Whether Pokemon GO is just an insane fad or a phenomenon that’s here to stay; if you’re going to play, you need to arm yourself with all the tools the game doesn’t give you. Pokemon GO’s “tutorial” is lackluster at best, and the tips screen barely gives you any new information that you haven’t already figured out. Some players don’t even know the tip screen exists!
If you’re looking to get into the world’s new mobile craze, or just want to boost your skills as a trainer; I’ll give you a complete Pokemon Master’s Guide to Pokemon GO. Get your phone ready, lace up those shoes, and grab an extra battery because this game can kill your phone before you catch your first Pidgey.
A Beginner’s FAQ
Before I get into the start of the game, how about before you start it? If you don’t know a whole lot about Pokemon GO; I’ll fill you in on the answers to some frequently asked questions about the most recent mobile craze. There are even some questions you might have after you start that the game doesn’t answer for you.
Q: Do I need a Data Plan to play Pokemon GO?
A: Yes and no! Pokemon GO works off of GPS tracking, so you need a constant connection to continue playing. If you have a Wi-Fi network that has enough reach to let you walk around, you can still technically play.
However, the second you go somewhere without Wi-Fi, you won’t be able to catch anything, so you really should get a data plan if you plan on playing for longer than a few minutes.
Q: Can I play Pokemon GO if I haven’t updated my OS?
A: You can play Pokemon GO on devices running Android 4.4 and up!
Q: Can I catch Pokemon without walking around outside?
A: You can if you’re willing to walk around inside! Just sitting still won’t catch you anything, so you need to get up off of your feet.
Q: Can I trade Pokemon I find with friends?
Q: Is this game going to kill my Data Plan?
A: If you travel a lot with this game, it definitely won’t be easy on data. So if you don’t have much to spare, play sparingly.
Q: I missed with my Pokeball! Can I get it back?
A: If you’re quick, and the Pokeball is touching the ground, you can tap it to pick it back up, so you don’t waste it.
Q: Can I change my team after I pick one?
A: Nope, you’re stuck with whatever team you choose at level five.
Q: I used incense to draw in more Pokemon, but I only got three the whole time!
A: If you don’t walk around while using incense, you’ll draw in fewer Pokemon. So don’t think you can just sit at your desk and catch Pokemon all day unless you want to pace around it.
Q: There’s a Battery Saver in the Settings, but how does it work?
A: The Battery Saver mode darkens your screen when your phone is held upside down, like if you held it relaxed at your side.
That’ll do it for questions most starting players have before and during the game, but how do you start playing?
Where Do I Begin with Pokemon Go?
If you haven’t played before, Pokemon GO sounds intimidating with its huge player base, but it’s surprisingly easy to get into. In just a few minutes, you’ll be walking around and catching Pokemon in parks and gas stations before you know it. I’ll show you what to do to start, and even give you a few tips for your first few minutes with the game.
If you already have Pokemon GO and have been playing for a bit now, still stay with me, you might learn something new!
First and foremost, if you haven’t downloaded it already, go ahead and do so!
The download is surprisingly small, and the amount of data you use is even smaller if you know a few secrets about the game which I’ll get into later.
Now that you’ve downloaded Pokemon GO don’t open it just yet. Professor Willow can wait a few more minutes while you download something else you need. In either you app drawer or a home screen if you have it available; open Google Maps.
Got it open? Great, tap the three horizontal lines at the top of your Maps search bar.
This opens up a settings menu, but there’s only one option here we want Offline areas.
If you already have the area you’re currently in downloaded as an offline map, you’re good to go without any additional steps. If you don’t, you need to use around 30MB of data or more to download an offline map of the area around you.
Why? Pokemon GO makes use of maps like this to locate Pokemon, Pokestops, Gyms, and you, the player as you walk around. If you don’t have an offline map, Pokemon GO has to download the area around you over and over again each time you open up the map.
This puts more stress on your battery and your data plan; which is one of the worst things to happen when you’re at 5% battery trying to catch a Ditto.
To start downloading a map, hit the plus button in the lower right corner.
You need to confirm the download if you’re on a mobile network, but once you do, the download will start and you’ll have that map for at least thirty days if you don’t update it. If where you are is somewhere you think you’ll play GO often, like your neighborhood, I highly recommend you download your map for offline use.
