dressed up in Animal Crossing cuteness, but lacking everything inside that mattered.

On Rails Experience

I was thinking about this last night, and I came to the conclusion that what made Animal Crossing so magical was in how the game changes. These are sometimes tiny changes. Sometimes they’re big changes.

The town changes. You unlock something new to build. A new shop appears. Something becomes upgraded.

The hour changes. Different theme song plays.

The season changes. First snowfall. Flowers of spring.

Your relationships change. People come and go.

Animal Crossing is meant to be a dynamic miniature world. What kept me hooked was those tiny changes.

The problem with Pocket Camp is that the experience is completely on rails. By the time I met the third animal, I knew the pattern. It’s the same every time.

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Meet them and talk to them for the first time to get level 1. Talk to them again. Give them stuff three times. This always gets them to level 3. You can’t give them anything else after that until they either move to a new location or you use a ticket to get more fetch quests.

Then, once you work up their friendship to the right level, you grind out the furniture they want, and prompt them visit your camp. They always come to your camp as long as you checked off all the prerequisites. Again, an on-rails list.

Sure, some animals need a higher friendship rank to entice to your camp. But that’s just the same conversation and fetch quests more times.

What’s worse, is sometimes the dialogue is also repeated across animals of the same personality types. So they don’t even have that much difference between them.

Lack of Heart

Let’s not talk about how little life the animals have. If they’re in your camp, they’re only doing one thing or interacting with one object until “move time” comes. If they’re out on an island, they’re just standing there waiting for you to give them stuff and talk to them.

In Animal Crossing, animals would be wandering around all the time. They might talk with each other. Go fishing. Go shopping. Just go missing for a while.

And when you talked to them, you had a wide variety of interactions with them every time. Sometimes they just talked with you. Sometimes they gave you things or sold you things. Sometimes they gave you multiple choice questions that made you reflect on your state of life. Sometimes they sent you on fetch or give quests. Heck, they even played hide and seek with you.

There’s nothing of that in Pocket Camp. You can’t even interact with animals in your friends’ camps either, which really bugged me. I’d love to meet and talk to those animals, but the app restricted it.

Yeah, the lack of interactions with friends, too, is really sad.

What It Does Well

So, despite all the negatives I listed above, I keep playing it. I know exactly why, too.

It’s cute. It’s so, so cute. They got the Animal Crossing outer trappings looking great.

It’s mobile. I have all my Animal Crossing pals in a little personal camp I take everywhere with me. (Note: I feel a connection to these specific animals because I made relationships with them in previous AC games, not in this game.)

You collect and craft. Animal Crossing is all about collecting. Fishing and bug catching have all translated well into the app. I do enjoy collecting. I like the addition of crafting to the game. I don’t even care if it has timers on it.

Decorating. They’ve taken the updated system from AC: Happy Home Designer and used it here. It’s a good system, and I appreciated when they updated New Leaf with it. It makes decorating simple. This game thrives on simple.

Islands. I think using islands as a way of focusing on specific things (bug catching, salt water fishing, freshwater fishing, etc) is a good idea in a mobile setting. I wish the islands were a lot bigger though. Everything feels so cramped.

Camper customization. I like that they included a little area all your own in the way of a camper that you can expand and decorate.

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Soooo… anyhow. I’m not giving up on Pocket Camp, yet. I want to see what they’re going to do for the holidays, for one thing.

Not to mention, this is a very young app that may have functionality added to it in time. What’s there works well and looks cute. But what’s there right now just isn’t really an Animal Crossing experience.

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Posted in Gaming, IRL, Kitty Korner, Mobile Gaming

Friskies CatFishing 2: A Kitten’s Review

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my newest family acquisition — my kitten, Spriggan. Actually, he’s almost a year old now, and while he’s just tall and lanky, not quite as bulky as Sebastian (my older cat), he’s starting to match him in height at least.

Spriggan, quite frankly, is still a kitten mess. He’s starting to become a bit more affectionate lately. But that’s mostly because everything to him is about playing. I mean everything. And he’s come to learn that he has the most fun playing when an actual person is dangling one of those string/wand cat toys.

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Like this one. RIP feather toy.

