When “Pokemon Snap” was released 22 years ago, it marked a departure for the popular monster-collecting video game franchise.
Rather than capture the titular creatures and train them to be ruthless combatants, “Pokemon Snap” allowed players to leisurely photograph them while taking a slow-paced journey through their habitats.
It stayed true to the series catchphrase “gotta catch ’em all” and found an audience with those who wanted to focus on the collecting aspect of a standard Pokemon game.
It took more than two decades for a sequel to emerge, but “New Pokemon Snap,” out now for the Nintendo Switch, is as much an interesting diversion from the series as its predecessor.
It’s a laid-back safari through a variety of environments, with the only goal to take photos of Pokemon in their element. No need to worry about capturing the creatures in those tiny red-and-white balls and preparing them for battles against other trainers.
Taking place in the new Lental region in the Pokemon universe, the game takes players through a series of varying environments. Each has its unique physical features, vegetation, and, of course, varieties of Pokemon.
The trips through the environments are on a set path, so players won’t be able to freely explore. It could take a few runs though the same course to become familiar with the patterns of the Pokemon in the area and prepare for the perfect photo.
“New Pokemon Snap” does have a perfunctory story to move players between locations, but the real goal is to fill out a photo album known as the “Photodex.” There are 214 Pokemon to be photographed in the game, and to complete the list players will need to take at least four photographs of each one.
After completing a course, players will have the option of submitting one photo for each Pokemon they capture on camera. The affable scientist Professor Mirror will evaluate the photos based on criteria including pose, distance and whether the Pokemon is facing the camera.
A photo will be given a numerical score based on those criteria and a rating of one to four stars. Getting a higher star count requires capturing Pokemon doing something unique. Taking a photo of famed series mascot Pikachu sitting calmly in the grass would be a one-star shot. Photographing it firing off a bolt of lightning could be worth three or four.
Getting four-star shots will often require the player to set up the environment. Players have several tools to get a Pokemon’s attention. Throwing fruit can lure a Pokemon into the open, or make them irritated with a direct hit. Playing music can awaken a sleeping monster, while a scan function not only indicates where Pokemon may be hiding, but its flash can also get a reaction out of some critters.
Each sub-region in the game has its own “illumina orbs,” a resource that is unlocked once a player completes certain objectives. These orbs of light can be used to illuminate the environment or attract Pokemon. Each area has its own large Pokemon — this…