Note: This doesn’t mean you can play Pokemon GO offline, but you’ll still use less battery and mobile data while playing.
Starting Your Pokemon Journey
Now that you’ve downloaded and installed the game, it’s time to start your journey into the world of Pokemon GO! Hopefully, you’re in a decently populated area, because this game can get rough in rural places. Either way, start up the game to get your first few choices.
The game might take a little while to load the first time, and the second time, and the third time, but hopefully all of this will be ironed out in the future. Once the game boots up, you’re asked with what account you want to sign up with.
Since most Android users already have a Google Account, this is the easiest option, but if you have a Pokemon Trainer Club account, you can use that instead. Earlier during the launch of Pokemon GO, there were some concerns about Niantic’s amount of permissions with your Google Account, but there are currently being fixed.
For now, it’s recommended you use a Google Account, as long as you believe Niantic’s claim.
Next, you’re taken through Pokemon GO’s character customization system, courtesy of Professor Willow.
You can choose your gender, and the colors of your skin, hair, clothes, and accessories, but customization is fairly limited.
Once you have a character you’re comfortable with, continue to go through Pokemon GO’s short tutorial.
After dropping some more information on you, Professor Willow gives you a choice between three starter Pokemon to catch.
However, if you decide to walk down the street instead of tapping one of the starters, you can find a fourth Pokemon to try and win over. You need to walk more than just a few spaces behind you, in fact, you may have gone down the street a few blocks, but eventually, you’ll find a Pikachu.
Don’t worry too much about getting the perfect starter, no matter what you pick you can catch all three other Pokemon later on in the game. Once you’ve made your decision, tap the starter you want to try and catch them.
Unlike standard Pokemon, you don’t have to weaken any pocket monsters in Pokemon GO to capture them. All it takes is a well-timed throw, a little luck, and a steady hand if you’re playing with AR on.
I won’t ask you to suspend your disbelief enough to see that Weedle as a Charmander, but I will ask you to hear me out on the battle system.
In Pokemon GO you have a limited number of Pokeballs to try and capture any Pokemon you square off with on screen. Flick a Pokeball with your fingers, but remember to stay in control of your throw; aim matters!
When you hold down a Pokeball before releasing it, a colored circle appears, and then freezes in place when you throw a Pokeball. Try to make the circle as small as possible before throwing the Pokeball, and your success rate becomes much higher.
After you catch your starter Pokemon, you name your character, and then the game begins without much else to tell you upfront.
So now what?
The Road to Being a Pokemon Master
To be a true Pokemon Master, you need to catch all 150 (currently) Pokemon out there all across the countryside. That sounds like a pretty daunting task, so let’s start a little smaller with some Pokemon trainer essentials.
Pokestops are Your Best Friend
Professor Willow brings them up briefly, but Pokestops are locations dotted around the country that you can visit to earn Pokeballs and other useful items to use along your journey.
To get a Poker stop to give up its items, you have to:
- Get close enough to have a Pokeball symbol show up on the map
- Tap the symbol
When you tap the symbol, you’ll get a brief description of the Pokestop’s actual location, but what you’re really on this screen for is to give the disc in the middle a spin. When you spin the disc, 3-6 items will fly out, so quickly tap them to stow them away in your bag.
The most common items to get at Pokestops are Pokeballs, but you can also find potions, Pokemon eggs, and revives. Anything that comes out of a Pokestop is going to be useful for your journey, and they recharge every few minutes.
Be sure to visit as many as you can!
Gyms are Waiting for You to Challenge Them
Besides Pokestops, the other structures in the Pokemon GO world you can visit are Pokemon Gyms. However, don’t expect to get any use out of these until you’re level 5, and have chosen between one of the three teams in Pokemon GO.
These are where you can send your Pokemon in to challenge other trainer’s Pokemon for control of the location. If your chosen team is currently in control of the gym, you can assign up to ten of your Pokemon to a gym as Defenders.
What do these do for you? If your Defenders stay in power, you can earn Pokemon Coins, which is the micro transaction currency used in Pokemon GO. You get 10 coins per remaining Defender, but be careful you don’t overextend your Pokemon!
Make Use of Different Items to be a Better Trainer
There are many different items in Pokemon GO that all do different, helpful things, but thankfully each item has its description within the app to stop confusion.
