Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

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IFComp 2016 Review: Pogoman GO!

Posted by Reiko on November 19, 2016

This is a review of a game from the 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Pogoman GO!
Author: Jack Welch and Ben Collins-Sussman
Format: Glulx

This is satirizing Pokemon GO. And what a detailed satire it is. I played the full two hours and only saw a few of the seventeen (!) endings and didn’t manage to catch ’em all.

The first section is just like walking around your home town hitting the stops to gather items and catching wild creatures. It’s simplified from the actual game, of course: evolving a creature requires nothing, there are no numerical hit points or attacks, and gym battles happen automatically. Certain creatures seem to be stronger than others, especially more evolved ones, of course, but it’s all under the hood. You can also feed the creatures a certain kind of item, but while there’s a plot point later about that item, I didn’t see any actual effect on the creature. Nor does transferring get you anything beyond a bit more XP.

Amusingly, there’s a sequence with the first gym battle where the phone locks up and you have to reboot the app, several times even. That was exactly my first experience with gym battles, too. After that, though, I never had to use the reboot command; everything worked properly. Kudos to the designer for simulating this without it actually getting to the point of being a frustrating experience. Rebooting is a single command and you can immediately retry the gym battle, so there’s no waiting around the way there was in the actual game. After the first reboot, I was rolling my eyes a bit, but then it worked and I just had to laugh. I was also a bit amused by the in-game “ads” that plug the authors’ other games.

The game also tracks “medals” which trigger at many plot points as well as the first time you do nearly any command. Some of them are meta (getting five other medals, for instance), most are snarky, and some even celebrate a failure. I think I had found nearly 100 by the time I finished a playthrough, and I have no doubt there are more.

Speaking of failure, there are a few ways to die, such as trying to move out of the main maps, but these don’t result in a failure ending; you more or less just respawn, as if you’re physically in a game (which you are…). The first couple of times this happened, I was confused because it does give the “Restart, Restore, Amusing, Quit” text as if it were an ending, but then doesn’t actually give a prompt there to select one of those options. When you do get an ending, it’s unambiguous.

Once you level up enough by catching creatures and fighting gym battles, you can get into the headquarters building of the company that’s running the game and explore it. I was level 10 at this point. This part plays more like standard IF with puzzle-based exploration, and no creatures appear there, although employees and visitors are described as playing, so I’m not sure what they were doing.

When you uncover enough of the company’s secrets, you get taken to another area like the original town and can continue playing the game, but with some dangerous twists. There’s at least one puzzle to solve here, with multiple ways to leave the area, and even a bit of an endgame beyond that. I won’t spoil anything here, as the revelations and twists are best experienced.

This was a lot of fun. It helped that I’ve played the real game it’s based on, of course, but there’s a lot more to it than that, with some good IF puzzles. Highly recommended.

Time: 2 hours+
Scoring: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, +1 for satire and amusing creature names, +1 for achievement medals, -1 for “death” confusion
Score: 9



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