Whether you’ve never caught a Pokémon before or you’ve been collecting these creatures since childhood, you’ll quickly get introduced to the Pokémon of this world after starting the game. (Heck, the very first screen you see after logging in is of a giant Gyarados menacing an unaware player, as a warning to stay alert while playing.)
At the start, you’ll only be able to catch Nintendo’s original lineup of Pokémon — those found in the Red, Blue, and Yellow titles — though we expect expansions to appear as the game grows and works out the bugs.
Pokémon come in variety of types, shapes, and sizes: Of the over 100 Pokémon available for capture, you’ll find creatures of the Fairy, Psychic, Electric, Grass, Water, Ghost, Bug, Rock, Ground, Poison, Flying, and Normal type. We haven’t spotted any Legendary Pokémon quite yet, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there hiding.
Each geographical area has a specific Pokémon type, and some creatures are more difficult to find than others. If you keep running into the same group of Pidgey and Caterpie, don’t lose hope: You need to travel around your area to find all the Pokémon. You can head to local lakes, ponds, or beaches to find Water-type Pokémon, for example, or wait until the evening to have a better chance at grabbing a Fairy type.
As with all Pokémon games, when a trainer begins their first journey, they’re given a choice of which Pokémon to start with. After you’ve finished customizing your avatar, three Pokémon will appear in front of you. You can choose from Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle; after capturing one, the other two will disappear.
But wait: There’s more. If you walk away from the original three four times, you’ll get a fourth starter Pokémon option: Pikachu.
Once you’ve gotten started with the game and captured your first Pokémon, it’s time to go hunting for some others.
You can find wild Pokémon by physically walking around your area. Stick to populated areas: Pokémon appear most often near PokéStops. The more PokéStops nearby, the more creatures should appear. Try visiting locations with a lot of public art; tourist spots or malls are great starting points.
As you walk around in the real world, your avatar moves along the map using GPS. When a Pokémon is close enough to capture, it pops up on your screen. Since walking around with your eyes glued to your phone is a bit of a safety hazard, the game is designed to allow you to keep your eyes free while you wander. You can keep your phone at your side while you walk; when you are near a Pokémon, you’ll get a notification in the form of a vibration and (if your sound is turned on) the Pokémon’s unique call.
You can then move to a safe location (if you were walking along a road, for instance), and tap the visible Pokémon to capture it. Tapping zooms in on your avatar and launches an augmented reality experience with the Pokémon dancing around amidst your surroundings. If you don’t see it on the screen immediately in front of you, move your device around until it appears. (There are arrows on the side of the screen to guide you in the right direction.)
If AR makes you nauseous or you don’t want your battery drained, you can always turn the feature off in the upper right corner.
Once you’ve found the Pokémon, it’s time to throw a Poké Ball to try and capture it. You “throw” in game by tapping and holding on your Poké Ball; a glowing, shrinking ring appears then around the Pokémon. When the ring gets to its smallest, you want to flick your Poké Ball directly toward the creature (with the aim of bopping it on the head) and release your finger; if successful, you’ll capture the Pokémon inside.
Not all Pokémon enjoy being inside itty bitty areas, however, and some may jump out of your Poké Ball after one or two shakes. If this happens, you’ll want to throw another Poké Ball to try and recapture it — or, if you’re running low on supplies, run away.
As you progress in the game, you’ll encounter stronger Pokémon that require a more powerful Poké Ball (or Razz Berries, which lull the Pokémon to complacency). If the ring surrounding the Pokémon is green, you should have no problem capturing it; if it’s yellow, you have a fifty-fifty chance; when you see a red ring, you’ll need to use multiple Poké Balls, more powerful Poké Balls, or Razz Berries to have a remote chance of catching it.
More than one player can catch the same Pokémon; if you and your friend see the same Pokémon on the street, you can both grab it for your separate collections.
You can also use special items to attract Pokémon to your location: You can use incense to lure Pokémon to you personally for 30 minutes, or — if you’re at a PokéStop — use a Lure Patch. This will bring Pokémon to the stop; every player there can catch them for the next 15 minutes.
PokéStops are important or iconic places around your area: They may be special benches with dedication plaques, permanent art installations, or historic landmarks. They’ll never be something as mundane as a stop sign, nor will they be in a location that is not accessible to the public — like something inside a private building, or beyond a locked gate.
PokéStops are an easy way to collect items, experience, and Poké Eggs (which hatch into Pokémon with the help of incubators, which we’ll talk about later).
They’re indicated on your map by tall poles with blue cube atop them: You can tap one even if you’re not in range to find out which landmark they’re associated with, but you won’t be able to check in until you’re close to the PokéStop.
When a PokéStop is within range, the blue cube will transform into a spinning disc, which you can tap on to visit. Inside, you’ll see the PokéStop symbol with a disc in the middle that displays the location’s photo; you may also get some historical information about the monument, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Swipe the disc to spin it, and you’ll be rewarded with a variety of items. Items can include Poké Eggs, Poké Balls, healing potions, and more. As you increase in levels, you unlock new items to collect.
After you visit a PokéStop, the blue pole will change to purple, and you’ll be unable to visit for at least 10 minutes.