After last year’s obsession with the comforting tranquillity of Animal Crossing, I figured it would be a while before I found another game that would feel like a safety blanket, tea and biscuits on a rainy day, a refreshing sorbet in between whatever slightly sweatier, higher stakes title I was also playing at the same time. But, New Pokémon Snap, released last month on Nintendo Switch, has turned out to be a fitting, albeit less enduring, alternative.New Pokémon Snap is a remake of the original Pokémon Snap which came out on the Nintendo 64 back in 1999 and promises the same gameplay, charm and nostalgia from the original with new islands and Pokémon to see. All I was missing was my ‘90s inflatable chair.
It’s a delightful premise. You’re a research assistant at a camp in the Lental region tasked with taking photos of wild Pokémon to help Professor Mirror uncover the mystery behind the rare Illumina phenomenon. You’ll select your character from a set range of avatars and away you go; there’s no customisation available here, which surprised me, but given that you rarely get to see your character in this mostly first-person perspective adventure, it’s fairly inconsequential. Throughout, you’re basically strapped into a safari park style ride through different environments bristling with cute monsters, throwing fruit or playing music to get their attention and snapping away to score points. You’re also equipped with a scanning function which allows you to inspect your environment for areas of interest and alert you to any new Pokémon that you might have missed.Your first trip will be a daytime tour through the Florio Nature Park where you’ll spot a familiar line-up of Pokémon roaming freely in their natural habitat while travelling around in the NEO-ONE; imagine a Gyrosphere from Jurassic World (Jurassic Park Snap, now THAT’s a game I’d like to play!). Maybe we’ve been spoiled by just how fun it was to run around the Galar region in Pokémon Sword and Shield but I would have loved the opportunity to explore the region more freely rather than being restricted by the rails of the NEO-ONE and unable to control the speed at which it travelled along each predetermined route. As you progress, you’ll be granted access to more areas including desert and underwater scenes which will of course provide you with new things to look at and previously undiscovered Pokémon to photograph. As you’d expect, the environments are wonderfully vibrant and varied and I’d recommend exploring every nook and direction to make sure you don’t miss any cool sightings.(Like this belly-flopping Venusaur for example.)
Once you’re done taking photos, you’ll head back to the lab where you need to choose your best snaps for grading by Professor Mirror. Points are awarded based on a number of factors including the Pokémon’s pose, how large it appears, and whether they’re facing the camera. You’re also given a bronze, silver or gold star rating out of four. It didn’t always seem like there was a lot of logic behind the points system and there were times when I felt like a thumb over the camera lens would have earned me more stars than a photo of a Pikachu doing a perfect handstand.(“Come on, do something cute, I have poke-bills to pay!”)
Instead of filling a Pokédex, your aim is to populate a Photodex, documenting all of the 214 Pokémon throughout the region. There are also plants and environmental features to capture which will reveal more about your surroundings and its history. Once you’re done choosing your best snaps, though there is a very useful auto selection feature which comes in pretty handy during livelier expeditions, you can save your favourites to your Photo Album where you can also decorate with a range of filters, frames and stickers and share them online – a bit like a Disney Print Studio without the calendars and placemats. I didn’t use this feature too much but it was a nice touch and had this in fact been the ‘90s, where the Switch would have undoubtedly had some questionable peripherals, I would have 100% had a lot of fun making print outs with these things. Though, like my lovely ‘90s inflatable furniture, it’s only so long before the novelty wears off. You’ll find yourself revisiting the same areas, spotting the same Pokémon over and over, and while each time you might catch a glimpse of a new creature for your Photodex or a different pose that could earn you more points, it can start to feel like a grind. They have, however, tried to keep things interesting by giving you assignments which might include snapping a specific Pokémon taking a nap or catching which culprit keeps turning fruit into charcoal. That said, even if you do find yourself running into the same Pokémon time and time again, it’s always worth taking an extra snap to increase your Research Level.
You’ll also be able to visit a number of areas in day or night modes which offers up opportunities to capture some interesting behaviours and discover nocturnal Pokémon. It’s a nice change of scenery but by far the most intriguing mode was the Illumina Spot which allows you to witness the coveted Illumina Pokémon in all of their golden, sparkly, glory. I loved this. Not to show my cards too much as a total Jurassic Park geek but the first of these rare Pokémon I came across gave me a lovely warm fuzzy feeling thanks to its brachiosaurus-big-reveal energy. Except, you know, the dinosaur was glowing. You’ll also unlock Illumina Orbs which can be used to make regular Pokémon glow too and make for some nice photo ops.
Fans will find joy in searching for their favourite Pokémon and maxing out their Research Levels but while I enjoyed my time in New Pokémon Snap, I never felt compelled to catch ‘em all. After a few hours, I did start to feel the repetition, though it was briefly remedied each time I unlocked the next area. But, you know what, if you want something light to play with no real stakes and some cute Pokémon to look at, New Pokémon Snap is worth a go. I might not see it consuming my weekends like Animal Crossing did but it’s likely to be something I’ll return to in short bursts whenever I need a nice dose of colour and familiarity.