What is Pokémon Go and how do you play it?

Pokemon Go fans can leave their homes and explore the wilds of London and Essex Picture: PA

Pokemon Go fans can leave their homes and explore the wilds of London and Essex Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Wondering why you keep seeing people standing stock still on the pavement and dementedly swiping at their phones? They’re almost certainly playing the new smart phone phenomenon Pokémon Go. Here’s how to get started.

Hampstead Heath is a great place to collect water, grass and woodland-dwelling Pokémon

Hampstead Heath is a great place to collect water, grass and woodland-dwelling Pokémon - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Ok, so what is Pokemon Go?

Where have you been? It’s a game for iPhone or Android smartphones, which lets you capture and train animal-like creatures called Pokémon “in the real world”. The app cleverly uses your phone’s camera to make it look like a Pokémon is right in front of you. In essence, it’s an amplified version of the original Japanese Pokémon games for Game Boy, which launched in 1995.

How do I play?

First, download the app and create an account. Next, design your in-game look and outfit and come up with a unique username. Finally, choose your first Pokémon: a water-type Squirtle, fire-type Charmander, or grass-type Bulbasaur.

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I’ve got my first Pokémon, now what?

You’re ready to find even more! The app uses GPS to follow you as you travel. As you walk around, Pokémon will appear on the animated map on your screen. Tap a critter and it will show up “in real life” hovering against the scene in front of you. Your aim is then to catch it by flicking the red ball – called a Pokéball – so it lands on top of the creature when it will flash up with “Gotcha!”


Gotcha! - Credit: Archant

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If not, the Pokémon will release itself from the ball and you have to try again. And again. This is most likely what that person standing engrossed and swiping on their phone in the middle of the road is doing.


The north Londoner’s guide to Pokémon Go

Some creatures are rarer than others: you’ll catch lots of Zubats, but far fewer Charmanders.

You can also look at your Pokémon collection at any time by clicking the red Pokéball icon at the bottom of the screen.

I’ve caught one, but how do I progress?

Once you’ve caught the Pokémon, its statistics will flash up. The number above the Pokémon relates to its power: the higher the number, the stronger the Pokémon. There are figures for height and weight but beginners need only take heed of the stardust and Pokémon candy counter, which together power up a Pokémon.

Candies can be saved up to evolve your creature into a new, more powerful beast. Every time you catch a Pokémon, you’ll gain “XP” or experience points, which will help increase your level.

What are those other things on the map?

The small blue towers, which become a circle when you get close to them, are called Pokéstops. These are usually landmarks in the local area, like churches or post offices. If you click on them and spin the picture of the landmark, you’ll get free “items,” like more Pokeballs. The larger towers are called Poké Gyms, where you can battle other people’s Pokémon once you reach Level 5 or above. It’s a finger-mashing exercise which nets you a small amount of experience if you win.

Now you’ve got a handle on the basics you can play to your heart’s content and discover all the game’s more advanced features. Warning: it is addictive.

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