He lives for the hand holding the cat toy. He’s as crazy about it as we are playing our video games. 😀

He even picks up the toy in his mouth and physically brings it to me (or drapes it across the couch arm next to me if I’m not paying attention) just to get me to play with him. This is constant. And he is not just energetic, but extremely hard to wear out.

The problem with Kitten is that he is smart. He needs constant mental stimulation. He figures things out. Like opening kitchen cupboards and rummaging within them…

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My kitchen cupboards, temporarily duct-taped shut until I got the child-proof locks installed this past weekend. He still opens the ones in the bathroom, though.

He also has a new habit of stealing my gaming chair any time I leave my desk unattended (above first picture). He likes to do this when I’m playing my Switch, since the couch and my desk are side by side —  so he’s close enough to have that cat socializing while I play, and is claiming my chair for himself at the same time.

Anyhow, I saw this great video about cats having fun playing with iPads.

And I thought to myself… You know, Spriggan might actually enjoy that little fish game! It might keep him out of trouble!

So I pulled out my poor old Nexus 7, updated it, and installed the Friskies CatFishing 2 app for Android on it. It was free. It has swimming fish, and from time to time, makes a cat meow sound. Pretty simple.

Well, I gave it to the Kitten, and he patted at it a few times.

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Being a smarty-pants, he kept trying to look under the tablet and sniff the fish, wondering why these swimming things on the screen weren’t actually real.

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But after that… he decided its value was mostly in being something warm to lay on.

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So, yeah. I couldn’t get Spriggan to focus on the moving images on the tablet. He was too smart and too hung up on the fact that the fish weren’t real… and he couldn’t lift up the tablet to see them inside/under it.

Why can’t I just have a normal kitten?

Posted in Animal Crossing, Gaming, Mobile Gaming

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp (Mobile) Coming in November

I’ve been keeping my eye on the announcement around the upcoming Animal Crossing mobile game, now revealed to be called Pocket Camp. If that’s enough for you to be excited already, you can sign up for a notification to let you know when it’s out.

Anyhow, I watched the little video (below), and here’s my impression so far. It’s got a lot of callbacks to normal Animal Crossing, but the gameplay has been adjusted to what you’d expect from a mobile game. It is free to play, it does have microtransactions…. but it looks like most of the leaf dollar things just speed up times to build stuff and give a few perks that aren’t absolutely needed. Pretty normal.

This is good news to me because I really want to see an Animal Crossing come to the Switch. I feel like this is a mobilized version, and will in no way take away from a full version we’d see later. In fact, it might build up publicity for it, if the mobile game is done well enough.

I’m certainly putting this on my phone when it comes out!

Here’s the video:

Posted in Gaming, Mobile Gaming, Virtual Pets

Magikarp Jump

So I’ve been itching for a pet raising/breeding game lately. And while the new Magikarp Jump mobile app is not really that, it still seems to scratch that itch. Bonus points that it’s simple, cute, and doesn’t take a lot of my time up.

I’d been hearing about this around the net, and decided to download it yesterday. The idea is that there’s… well… here…

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So you come to Hoppy Town, where Mayor Karp wants to regain morale by winning the league. Not the Pokemon League. But the Magikarp jumping league.

See, about the only thing you can train Magikarp to do well is jump higher. So this is a game about doing just that, and then taking your trained Magikarp to the league to challenge other NPC trainers to see who jumps the highest.

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The Pond and Food

Your Magikarp gets their own little pond where food slowly rains down. You tap the food to feed them.

Each type of food increases their JP (Jump Points) by a different amount. You can buy different types of food as your trainer ranks up, and you can actually rank up the individual food types by coins that you earn through playing the game.

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You can also buy decorations and themes for your pond. Decorations can have different bonus effects, such as bonus experience for your Magikarp, or your own trainer levels.

Leveling System

I’ve been talking about leveling, but how does that work?

You have two types of leveling going on: your Trainer rank and your Magikarp’s level.

You gain more Trainer ranks as you win battles and successfully retire your Magikarps. Each time your Trainer rank rises, the max level your next generation of Magikarp can be raises.

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For example, at the start of the game, your first Magikarp is capped at level 11. Once he reaches that point, he must challenge the league and make it as far as he can. Once he can no longer beat the next opponent, he retires to a nice life in a retirement pond.

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Then, you’re allowed to fish up a new generation of Magikarp. However, since you’ve likely gained a few Trainer levels between now and then, your new Magikarp now maxes out at something like level 13 instead of level 11. And it keeps going up in that sort of cycle.

Training

Aside from food, another way to increase JP is to train your Magikarp. Here’s where the timed mobile app elements of the game comes in. You have a max number of training points (right now I have 3), which replenish over time.

Sometimes an event will give you a point back. When you gain a Trainer rank,  you get your training points back. And you can use items to get the points back.

So, if you’re impatient, yeah,  you can use real money to buy fake money to buy items to replenish your training points. But I honestly don’t see a reason to need to.

Patterns

Magikarp can come in a variety of colors and patterns. This is another one of the collectability features of this game. You even have a Dex to record the patterns you’ve found so far.

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I know that Shiny Magikarp exist as I’ve seen it mentioned online.

Overall

Overall, this is a cute little Pokemon pet game you can play whenever you have a little bit of time to waste. While there are in-app purchases, I don’t see it as being super tempting to me, and it’s not so in-your-face as to turn me off.

I left out a few details here and there so that if you decide to try the game, there would still be a lot of surprises to experience!

Posted in Gaming, Mobile Gaming, Pokemon, Pokemon GO

Pokemon: Go for Halloween + Sun/Moon Final Starter Evolutions Leaked

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I’d heard about the Pokemon Go update previously, but lots of thanks to Wilhelm for reminding me about the Halloween event! I know that it only lasts for a few days, but I have to say that the bonuses it gives was enough to entice me to pick the app back up (though I already had plans to use it more with the cooler weather rolling in).

So they’ve added a number of spooky Pokemon to the list that show up more often, and you get double the candy for captures and transfers. Your buddy Pokemon also gains candy at a highly accelerated rate. See video below.

While they list a number of ghost type Pokemon here, I’ve also noticed a vast increase in Meowth and Cuebones.

How is this working? Oh man… the game is so much more fun this way. I launched it to see what I could see and actually have been able to catch Pokemon from my desk at work, which was never the case before this. I can walk around my work parking lot and just rack the catches up because the spawning Halloween Pokemon have a high rate in between the Pokemon who are generally out there.

2016-10-26-15-25-09Look at this guy. Right out there in the parking lot next to my desk at work.

I took advantage of the double candy rates, too, cleaning out my stock of commons and earning some evolutions I didn’t have before.

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And, of course, catching all the ghost type Pokemon that I’ve never seen anywhere else before…

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It’s exciting to see my Buddy Pokemon earning candy so fast. I’ve been out there walking as much as I can since the weather is nice and the rewards are high.

I earned a new achievement from all this yesterday…

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And I leveled up, too!

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Yes, I know. Only level 19. But I’m not in a rush. 🙂

Pokemon Sun and Moon Evolutions

So it seems that the final evolution for the Sun and Moon starters have been leaked, and then released right after I wrote this. I’m a little disappointed that the previously-leaked designs were actually true. Early stages mean nothing if the final evolution, which you’ll be looking at for the rest of the game, isn’t appealing.

I wanted to pick Litten as my starter, but I’m just not a fan of the final evolution. I loved it all the way up until that point. So, while I’ve never picked a grass type Pokemon starter before, I think this time around, I’ll go with Rowlet. I was teetering on picking him anyhow, so let’s see how this goes!

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I haven’t yet checked out the demo, but I hope to this weekend.

Posted in Gaming, Mobile Gaming, Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO: Starter Buddy Challenge

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If I haven’t been playing Pokemon Go as much as  used to… it’s not so much that I’m done with the game, but that I’m waiting for the weather to cool down so that I can enjoy my time outside without melting in the summer heat. I really can’t wait for fall to get in swing so that I can catch Pokemon more comfortably.

When Syn visited a few weekends back, I took her out to our local Veteran’s Park and we had a good time as I taught her the ropes of the game. There were happily some lures out and enough Pokestops, one which surprisingly spawned Psyducks consistently (it never had before). She was able to level up to 5, whereupon she chose to go with Instinct of all teams. Ah, well.

