Hardware Review: Pokémon Go Plus

After much delay, the Pokémon Go Plus accessory is finally out in the wild. I was fortunate enough to procure one as soon as humanly possible, under the pretenses of the promised utility the Go Plus provides to Pokémon Go. This small gadget does everything that was promised to do and does more that wasn’t. But is the Pokémon Go Plus a worthy companion device or too limited and too expensive?

The Pokémon Go Plus was designed to catch Pokémon and access nearby PokeStops for item refreshes, invisibly from your phone and in the background. It does all this well with a single press of its sole button (thoughtfully placed in the middle of the Pokeball-inspired design).

Manufactured by Nintendo, the Pokémon Go Plus is a petite, colorful device, and set-up with your phone is simple. Once you’ve synced the device under Settings within Pokémon Go, you’re good to go. As a wearable, it can either clip to your belt (by default out of the box), or have a proper wrist strap half installed via screwdriver. I prefer, and believe everyone else will too, using the Go Plus as a wrist-strapped notification device, as wearing it on your belt makes it easier to either fall off and be lost or be unnoticed.

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The learning curve behind the Pokémon Go Plus follows the line of the mobile app: you’ll figure it out yourself. Discoverability is the key to learning the light patterns on the Go Plus’s button. For the record, Green means you’ve run into a Pokémon. After flashing white, if it’s caught, there’s a rainbow flash of colors. If it blinks red, the capture failed. If you’ve hit up a Pokestop, the button flashes blue. It’s simple to memorize, even as the enclosed instructions make no mention of these key aspects of everyday game play. Every notification is accompanied with a slight rumble effect, making it easy to catch what the device is reading.

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The Pokémon Go Plus marks the first time I’ve seen Pokémon Go push app notifications to my phone’s lock screen, reminding me if I’ve caught a Pokémon or if it ran away and so on, although those notifications don’t tell you what Pokémon ran away. You’ll still need to dig into the Go app for the Journal option for specifics. That’s useful as most of your Go Plus experience will not need your phone’s screen, but can be emasculating if you’re not doing so hot at catching Pokémon.

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Nintendo has previously “said” the Go Plus can only catch Pokémon you’ve already seen, can’t track distances for Eggs and Candies, but I’m happy to find out neither is the cases. Eyewitness reports say a yellow light on the Go Plus indicates you’ve found a new Pokémon, and it can indeed track candies and your Egg’s hatch distance, with no need to leave your phone’s screen running constantly. Better still, because all this takes a simple button press, I’ve been able to avoid the stigma of playing Go while driving. It beats playing with a screen on behind the wheel along with those “You’re Going Too Fast” warnings.

The capture ratio on the Go Plus is rather low for my liking, with my Pokémon Go Journal noting more misses than catches. Not helping matters is the inability to set up specific Pokeballs to use, such as Great or Ultra. I see the Go Plus having the most utility in farming low-level Pokémon for Stardust and items from PokeStops.  Thereby, get ready to catch a lot of Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Spearows.

In terms of raw performance, the Pokémon Go Plus is steadily reliable in connectivity with your phone, outside of a few faulty connections. Re-connecting should be simple, but if you close out the app and reload, or if you’re having issues, it’s a manual process and not as instantaneous as you’d think. Another niggling issue, as of now, is the discrepancy between the game and what the device is doing. I’ve experienced cases where a Pokémon appears on my phone’s screen but doesn’t trigger a notification. Such cases perplex me, but aren’t anything that can’t be fixed in a future patch.

Right upon it’s launch, the Pokémon Go Plus is already sold out everywhere, meaning that a lot of Poké-players had decided they wanted the device before it even came out. Fortunately for those pre-orders, the device can indeed catch unseen critters and help hatch eggs, giving the Go Plus more use than previously suspected. Its limits are worth noting however, including some spotty connection issues, a cheap capture rate with no fixable variables, and some missable notifications holding the simple-to-use device from truly great utility.

If you’re a briskly casual Pokémon Go player, what are you to do? On one hand, the Pokémon Go Plus is affordable at $34.99 USD (when it’s not on eBay for inflated prices). On the other hand, Pokémon Go is getting a specialized Apple Watch version later this year, rendering the Go Plus less useful by comparison. For the here and now, the Pokémon Go Plus has its place in the Pokémon Go experience. It’s a nice compliment, not a supplement, provided you’re a die-hard Pokémon Go player. If you’re a casual fan who dabbles in the Pokémon Go phenomenon, it’s not worth the fuss.

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About The Author

Editor-in-Chief (Former)

A man with a plan. My favorite video game franchise is Pokemon, but his favorite video game is Resident Evil 4. I can also tell you trivial cartoon factoids.