We’re all going on a Poké holiday. And it’s thanks to New Pokémon Snap.
In a time where so many of us have been stuck indoors, this surprise sequel to the cult N64 game provides an opportunity to travel through colourful scenery and live our photographer fantasy – albeit digitally.
It’s a breath of fresh air: visiting varied biomes with your camera to just… point and shoot.
Pikachu scamper across a pristine beach. Hoothoot eyes glow from behind a tree branch. Vivillon flutter over you. Swanna glide serenely followed by little Duckletts. Turn a corner to see a Tangrowth cowering behind you, before a Florges poses regally among vibrant flowers.
Never has the world of Pokémon felt so alive. It’s your job to snap away and fill out your Photodex from your NEO One transport as it rolls along its set path. At the end of each journey, your photos are judged by Professor Mirror.
There’s a loose story to tie together each voyage that’s as cutesy as any other Pokémon game with plenty of initial hand holding. You’re both completing an ecological survey of the new Lental region and on the hunt for Illumina Pokemon, a strange phenomenon that causes them to glow with bioluminescence. Naturally, catching this act boosts your photo score.
So what exactly makes a good photo? That’s not always transparent. The game guides you to frame Pokémon in the centre of each shot and ensure they’re nice and big (there’s a handy zoom on your camera), but then scores you on elements like pose, direction, and whether there are other ‘mon in the shot.
Sometimes what feels like the perfect artistic shot scores poorly. But you’ll be replaying levels frequently to perfect your scores, even if the game doesn’t always agree.
High scoring photos mean increasing your research level for that area. Jump up a level and new Pokémon will appear, new routes can be taken on the pre-determined paths, and new secrets can be uncovered.
Despite such a simple setup, Nintendo gets plenty of mileage out of it. Throw fruits, Illumina orbs, or play music to attract Pokémon into new poses. Fill out the Photodex with four star poses for each monster. Improve your top scores and compare with others online. Complete requests for the professor and your pals to earn fun new stickers and filters to use in the robust editing mode.
All of this combines to sway anyone who found the original game too light on content. The simple addition of online photo sharing – not to mention the presence of social media – adds a new layer of competition.
Presentation is crisp and clean, which is necessary when you spend the whole time just looking. There’s some slowdown in more wild areas, but Pokémon fans especially will relish the chance to see their favourites in their natural habitat.
Repetition does set in, though. You’ll quickly learn the routes through each biome, which means both satisfying mastery of identifying Pokémon behavioural patterns and a lack of variety. Spotting new Pokémon is a thrill, but when you’re only able to have one photo of each monster assessed per run, you’ll need multiple runs of the same journey to snap them all in each pose. Sometimes that means repeating an entire, unskippable journey just for one photo.
That said, it’s hard to fault the game for offering something so relaxing. There might be frustrations in limited content and shooting for that top scoring photo, but New Pokémon Snap is an adorable digital safari to gently lose yourself in. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
3 / 5
New Pokémon Snap is available from 30 April exclusively on Nintendo Switch.