Like many, I was extremely skeptical about Pokémon Quest when it was shown during a live press conference. The cubic, Minecraft-esque art style didn’t appeal to me, and it really seemed like a game I would never touch. However, when the game finally released for mobile, I downloaded it immediately — not because I really wanted to play the game, but because my street cred as a mobile game fiend would go down if I didn’t at least try it.
I wasn’t expecting much from the game, having played dozens of mobile free-to-play games. I thought that the difficulty curve would be steep and the need to spend money would be high. The gameplay, which involves equipping your Pokémon with power-boosting blocks to help them in battle, was interesting, but I never got invested. As soon as I got stuck on a level, I didn’t really want to grind to continue.
It turns out that I didn’t have to. Pokémon Quest is designed to be played attentively, sure, but it doesn’t require you to pay much attention at all. Instead, the game accommodates players who just want to check out the best part: collecting those Pokémon. The auto-battle feature makes grinding my low-leveled Pokémon easy, since my team can go gather experience by replaying an older stage at the touch of a button.
I soon went from cancelling out of the game quickly to leaving it running while doing any mundane task. If I’m making myself food, I have my phone sitting next to the stove top as I send my ‘mon into the wild to fight automatically. Brushing my teeth? I’m “playing” it. Sitting in my friends car as we drive to lunch? Yep, it’s on, and my Pokémon are battling.
It was much easier to pass on Pokémon Quest in its initial release on Nintendo Switch. Of course, the Nintendo Switch is still portable, but I definitely do not carry my Switch around while doing my daily tasks, whereas my phone is always sitting in my back pocket. Being able to whip out the game once its energy meter refills and just let it run is a major convenience factor.
What keeps me really coming back, of course, is seeing the new Pokémon in my area. So after doing a handful of chores and letting the game run, I peek over at my phone and see which monster has come by. That seemingly small reward is what keeps me running the game while I do other things (at the expense of my phone battery).
While most of the mobile games I play involve some strategic battling or full attention to tap falling music notes, Pokémon Quest is a huge break from all that. It just rewards me for checking in, and that’s enough for me.