New Pokémon Snap is available on Nintendo Switch.
I reached the credits of New Pokémon Snap about five days ago now.
I'm topping out its little “high score” leaderboard amongst my friends list.
But I still don't expect to finish with New Pokémon Snap for quite a while yet.
But just as big is how it's just built to keep me on the hook.
If a game gives me a list of sights to see and things to do, that instantly becomes a checklist in my brain. And you can be sure I'm not putting the case back on the shelf until I've marked off every last item.
Well, boy howdy, would you look at that:
A Hundred and Fifty – Or More – to Snap
The most basic reflection of this – just like in every Pokémon game since day one – is seeing which critters pop up this time. And New Pokémon Snap sure is doing that in spades. The absolute most childlike joy I've had in months is sitting in a Discord channel, on release night, comparing some very enthusiastic notes.
“There's a Yanmega in this game? He's one of my faves!”
“You can make Tangrowth do what?“
…and so on. That joy of discovery is an absolute pillar of the series experience for me and for many others.
But in the “core” games, that rush is usually over once you've shared an image of the haunted Corsola evolution.
In Pokémon Snap, that's just the tip of the Bergmite.
It's not just concerned with showing you a Pokémon. It wants to give you context. Stimulus. Interplay. All of those lovely things that add more and more ways to look at the same thing.
If you look at the Photodex in New Pokémon Snap, each Pokémon has four spaces reserved for photos of unique behaviors. But I defy you to find a creature that only has four behaviors. Most will idle, eat, yawn, sleep, play with their friends, investigate their habitat – everything shy of doing the dishes.
Which that makes finding the last few, one-off moments into a real – and rewarding – hunt.
Of course, it's entirely too easy to just find every nook and cranny of a new game laid bare nowadays. Look up any of the game's many “photo challenges” on YouTube, and someone with a faux-radio-announcer voice will show you move-for-move what steps to mimic to fulfill its criteria for success.
It'll get you there, sure.
It'll also suck every ounce of fun out of the process.
It's why “Baba is Hint” is my absolute favorite game guide of all time. For one of the most mind-bending puzzle games of this or any decade, it's remarkably bare. It only feeds you the exact amount of information you want from it. Just enough to poke your brain toward the right line of thought, and no more.
Which is exactly what I want.
And it's kind of what the game gives you. Each challenge gives you a little lead in the right direction – some more helpful than others.
“Find the Pokémon hiding in this flower field”? Great, perfectly clear direction.
“Let's see who can take the best picture of Bounsweet”? Well excuse me if that's nothing at all to go on.
It's made me more than a little nostalgic for the age of schoolyard secrets. John telling you that Mew was hiding under the truck in the harbor was nonsense in 1998. In 2021, that's the key to uncovering a four-star photo opportunity, while still letting you see it for yourself.
And “see it for yourself” isn't a bad tagline for the New Pokémon Snap experience.
Heck, were it not for how chockablock full of little vingettes this game was, I'd be hesitant to put any images at all in this article, let alone some of my favorite shots that Professor Mirror (wrongly) found uninteresting:
Tricks of the Trade
I've ultimately tried to be very careful with how I take in information about New Pokémon Snap. Choosing to get help from those text-based forums that are still active. Learning which sites are sparing with their hints. Even private conversations with – get this – other, real-life friends who've figured out how to get Trubbish to dance.
But mostly, it means learning the game's ins and outs for myself.
How to lure a monster to a specific location. The timing of exactly when a Bidoof drifts under a bridge. Which Pokémon will scatter at the slightest disruption, and how to take advantage of that.
And, as it turns out, that'll get you pretty darned far in the Lental region.
Not all the way there, of course. Even with New Pokémon Snap‘s limited lineup of creatures, there's still way too much for one person to uncover on their own.
Which is the point at which we start leaning on each other – and learning from each other.
Compare some notes.
Swap some secrets.
Share what we've found, and use that to uncover something for ourselves.