Horror movies are the name of the game for many during this season, but not so much for me. In fact, since July, the name of the game for me is Pokémon GO. “Yes, I’m one of those,” I have answered many an exasperated questioner. Love it, hate it, or never played it, and despite the drop-off in players since the initial craze, millions of people are in hot pursuit of cute creatures in augmented reality. October 26th saw the release of the Halloween update of Pokémon GO, and there will be special treats in the game through November 1st. I tested out the Halloween Pokémon experience Wednesday night on South Street in Philadelphia.
Poké Balls for capturing the little monsters and other items you’ll need on your journey are found at PokéStops, which can be located just about anywhere from businesses to post offices, but many are found at historical buildings, art installations, and other significant landmarks. Philadelphia has plenty of those, so I was in luck for stocking up. With each Pokémon capture, you usually get three candies for that Pokémon type, and 100 Stardust, which go toward either evolving or powering up your Pokémon for battle.
Opening up the app outside the Tattooed Mom, one of my favorite spots in the city, revealed there was a Pokémon gym right at that location, and a bonanza of PokéStops to visit all along the street and in the immediate area. I decided not to send my Vaporeon, Jolteon, or Scyther into battle. I was anxious to set out to catch some spooky critters, as well as to put in some walking distance. One of the things I like most about the game is that Pokémon GO encourages activity, and I love to walk and run. I always have one or more Pokémon eggs incubating, ready to hatch at the 2k, 5k, or 10k marks. Plus as I have been most interested in evolving and powering up Eevees, I had chosen an Eevee to “walk” with me. Usually only one candy is earned every 5k for Eevee, but for Halloween, candy for your buddy comes in four times as fast.
Almost immediately, the ghostly Pokémon began to show up. Ghastly was by far the most prolific where I was. I already had Haunter, the evolved Ghastly, but was happy to keep the Ghastlies and the double candy rewards – six per catch – coming in. I was on a mission to level up if I could, so the extras were a real boon.
I headed down South Street past the Theatre of Living Arts where people were gathered outside for a big show. I avoided the line as not to miss a catch while negotiating a crowd. I snagged a couple of Cubones and a mesmerizing Drowzee. A Pidgey hatched out of a 2k egg along the way, which was funny because the usual plethora of Pidgeys and Rattatas were otherwise nowhere to be found. I wondered why I didn’t see a Zubat- usually fairly ubiquitous in the game and a no-brainer for the Halloween vibe. I admit I’m not the best at catching them with their erratic flying motion, so I didn’t particularly mind their absence.
However, I did mind the glitches. I’d heard tell of glitches for some in past versions, but so far those had been minimal for me. That wasn’t the case on this trip, where on several occasions the screen froze just as a catch was in progress. The Poké Ball hovered eerily on the screen. In most cases the animation began moving again and the Pokémon was caught. In two cases I had to reboot. I lost one Meowth that way which was definitely annoying, but thankfully they were out in force. A nice touch was that some of the PokéStops as I made my way down toward Front Street were well in keeping with the spirit of the season, like the Lady of Death sculpture. I left South Street and hit some more stops throughout the area.
Once home, I took stock of the trip. I had enough Ghastly candies to evolve two Haunters and I evolved a Meowth into Persian, a new one to add to my Pokédex. I already had a plethora of Pidgeys; I traded some of those in to the Professor and instead of the usual one candy each, received two. I evolved four Pidgeys and realized my goal of finally reaching Level 22. Despite the glitches, it was a productive outing. Lastly, I decided to temporarily trade in my Eevee buddy for the lowly Magikarp. Magikarp is not much to look at, but with 400 candies – a ridiculous amount! – its evolved form is the awesome and powerful water dragon, Gyarados. I’ve got 316 Magikarp candies left to go, so I figured why not rack some up 4 per kilometer while I can.
Despite the technical issues, I recommend checking out Pokémon GO for Halloween. It worked better for me the next day, and here’s hoping Niantic will work out the problems. If you’re new to the game, it is something fun and seasonal to do outside. If you already “gotta catch ‘em all,” it’s a boost and a welcome variation. Have fun and Happy Halloween!