Image: IGDB/Bandai Namco Studios

‘New Pokémon Snap’ review

Rating:

After the disappointment of Pokémon Sword and Shield, I was not at all optimistic about the franchise’s future. It seemed as if there was no real conscious effort to try anything new in the main series, yet the side-games have always been a source of novel ideas. The latest spin-off, New Pokémon Snap, is a secret to an iconic game from 1999, and it improves on its predecessor significantly – for the first time in a long while, there’s life in the franchise, coming from both the wonderfully-rendered creatures and the gameplay.

The game puts you in the shoes of a young photographer helping Professor Mirror and his crew in the Lental region. You are investigating a phenomenon known as ‘Illumina’, which makes Pokémon glow, and your two goals are to learn more and to complete your Photodex with lots of images of the Pokémon who live in the area. You pass through a number of areas, including jungles, deserts and underwater, and you need to use your toolkit – fruit, a scanner, a medley and Illumina orbs, among other things – to get the best shots. The more photos you take and the better they are, the more you’ll discover the region.

Taking photos is a joy in this game because the world is so vibrant and impressive, you actually want to explore it

Let’s start with something that we knew from the trailers – New Pokémon Snap is a beautiful game. The locations feel full of life, and the Pokémon have never looked better. They’re so full of life and character, and it feels like we’re observing and interacting with a genuine ecosystem of creatures. Really, looking at this game, it hammers home how embarrassing and lacking in effort Sword and Shield looked. The much-hyped Wild Area now looks even worse because Bandai Namco shows us how it could be done. Taking photos is a joy in this game because the world is so vibrant and impressive, you actually want to explore it – to find those hidden paths and discover every creature a route has to offer, and see how the world changes between day and night. As your experience level grows, so too do the wonders each location has to offer.

The photo system works intuitively (I was less keen on the gyro mode, but give it a crack for some added immersion), and you’ll soon be a pro at using all of the tools the game has to offer. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in diving back into the levels and seeing if a particularly problematic Pokémon reacts differently to playing your music – you only need to explore each level once or twice to actually progress through the story, but I found I was often putting the story on hold to revisit levels instead. Your tolerance for this, of course, does depend on how much you can stomach repetition – I enjoyed it, but the game is not very long and I’ve seen a lot of complaints online about how quickly the game feels repetitive.

For the first time in a long time, I actually want to find all the creatures the game has to offer – that, if nothing else, is a testament to the game’s charm

At times, the way the photos are judged may be a little frustrating. You’re scored on certain criteria (how big the Pokémon is in the frame, whether there are other Pokémon, etc.) and given a star rating – I think this is based on the action the Pokémon is performing, but some of the things the game tells you are good photos or just one-star photos baffled me. Your sense of what makes a good photo may not line up with the games at all, which can add a lot of challenge to taking photos. Getting some of the four-star photos (the highest rating) can also be nigh-on impossible, and the request system only goes some of the way to hinting at how to do them – if you’re a completionist, good luck. You can edit these photos later and share them online, however, so maybe your friends will appreciate these amazing shots more.

I’m not going to claim that New Pokémon Snap is a perfect game – Mirror’s standards for grading photos often left me a little frustrated, and it’s likely that some gamers will be bored long before the game’s quick runtime is through. But I enjoyed it – I think it reinvents the series perfectly and makes the Pokémon world actually feel like one. For the first time in a long time, I actually want to find all the creatures the game has to offer – that, if nothing else, is a testament to the game’s charm.

Related Posts

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *