March 18, 2010

My New Addiction – The PokéWalker

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 8:11 am

The PokeWalker
My hesitance to call Nintendo’s PokéWalker the greatest invention since sliced bread has less to do with a desire to spare you the hyperbole, and more about the fact that as much as I enjoy a well made sandwich, the PokéWalker is better. I’ve been carrying it with me constantly this week, encouraging people to ask me what I mean when I say that there’s a Mareep in my pocket, and gushing on about the device when someone is brave enough to do so.

For those in the gaming-know, the pack-in device with the recent release of Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver helps both titles overcome the hurdle of being considered simply DS rehashes. For those not familiar with the originals or the add-ons of the past, the PokéWalker functions on just enough magic to feed the curiosity of even the most devotedly disinterested.

The PokeWalker
I haven’t been a fan of Nintendo’s accessories in the past – I never had the original Poké-devices, passively resented GBA tie-ins that involved spending a fortune for a few extras within console games, and actively loathed titles like Personal Walker. But like I say, the PokéWalker runs on magic, where I’d rather not know how it works given the charm of ignorance that makes the animations and actions joyful.

For those not yet up to speed, players can transfer caught Pokémon from either of the two DS releases to a Tamagotchi-like device – up to three at a time I’m told, though I’m still only allowed to carry one so far. Within the DS games, players can place Pokémon in storage boxes by accessing a PC at the Pokémon Center in towns, and via a menu screen at the start of the game can then transfer chosen Pokémon to the PokéWalker. This constitutes taking your Pokémon for a stroll, with players asked to chose a path for their walk from a selection of routes, and the transferring taking place by aiming the PokéWalker at the DS card slot – causing that bit of magic I mentioned as Pokémon vanish from the DS screen and bring the black and white screen of the PokéWalker to life.

The PokeWalker

Everything about the PokéWalker is focused on walking, a pedometer built into the device counts steps taken throughout the day, resetting to zero at midnight, but storing the information along with a complete index of everyday you’ve spent with the device. Walking is like a currency as it builds up “watts” that are used to play two activities available directly on the device.

One of these games is a simple check the bushes deal that reveals items players can use within the DS game, while the other is a chance to discover Pokémon along your walks and attempt to battle and catch them.

Success with either game saves the gained assets and transfers them back to the DS game when you return from your stroll – and different routes offer different Pokémon encounters, with additional routes unlocked as you gain wattage via steps taken.

At center stage here is that all this walking helps level up your chosen Pokémon, with all those steps tallied upon your return and helping your Pokémon develop. Obviously the device promotes health and fitness and all that jazz, and in a cleverly deceptive way because that isn’t the immediate incentive – but just think about this level gaining angle for a minute – because that’s where I was sold. I can’t help gushing at how simplistically brilliant it is, gaining the ability to level up RPG characters outside of the game and the traditional grind.

The PokeWalker

Rather than grinding on the DS proper, I can choose to carry Pokémon in my pocket and achieve results by simply going through the motions of my day, adding to the game while doing some of those occasional aggravations that take me away from it, such as work, family, eating, and sleep.

This is an incredibly big deal for me given the amount of RPG’s I review, or attempt to review in a year. The memory of grinding on some of those games late into the night makes the idea of using a PokéWalker the most lifesaving device ever for my sleep levels, sanity, and relationship. Plus, can you imagine how many more Atlus games people might have finished if they could use a device like this?

And of course there’s the physical connection the device offers with your Pokémon. Like many others I haven’t played a Pokémon game in a very long time, and yet here I am carrying around this PokéWalker and showing and checking on them throughout the day like a new parent.

If I loved a game like Treasure World for its abstract imagination about the way worlds are created, exist, and are explored, then how could I not love the way the PokéWalker covers all those ideas and gives it a face, with a branding that remains as welcoming as ever after all these years – along with info about how happy your Pokémon was at various times during the trip.

Now I should mention that the first thing I did when I got this device was shake it to see if I could simulate steps, and you can. Though I have a hard time imagining the dexterity of the person who could sit there shaking this thing long enough to get anywhere with that strategy. My habit is to leave it in my pocket during the day and forget about it for a few hours at a time, at which point I’m rewarded by wattage without having really done anything.

The PokeWalker

The fact that the PokéWalker is packed in with the game’s and not an added expense makes it hard for anyone to complain about the addition, which still isn’t required but simply provides an added option to create a deeper connection with the game, one that has kept me playing HeartGold longer than I likely would have otherwise – or at the very least playing it more consistently.

Simply put, I’ve tried to fill my life with many things over the years with varying success, only to find that some part of my inner-self was waiting for the PokéWalker.

It helps that I’m not alone, given how many other people I’ve met this week who stop during a conversation to see if they’ve earned enough to catch another Pokémon.

It doesn’t really matter whether the PokéWalker is in the hands of a kid or in ones belonging to someone looking to get a bit nostalgic with the Pokémon series, the device makes us all equal when I gladly admit that I’m leaving a meeting to take my HootHoot for a walk. I’m going to put it out there and say that the whole package here makes this game a far more rewarding deal than that RPG getting all the noise this month, not to invite a frivolous argument, but because I dare you to pick this up and try to act disinterested.


  1. face it, after 16 years the japanese have finally found a way to stick a tamagotchi back into our pockets. that’s just the first step to world domination…

    Comment by lemcott — March 18, 2010 @ 9:09 am

  2. I wonder what happens if you stick the Pokewalker into one of those contraptions that shakes paint cans…

    Comment by EdEN — March 18, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  3. unlimited power.

    Comment by lemcott — March 18, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

  4. Lazy much?

    Comment by Jordan — April 7, 2010 @ 5:46 am


    Comment by Spongetoast — May 6, 2011 @ 1:51 am

  6. i love the pokewalker i cant put it down i bring it to school the store friends house. BTW it was made to get us more energetic

    Comment by Tristanl456 — April 5, 2010 @ 9:03 pm


    Comment by Jordan — April 7, 2010 @ 5:44 am

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