If you were around for the Pokémon GO launch, you’ll remember that it was a little bumpy. Or, rather, let’s be frank here (even if your name isn’t Frank, just roll with me on this one), it was a catastrophic disaster of a 35-on-the-Richter-scale screw up. Glitchy, broken, more bugs than an I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here! Bushtucker Trial… it was an all-round bad time.
Grand Theft Auto Online was similarly craptastic when it first arrived, and for much the same reason. It was so high-profile, hyped up the wazzoo, there was a huge amount of expectation on/demand for it. As such, when the entire planet all tried to play at once on launch, the servers exploded like the dudes’ heads in Scanners. It happens. That’s one of the sad facts of gamer life, really: the bigger a launch is, the more likely it is to be screwed up.
Understandably, a lot of players were completely deterred by Pokémon GO’s shonky launch. Some never came back. Niantic’s shenanigans didn’t do much to endear us to the game either; there was –and still is— a heaping helping of mismanagement going on here.
All of that said, though, the megastar app’s situation has improved. It’s a lot more robust in terms of features than it used to be. As a cultural force, too, it’s done a lot for people’s perceptions of gaming, and got many of us off our big ol’ sagging butts in the process. So, whether you’re a veteran GO-er, a new player, you’ve been lured back into the game since leaving or you’re considering picking the app up again, let’s check out 15 Awesome Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do In Pokémon GO.
We’ll start with something that isn’t a secret, per se, but which you may have missed if you haven’t been getting your GO on for some time now.
The main draw of Pokémon GO, of course, is twofold: catching them thar Pokémon, and being able to do so in the real world while cruising around. The real world aspect is mostly implemented in the form of Pokéstops, which are local landmarks (pubs, shops, grandma’s house, that sort of thing) you can tap to get items.
This is GO 101, and you no doubt know this already. What is new, however, is the Streak mechanic, which works on the same lines as a daily log-in bonus. Your first catch and Pokéstop use of the day adds another point to your streak, and an uninterrupted streak of seven days nets you a rare evolution item.
14 Catch Generation Two Pokémon
Evolution item, you say? What the hell is this witchcraft? That’s right, friends. If your Pokémon GO account is gathering dust like a nun’s ladyparts, this’ll be the kind of revelation that blows your mind right out of your head. It’s true: Generation two Pokémon have hit the game.
Back in the early days, when the Internet was full of forum users bitching at Niantic, it seemed like this day would never come. Unbelievable as it may be to some of you, Totodile, Cyndaquil, Chikorita and some of their second gen buddies are available to find (if you freaking can) in GO right now. There’s no saying whether we’ll eventually see the full current roster of eight billion ‘mon in the game, but this is an encouraging first step.
13 Ash It Up With A Pikachu On Your Shoulder
But hey, some of us know this already. The Pokémon GO veterans among you might not be impressed so far. You might be clicking your fingers in a Z formation as we speak, declaring that this stuff’s, like, so 2016, girlfriend. This isn’t Mean Girls, buddy boy. Here’s a cutesy little easter egg for you GO veterans: Pikachu riding up there on your shoulder like a rodent version of a pirate’s parrot.
Usually, when you choose a Pikachu as your buddy, it’ll be on the ground beside your avatar like most other Pokémon in the game. Once you’ve collected ten or more candies by walking with it, though, it’ll appear on your character’s shoulder a la Ash. Which is a neat little touch on Niantic’s part. Pikachu, I choose you!
12 Catch Shinies (Well, Just The One, and It's Already Gone)
In the run-up to Pokémon GO’s launch, there was a lot of nerdly Poké-buzz about how Niantic would handle shiny Pokémon. Would they exist in the wild alongside their boring-ass regular brethren, with the usual super-rare chance of finding one? Would they be hidden, looking like any other ‘mon on the world map until it comes to the catching screen? I’d have liked the latter; it would have given some kind of use to the endless damn spawns of Pidgey and Ratatta that we’re all still crotch deep in.
Once we all started playing, the devs’ shiny Pokémon masterplan was revealed: they would ignore them entirely. Until lately, anyway. If you took part in the recent water Pokémon event, you would know that there was a chance of encountering a shiny Magikarp. There aren't any more, sadly. If you’ve seen one of those still-sexy-if-a-little-too-Chinese-dragon-ish-for-my-liking red Gyarados in gyms on your travels, you are familiar with the sweet allure of a rare Pokémon. If nothing else, this is also quite encouraging for the future of GO.
