We spend some rigorous time with the highly desired Pokemon GO Plus peripheral, coming away both impressed and a little deflated by the companion accessory.
I've always thought of myself as technologically progressive. I have the new iPhone 7 Plus on back order, there’s one of every gaming console currently found on the market in my possession, and I'll probably pick up a pair of the divisive AirPod headphones upon their release. As much as that trait may be a factor in day to day life, I'm also heavily nostalgic, which could very well be the reason for my continued support of the ever-popular Pokemon GO. So, the arrival of a device that paired with the game seemed like an all too appropriate purchase, but the end result left me with the acceptance that this item is an asset, albeit shrouded in a ‘warts and all’ mantra.
For anyone unsure of how the hardware functions, it's important to keep in mind how basic the product (appropriately titled Pokemon GO Plus) is designed. As a means of playing the game without having to physically wield a phone at all times, the peripheral works as advertised, utilizing a distinct number of vibrations and color flashes to indicate what's happening around the player – all sans screen. It's a rather simple layout: Green means there's a previously obtained wild Pokemon in the area; Yellow indicates there's a never before captured beast in the vicinity; Blue implies that there's a PokeStop nearby; and Red means that the creature has fled.
As a major plus (pun somewhat intended), users will be constantly emptying their virtual bags in order to make room for all of the additional items they'll undoubtedly be gathering from PokeStops. Obviously, catching Pocket Monsters is the main reason to own the device, but since it only hurls standard Pokeballs at them it’s not overly practical for those hoping to stockpile candies from rare ‘mons. In fact, the higher the level of the individual, the stronger the Pokemon tend to be, and in most cases this means that the tried and true Pokeball is not enough to condemn these monsters to life on a mobile device. In that regard, this is not an ideal way to go about experiencing the title.
However, the thing that fans of Pokemon GO need to realize is that this peripheral is an option that makes playing the game during everyday life a practical pursuit. Going to work with the game continuously adorning the screen of a mobile phone is far from a viable tactic, but this device (whether clipped to a belt or strapped to a wrist) takes away that cumbersome necessity. To the credit of Nintendo and developer Niantic, the bluetooth pairing is incredibly easy and setting it up before a run or brief walk around town takes very little time – but it doesn't always remain that way.
The device will occasionally disconnect for no apparent reason, which means gamers will have to open up the app again in a bid to get everything hunky-dory before going about their day. As previously mentioned, it's easy to get things back on track, but taking the time to do so quickly becomes tedious. This frustration is only further built upon by the fact that gamers are blindly catching creatures with the Pokemon GO Plus, as the game refuses to provide notifications outside of handful of generic text updates – none of which contain the name of the digital creature obtained during a play session.
Yes, it’s possible to piece together what has been caught during use, thanks solely to the blue aura that surrounds a newly captured Pokemon in the corresponding 'Pokemon' menu. Even then, there’s no denying that it would be much more useful if the peripheral could indicate which monsters fled and which were captured, if only to properly relay key spawn-centric information to the player outside of a handful of flashing colors and rumbles. This could very well be addressed down the road, as the studio working on the hand-held game continues to evolve it – with the recent Buddy update being a prime example of this – but at this point it’s a mild annoyance. Thankfully, the battery life that’s saved through the bluetooth device makes these issues worth tolerating.
With the Pokemon GO Plus, users are able to run the game in the background. This means that eager trainers can browse Facebook, make phone calls, listen to music, and more with the hardware fastened to their person. Enabling consumers to throw their phones into a pocket and continue to reap rewards in-game also means that the mobile phone’s charge prospers significantly. Since Pokemon GO is notorious for having a negative impact on battery life, this is a major selling point for the Plus. Admittedly, the constant barrage of notifications that pop up on-screen can take a chunk out of battery as well, but this is the best option for those that want to play for extended amounts of time.
Pokemon Go Plus isn’t perfect. It’s pricey at $34.99 USD, the inability to toss anything other than Pokeballs is frustrating, and continued disconnections during longer play sessions equates to an, at times, lacklustre experience. Even then, the preserved battery life, practicality of the device, and long-term potential it has makes it an incredibly tempting option for those that continue to loyally play Pokemon GO.
It may not be perfect, but it’s an entertaining accessory that helps provide fans with another way to play – even when they have something on the go.
Pokemon GO Plus is currently available for use with Pokemon GO on Android and iOS devices.