The Pokemon Company have recently released a new mobile game that no one knew they wanted, finally giving your favourite most pointless and useless pokemon chance to shine!
Magikarp Jump! appears to take inspiration from the Magikarp Song (which can be viewed in game) and an obscure minigame from Pokemon Stadium. Taking place in Hoppy Town where Magikarp jumping contests are the local obsession... reminding me of the weird annual traditions found in some English Villages.
This game is a joy to behold, everything from the Magikarps' plucky underdog spirit, to the distinctive art style makes the game instantly endearing. The chirpy music and numerous nods and references to the main Pokemon games are equally heart warming.
Unfortunately the gameplay doesn't give me the same fuzzy feeling. Your main aim is to increase your derpy fish's Jump Power (JP) by feeding and training it before entering it in The League. Unfortunately the most involved gameplay is when you tap at food floating in MKs pond. There are obvious opportunities for simple minigames, the game could have been fleshed out by some virtual pet style mechanics but there's nothing more than tapping to advance as a result I'm seriously irked (so much so there's a whole blog on this issue). That being said a mini Magikarp visual novel with great presentation can't be all bad. Occasionally "random encounters" occur after training or competition, these are little story segments that are pretty entertaining... at least the first time you view them.
It does feel like i may be expecting too much from this game, perhaps it is designed for the preschool crowd but they deserve actual gameplay too! Plus having your prized 'karp being forced to retired, essentially sent out to pasture, once it hits max level and loses a match doesn't sound too enjoyable for lil 'uns. It's not great for older folks either, grinding through 20+ levels to have your beloved "Mark" (you can nickname the Magikarp)... to have him unexpectedly snatched away by an unexpected Pidgeotto and being "forced to retire" is traumatic in its own way and it's not even the only danger your floppy friend has to face.
Working your way through the leagues as well as unlocking all events and guest appearances will take plenty of time, there's even a pokedex of different Magikarp patterns to complete but the lack of any extensive gameplay may put you off well before that point. Considering this I'd still say this free to play game is well worth the download and I recommend playing through the first two leagues just for the experience.
One last thing, a discussion point if you will. Mainline Pokemon games have for a while now given the player a choice of genders for their avatar with the world, Magikarp Jump! has a different approach. You don't choose a gender for your trainer, you don't even pick a name but thanks to some clever design your representation in game is pretty ambiguous. I could even go as far as to say they're gender neutral which is a pretty clever way to include a relatable character not dependent on the player's gender without even asking or providing an option.
It might just be clever game design but part of me wonders if this could be an intentionally inclusive, forward thinking approach. There is one "random encounter" that may shed some light on this however it is also open to interpretation; you are gifted a nugget by another character who greets you with "Hey, you! Um... boy? Girl?". Some definite thought has been put into the design of your character then, but is it just game design or a deeper statement? Either way this is the first gender neutral videogame protagonist I'm aware of, feel free to educate me in the comments.
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