You can earn almost every item in the game either from Pokestops, or earn them as Level Up Rewards for when you hit a new milestone. Each time you level up, you get a basket full of Pokemon goodies that are extremely useful.
If you’ve seen some items that you want to try out before you buy them in the Poke Coin Shop, don’t worry, each one of those items is a Level Up Reward at some point in the game. As long as you keep catching Pokemon, you’ll level up in no time.
Manage Your Pokemon Like a True Master
Last but not least, let’s talk about the most important part of the game, the Pokemon! These are the little guys you’re leaving the house for, so you should know how to manage them, train them, and make them your own.
You Can Hold Way More Than Six Pokemon
In Pokemon GO you can hold 250 Pokemon at one time, and that’s even without the bag upgrade bought from the store. However, 250 slots are more than enough to hold all 150 Pokemon, and a few duplicates.
If you ever feel like you’re starting to run out of space, you can always transfer Pokemon to Professor Willow, but I’ll talk about that later.
Catching More Than One of the Same Pokemon Makes Them Stronger
If you were playing a normal game of Pokemon, there are only a few reasons to catch the same Pokemon twice. In Pokemon GO, catching the same Pokemon more than once is vital to make your Pokemon stronger, and even to make them evolve.
Whenever you catch a Pokemon, you get three things: experience points for your trainer, stardust, and specific Pokemon candy. Candy and stardust are the two things you need to make your Pokemon stronger. So let’s say you want to make an Eevee nice and buff, and eventually, evolve it.
You’re going to need a lot of Eevee candy, which you can only get from catching Eevee’s to evolve it, and then stardust to make it stronger. So don’t worry if you catch a lot of the same Pokemon, it’s a good thing if you’re trying to make one stronger.
Turning Duplicates Into Candy
This isn’t as horrific as it sounds, I promise.
When you have way more of one Pokemon than you want to keep with you, you can trade them away to Professor Willow to get one piece of that Pokemon’s candy in return. It sounds a little stingy only to get one piece in return, but it’s better than getting nothing in the process.
To turn in a Pokemon:
- Tap the Pokeball at the bottom of the screen
- Open the Pokemon Menu
- Tap the Pokemon you want to trade in
- Scroll down to the bottom of that Pokemon’s page and tap transfer
- Confirm your decision and then enjoy your candy
This is a great way to get enough candy to evolve your Pokemon since some Pokemon require upwards of fifty pieces of candy!
Evolve Your Pokemon for New Looks and Strengths
Besides making your Pokemon stronger with stardust and candy, you can just use a large amount of Pokemon candy to evolve your Pokemon into a whole new form!
Some Pokemon even have more than one stage of evolution, which means, you guessed it, you’re going to need a lot of candy. The only way to get more candy is to catch more of the same Pokemon, so get to walking if you want to evolve your team!
Collect and Hatch Eggs for Rare Pokemon and Rewards
Eggs are another aspect of Pokemon GO to keep you on your feet and out of your seat. Unless you have a Roomba that’s feeling generous today, eggs make you walk a certain number of kilometers before they hatch.
This number can be as low as 2KM, but as high as 10KM. The more you have to walk to get an egg to hatch, means the rarer the Pokemon inside. Once the egg hatches, a Pokemon flies out, along with a large amount of Pokemon candy, and stardust.
You can find eggs at Pokestops as a nice treat when you’re out looking for more Pokeballs.
You Find Better Pokemon at Higher Trainer Levels
As one last tip for any aspiring trainers out there, if you’re only catching Rattata and about to lose your mind over, don’t worry. When you’re around level one, your chances of finding rarer Pokemon is much lower than when you’re level five, or even level twenty.
The higher your level, the easier it is to find rarer, and stronger Pokemon, so don’t give up! If you’re still catching nothing but Rattata at level twenty, I’d change your name to Joey and embrace your new life.
Pokemon GO is taking the world by storm, and it’s only officially out in a few countries so far. If the game continues to improve, and new trainers keep roaming the countryside, we’re all going to be catching Pokemon out in the real world for a long time to come.
New to the game, or already consider yourself a veteran? Let us know about your Pokemon GO experience, and don’t forget to see what else we have to say about it.