11 Find a Possible –Just Maybe— Reference to a Pokémon Snap Sequel?
Pokémon Snap, I think we can all agree, was the gorilla’s gonads. Back in the day, seeing Pokémon out in the wild roaming about in 3D was bowel-looseningly exciting. As time has gone on and the series has largely given the finger to home consoles, fans have clamored for a sequel to the game. It would be perfect for the Wii U/Switch, after all.
Now, there’s still pretty well a 0% chance of this happening, but it’s nice to know that the N64 classic isn’t forgotten. Snap, you might remember, featured an item called the Pester Ball. This unusual Pokéball wasn’t for catching, but rather for ‘attacking’ Pokémon and goading them into performing various actions (so as to make your photos action shots and earn you more points).
The Pester Ball doesn’t appear in any other Pokémon game, but there’s a subtle little easter egg that references it in Pokémon GO. If you hold your finger on the app’s Poké Ball icon and slide over to the four menu icons without lifting your finger, Pokémon, Pokédex, Items and Shop will glow orange, red, blue and purple respectively. These are the colours of Pester Ball, which proves that fans will clutch at any damn straws in their hopes for another Snap.
10 Actually Track Pokémon Now (Kind Of, If You Squint A Bit)
I hear you, friends. This one’s highly freaking debatable, but there has been some improvement in this area. Considering that the whole tracking debacle was a major reason for many players droppin’ the game like it’s hot (as Snoop Dogg would say) it’s an important one to mention.
In the early months of Pokémon GO, there was no reliable way of hunting Pokémon. In a game centered around, you know, hunting Pokémon, you can see how this would be a gigantic pain in the player base’s butt. We went from the rustling grass system to the crapshoot that was the ‘Nearby’ system, but now we’ve got something that’s actually (in my eyes — your opinion may differ) relatively functional. Nearby wild Pokémon now at least have a Pokéstop attached to them, taking some of the BS out of the whole thing. Some. A little. More one-legged kitten steps in the right direction.
9 Wear A Totally Balling Magikarp Hat
Look at the damn thing. Just look at it. This is the very pinnacle of headwear, friends. It doesn’t get any better than this. The future is freaking NOW.
Here’s another entry for the ex Pokémon GO faithful, who may have fallen off the wagon. Early in the game’s life, another criticism it faced was that the customization options were, to put it loosely, a little lackluster. Well, that’s putting it so loosely that it might damn well drop right off a roll under the sofa. There was slim to bupkus available, but now you can deck your trainer out in all kinds of (mostly over-expensive) new gear. True enough, you never got to see Ash Ketchum in a top hat, but what does he know? That’s what all the best trainers are wearing these days.
8 Summon The Almighty Missingno Himself
Well, you know, almost. You can’t actually surf along the shore on Cinnabar Island, encounter the legendary glitch ‘mon, and clone yourself unlimited Rare Candies like the cheatly cheaty cheater you are. What we’re talking here is another neat little Pokémon GO easter egg that references Missingno.
This one’s only for iPhone users, sadly, but series fans and those in the know will appreciate the subtle nod anyway. All Apple users have to do is hit the Pokémon button, then switch to the Egg tab. From there, select an egg and quickly double click your iPhone’s Home button. Doing this will cause your App to (intentionally) bug out, filling most of the screen with an odd jumble of numbers and letters. These would seem to refer to the franchise’s best known and most bizarre glitch. Unfortunately, you can’t keep it and evolve it into a Kangaskhan by leveling it (man, did that blow my preteen mind straight out of my head and all over the kitchen wall the first time I saw Kangaskhan ‘evolve’ this way).
7 Lose Those Love Handles
As video games have become more mainstream, they’ve tried to horn their way into all different aspects of our daily lives. One of the major ones is the whole fitness thing, and Nintendo, in particular, have been all over that. From hula hooping with no hoop like a dumbass in Wii Sports to clipping the Pokéwalker (remember that thing?) to your pants and cruising along in the real world. Nobody wants us up and off our butts more than Nintendo.
Most of these titles were a little half-assed and gimmicky (as I said, who remembers the Pokéwalker? Nobody, that’s who), but Pokémon GO succeeded where all kinds of fitness apps and games failed. There were quite a few memes going around when the game launched. Some of them included super pale nerds traveling the streets in packs, and dogs being walked until their legs had worn down to little hairy stumps. People were actually walking to work, we were getting off our butts, and some of us still are. Good job, Pokémon GO.
6 Actually Get Some Use Out Of Your Team Leader
As you no doubt know, when you start the game and manage to nab a few ‘mon and level up a few times, you’ll be able to join a team. You choose from three: Team Mystic, Team Valor, and Team Instinct. They are each represented by a different legendary bird and have their own distinct philosophies behind catching and battling Pokémon. You may be thinking that the teams’ three leaders (Blanche, Candela, and Spark respectively) were entirely useless, just appearing on occasion to spout inane BS at you. Which, frankly, was completely true.
