Grookey and Pichu dash between the legs of an enormous Bouffalant herd before coming to a halt in front of your NEO-ONE, a hi-tech railcar that combines Jurassic World’s spherical vehicle design with Jurassic Park’s, er… rails. As Grookey bangs his stick on the ground like a toddler with an object they have been explicitly told not to break, the world of Florio Park behind it begins to open up: there’s Dodrio and Vivillon, Bidoof and Emolga, Wurmple and Taillow and Florges and – later on in the game – a whole heap of other, more traditional fan favourites. For someone as invested in this world as I am, New Pokemon Snap is a must-play experience, a spectacle that drastically supersedes its 1999 predecessor.
Minus the catching and battling and other morally murky elements of mainline Pokemon – as per Team Plasma, at least – there’s actually a whole lot going on in New Pokemon Snap. The Lental region, an archipelago comprising oceanic havens, thick jungles, vast deserts, and everything in between, has already established itself as one of the series’ more alluring locations. Pikipek brings stray fluffruit up to Toucannon’s nest high in the treetops as Quagsire dives into the mouth of a waterfall to cool off beneath the beating sun overhead. Onix snakes its way through sweltering sands, diving underground and erupting skyward like a particularly violent bottlenose dolphin, while Sharpedo skulks through the shallow water encasing coral reefs exactly like how you’d expect a half-shark, half-torpedo to – quickly, raucously, and, if I’m honest, almost entirely nonsensically.
Related: We Asked Two Nature Photographers To Explain The New Pokemon Snap Trailer
Your job in New Pokemon Snap is to photograph these phenomena. Pokemon are real posers once you crank out your camera, either schmoozing up to you in a way that says “look how amazing I am” or, in some cases, lambasting you for so much as assuming you can take their picture. But it’s a lambastment that says “how dare you! Wait, what do you mean you didn’t take a candid just now?”
Your photos are scored at the end of each course by Professor Mirror. There are two separate scoring systems, which, although partly connected, function on completely different levels. The star system, which assigns each photo a rating between one and four, mostly pertains to how unique the captured situation is. Pyukumuku lying on a rock? One star, maybe two. Pyukumuku being spat out of a Pelipper’s bill? Now that’s a four-star shot. The second system is the primary scoring structure, and revolves around conventional photography measures like pose, subject size, direction, placement, and so on. You’re able to hold four photos of every Pokemon in your Photodex at any given time – one for each star – with each individual score…