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Commentary Mobile

All I hate more than Magikarp is myself

Commentary: Magikarp Jump is taking my life away, and I blame Pokemon.


Karp diem.

The Pokemon Company

Doing the math, I must have tapped my phone screen close to a hundred thousand times playing Magikarp Jump, the new Pokemon-themed mobile game. I regret every single one of those taps.

Some background: A Magikarp is a Pokemon. It looks like a gaping, stunted koi fish. It's famously useless, save for the fact it turns into a huge water dragon if it ever manages to evolve.

Magikarp Jump, however, is a game exclusively about training Magikarp to be able to out-jump other Magikarp. As a concept, it's completely ridiculous. As a game, it's incredibly banal. And I was totally addicted anyhow.

Basically, it's a pure time-waster. You increase your Magikarp's "jump power" by feeding it berries and giving it training, where by "giving it training," I mean tapping the button that says "train" on the screen.


This game gives Magikarp the attention no one thought they deserve.

The Pokemon Company

Once your sad orange fish reaches its maximum jump power, you head off to battle against a gauntlet of other trainers. A battle that solely consists of a jump-off contest. Once you get out-jumped, you go back to the pond to catch a new Magikarp with a higher jump power threshold and repeat. That's it.

I first realised my mistake, around 12 hours in, when I explained the above to a friend. The look on her face was enough.

I lost so much of my life playing this game. I was invested. And just like this time last year, when I spent too much time catching Zubat after Zubat in Pokemon Go, I blame Pokemon. Also myself, but mostly Pokemon.

One-button wonders

It's not that one-button games can't be good. Super Mario Run, one of Nintendo's first forays into phone games, used a single button to great effect. Mario runs, you time your taps to have him jump, rebound off obstacles, collect coins and make it through challenging courses. Nintendo said it wanted to translate the Mario experience to something you could play one-handed, and the company mostly succeeded.

Magikarp Jump does not. Instead of getting creative with the one-button formula, it's mostly about investing time. Apart from the occasional chance to risk your Magikarp's life for a bigger jump power boost (never ever do this) and selecting upgrades for your training regimes, it's just mindlessly tapping at the screen as you grind away.

However, unlike some endless grinds, there's a prophesied finish line in Magikarp Jump. Beat every league, and you're free. Well, free to catch Magikarp with different colourations, just to be able to say you've caught 'em all (also never do this).

Magikarp Jump is quite similar to a less well-known mobile game called Survive! Mola Mola. That game is probably less well-known because it stars a generic mola mola fish and not a Pokemon, which brings me to my next point.

Gotta cash 'em all

mola mola

Survive! Mola Mola is actually made by the same developer as Magikarp Jump.

Select Button Inc. 

I love Pokemon. I lived through the first big boom, and you better believe I went nuts for every poorly implemented cash-in that got thrown my way. (Pokemon Snap remains my favorite game in the series.) But, a year on from the pocket monster hit that was Pokemon Go, Magikarp Jump is a disappointing sophomore effort. For all its faults, Pokemon Go felt fresh when it debuted.

But I recognize that I'm part of the problem, and the reason why these terrible cash-ins exist. I absolutely would not have been interested in Pokemon Go if it wasn't a Pokemon game. Case in point: I never touched Niantic's arguably better freshman effort, Ingress

Instead of seeking out quality games, I've merely replaced one Pokemon addiction with another. And that one with another (My problem dates back a while).

So here's my appeal to The Pokemon Company: Great power, great responsibility. On the cusp of when you create your next Pokemon game, be kind. I might waste more of my precious life playing your next monstrosity.

Pokemon Go turns one: an interview with CEO John Hanke.

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