Another of the game’s updates, however, added a slightly obscure feature which can pay dividends if you actually pay any attention to it. The new ‘Appraise’ tab gives you valuable insight into an individual Pokémon’s capabilities and is a crucial tool for the serious gym challenger. Let’s take a closer look at the feature in the next entry.
5 Be The Very Best —Like No One Ever Was— With Appraisal
As competitive Pokémon combatants will know, the IV system has always been kind of an ass pain. In the early days of the series, this mechanic was totally hidden and remained obscure until Pokémon Sun and Moon released. Until then, you only had the enigmatic words of the IV checker NPC to go on.
Pokémon GO, being a mobile game and all, doesn’t have a system as deep as this. Appraisal is a similar system, though, and it works in much the same way as the old NPC. Individual Pokémon of the same species (i.e., the umpteen billion Pidgeys that jump out at you if you so much as open your front door) will have different stats and battle capabilities, which your team leader will tell you about once you’ve chosen a mon to appraise.
They’ll comment on its relative size (as all us guys know, ‘Your Onix is just HUGE!’ is always flattering to hear) and CP, as well as vague phrases which allude to that hidden potential and its highest stats. Give the feature a go before you waste those candies.
4 Grab Those Defender Bonuses From Gyms
Again, this one’s not some incredible secret that’ll grow your hair back or reverse some of your worst life decisions or anything. With Pokémon GO, some of the more interesting features are hidden in plain sight, as we’ve seen so far. Another of these is the Defender Bonus, which isn’t mentioned in the tutorial and gets about as much fanfare as a gnat lighting its fart. Handy though.
In the menu, there’s a little circular icon on the top right. Hitting this will take you to an area where you can claim your Defender Bonus, which is a little in-game currency for each Pokémon you currently have defending a gym. If you’re a big challenger, this’ll soon add up, and might even save you going for those dastardly and bastardly microtransactions if you make heavy use of it.
3 Those Tricksy L-Throws
Pokémon GO, unlike its handheld counterpart, is all about a more dynamic approach to catching your prey. There’s no selecting the Poké Ball from the menu and just watching/hammering up and B because your buddy swears that totally works here. You use the touchscreen to throw the ball towards your target, which is a neat idea if sometimes a little shonky in practice.
If you find your throws going astray more than you’d like, the recently discovered ‘L Throw’ technique might be worth a go. This simple trick involves dragging your chosen Poké Ball to the left or right of the screen, and releasing on your upswing when your ball reaches the height of the Pokémon in question. There’s an art to it, as with curveballs (which you can also do in this way), and it’s no failsafe, but it should help with your accuracy.
2 Menu Hax
This isn’t the most glamorous of tips, but it’s another little thing that new players and veterans alike may have missed. I know I did.
Pokémon GO play demands a lot of menu-diving. When you’re sorting through your Pokémon, your eggs, items, searching for that one specific Ratatta out of the 95 you already have (because it’s in the top 90% of Ratattas, obviously), it can get a little fiddly.
Who has time for all of that BS? Nobody, that’s who. We’re the kind of instant-gratification no time to waste go-getters who want to save every millisecond we can. That being the case, you’ll probably appreciate knowing that the Pokéball in the center of the screen doesn’t have to be tapped. You can perform a quick left swipe (Pokémon and Eggs menu), right swipe (Items), quick up swipe (Shop) and longer upward swipe (Pokédex) to get yourself straight to the screen you need.
1 Go Down The Rabbit Hole With… Butter?
Let’s end on what is surely the most bizarre little secret found in the game to date. We’re all familiar with the way eggs are hatched in the Pokémon games; after your avatar has traveled a certain distance with said egg, they crack open. In GO, the mechanic is largely the same, except this is real-world distance, buddy boy. Eggs come in 2km, 5km and 10km varieties, and you have to earn whatever’s inside pedometer style.
Curiously, if you inspect an egg that’s just about to hatch, you have a chance of seeing the following text in place of the distance traveled record: “Hatch this egg by feeding it butter. It likes all kinds of butter, every kind. The best kind.” This is some Bizarro World level crazy, right here. Fans have suggested two possible meanings: either this is just an Alice in Wonderland reference (the March Hare speaks of ‘the best butter’ at The Mad Hatter’s tea party), or a hint of an item coming to the game to help with egg hatching. Frankly, a world where eggs hatch quicker when slathered with butter is no damn world I want to live in, but who knows?