But in playing that weekend, I found I was still excited about catching Pokemon and having a good time. That’s why I’m happy I finally got the Buddy Pokemon update yesterday.

Buddy Pokemon

If you haven’t heard about this newest feature, this allows you to choose one of your Pokemon to make a walking buddy. As you walk with them, they will find candy, which you can use to evolve them and make them stronger over time. Different kinds of Pokemon find candy at different rates, with the rare Pokemon taking longer. You can change your buddy at any time, so no worries about picking the “wrong” Pokemon.

I really like the idea behind this system because it does several things:

  • Level up Pokemon when you’ve only ever seen/caught/hatched one of them
  • Level up Pokemon that take a long time to earn candies for (Magikarp)
  • Encourage people to move around and not just sit and farm a few adjacent Pokestops

I knew exactly what I was going to do with my Buddy Pokemon slot.

The Starter Buddy Challenge

I chose Charmander as my starter, just as I did back in the Pokemon Blue days. I’m happy I did because in all this time that I’ve played, I haven’t seen a hint of another Charmander anywhere nearby. Not even a shadow. I’ve caught a Pikachu, Bulbasaur and Squirtle in the wild… but never another Charmander.

This means I’ve never earned any candies for my Charmander, nor have I found a stronger one to replace my starter. He remains in my roster, one of the weakest Poekmon that I own, just like this:

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For me, my starter is special and I’m sorta glad that I haven’t found any to replace him. Because now, with the Buddy system, I can challenge myself to level up my Charmander purely from walking and traveling around with him! I know it’s going to take a long time to do as I’m not always the most active person, but this gives me a goal and an incentive to get out and be more active on top of just catching Pokemon in general.

In fact, I’m pretty stoked about this prospect and hope that I don’t accidentally hatch another Charmander along the way. I’ll let you know how the challenge progresses over time. Don’t look for any updates soon, though. I have a lot of candy to gather…

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Posted in Gaming, Mobile Gaming, Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO One Month Later #blaugust2016

This post is a part of Blaugust 2016!
2016-08-09 08.44.54 I began my Pokemon GO journey back on July 6, the night of release in the US. So it’s officially been over a month since I began playing. I wanted to check back in on the game that’s become a phenomenon, and talk a bit about the progress I’ve made.

I’m currently level 17. However, I’ve long since stopped trying to level. I heard too much about how Pokemon get harder and harder to catch as you keep leveling, and that just doesn’t sound like fun. I know that there’s currently a bug that makes catching things more difficult than they need to be, too. I’ve felt it myself as I’ve played, and I’m hoping they squash that bug soon.

I still play a little bit every day, even if it’s to stop and snag some Pokeballs from the local Pokestop on my way home from work. Pokeballs are my number one issue in this game. I don’t live in a big city, and to hit a place with several Pokestops, I have to actually go to a park or some place that I wouldn’t normally go on my daily routine.

Unlike some lucky folks, there’s no Pokestops within walking distance of my house. My Pokeball stash tends to run on the low side, which is stressful with the current bug that has me wasting way too many Pokeballs on low level catches.

So, playing this game takes travel and effort on my part. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that it’s the dead heat-stroke of summer in the deep south of America. I understand that the team wanted to release the game when kids were out of school and people were traveling.

However, common sense tells you that when the heat index is 106 degrees outside, it’s not a healthy time to be touting around the park in the sun. The past few weeks have been so hot that we’ve hardly seen it cool down at night. But you’re not supposed to be in the parks at night, anyhow. My town doesn’t have any Pokestops that I’m aware of in a sane indoors area, like some malls in other cities have, either.

So, though I may not agree with all the changes the devs introduce to the app, the major thing that’s keeping me from playing is summer heat right now. It’s been a really fun experience, I’ve had a great time at the Pokehunt event my company held a few weeks back, even. Once fall comes around, and the weather cools down, I’m going to be all over exploration and stopping by the park for walks after work.

Until then, here’s a list of my best Pokemon so far. I don’t have any of those super-powered Pokes, but my collection is improving slowly every day. That’s all I really need to keep me playing.

How’s your Poke Adventure going?

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