New Pokémon Snap is the most pure and fun gaming experience released so far in 2021. Released for the Nintendo Switch on the 30th of April, New Pokémon Snap brings joy, magic, and nostalgic feels to temporarily lift the quagmire of adult life. Quick runs, combined with the game running on a handheld device, makes it the most convenient and enjoyable gaming experience in recent memory.
New Pokémon Snap does a stellar job of creating a bright and light-hearted world. Your one job is to go out on safari (imagine like a rail shooter from the ’90s) to take the best photos of the cutest marketing creations in the world. You explore the Lental region, island hopping through a range of diverse environments. The game maintains momentum by unlocking new features and levels as you accumulate points.
How do you earn points? At the end of each run, you choose one photo of each type of Pokémon to present to Professor Mirror. A big part of the game is reviewing your snaps and selecting your favourite images for final judgement. Sometimes the game seems to undervalue shots that I thought would be high scoring. The scoring criteria are explained but not in great detail. I felt I was missing a piece of information with how some of the photos ended up being scored. This issue is not a deal-breaker, but in a game that made me practice throwing apples extensively, I’d have appreciated more direct feedback or a more detailed scoring explanation.
For players looking to get through a run quickly, there is an automatic feature where the game will submit photos for Professor Mirror’s review. I tested this feature a few times and found the game often picked pictures I wouldn’t have selected, but it got the job done when I was in a rush to save.
Nintendo continues to create the most intuitive and easy game systems in the world. You can feel the love the game developers put into making the mechanics feel natural and enjoyable to use. Then, frustratingly, someone at Nintendo decides that the game needs, what feels like, an eternity of hand-holding for each new feature. This is an experience unfortunately not uncommon to Nintendo titles.
New Pokémon Snap is sadly not exempt. Please, Nintendo – you don’t need to explain that the apples I can throw will land further away when I aim higher. I don’t need to spend a couple of minutes being forced to practice the throwing skill. As there is no consequence of failure, introducing new features during runs would improve game flow and reduce frustration for impatient gamers like me. Thankfully, there are less tutorial interruptions as you progress through the game.
My only notable frustration with the game was the controls. There are features available for accessibility and adjusting your controller mapping to with some pre-set options. I would have loved to map photo capture to the ZR trigger, as this would have been most comfortable for my grip playing in handheld mode. I settled for the R bumper option available in one of the controller schemes.
Photography has come a long way since the ’90s and Nintendo has provided some modern updates compared to the original Pokémon Snap. There are two editing modes. The first allows you to realign your shot and use more standard photography technology – setting focus size, focal points, and exposure (brightness).
The second editing mode is where your imagination can run wild. You can use stickers and filters to create all kinds of goofy, adorable, weird creations.
I got a real kick out of creating pictures of Pokémon, emphasising their captured emotions and personalities. Once I became more familiar with the editor, I was keen to head out for more expeditions to design my next magical masterpiece. I spent hours of my game time playing with stickers and frames. I can’t imagine the hours I would have lost to New Pokémon Snap if they had pose control as well – a sadly missed feature.
The live game isn’t long, and I suspect no one expected it to be. Average playtime seems to be around 16 hours. If you are playing New Pokémon Snap purely for the story, you’ll find the game to be a short experience. I’ve enjoyed the filters and editing modes too much to finish yet and I’ve well exceeded the average finish time.
The sound design in New Pokémon Snap is elegant compared to the original Nintendo 64 version. The music and sound effects never distracted from the important business of capturing the perfect Pokémon moment.
As I wrote this review, I became more aware of the New Pokémon Snap’s drawbacks. Despite the handful of issues I had and even the occasional framerate drop in handheld mode, I have found too much enjoyment in the gameplay for it to have impacted how I feel about the game. The spirit of the game is not about “winning” – it’s a celebration of magic and joy that I was completely swept up in.
The release of New Pokémon Snap! is a fantastic addition to the 25 years of Pokémon games being celebrated this year.
New Pokémon Snap! is recommended.