The first thing I wanted to check in New Pokémon Snap was whether I could play it using my Switch Lite as if I were holding a real camera. Did it have 1:1 motion and 360-degree aiming? The answer is, sort of.
Motion control settings are there, though I’d recommend setting the sensitivity to max. If I swivel around in my chair, the view spins around in the game world, while I can also change the control layout so that the right shoulder button takes the photo. It’s not quite 1:1, leading to occasionally awkward restrictions – though you can still realign your view with the left stick.
Still, New Snap certainly manages to immerse you in a world where you’re not out to capture, train, or battle Pokémon, but rather to watch them live blissful existence.
It’s just one of many areas where New Snap improves over the 1999 N64 cult classic, the other being a greater dollop of content. Whereas the HAL-developed game featured only 63 of the 151 first-generation Pokémon and could be finished in a few hours, Bandai Namco’s packed in over 200 Pokémon from all generations.
It’s set over 20 different levels around the new lush Lental region, and filled with enough optional objectives to keep eager shutter-bugs busy. Graphical leaps in the intervening two decades also means Pokémon feel more alive in their natural habitat than ever, making it more like a Pokémon safari as opposed to an animatronics-filled theme park ride.
The core element that remains is the on-rails action. While some players may prefer more freedom, especially when you really want to get closer for that perfect shot, the restriction’s key to how New Snap plays.
It’s about creating the illusion of being a nature photographer where there’s skill in taking a picture at just the right moment, with just a few ways to catch an animal’s attention. Your photos are also scored based on a number of different factors, from the Pokémon’s pose, size, and direction, as well as whether other Pokémon are also in the shot.
It’s annoying, however, that the game’s bountiful content unlocks at a snail’s pace, requiring you to replay levels again to rank up your research level of an area or sometimes complete rather obtuse objectives, thus forcing a number of extra replays. The repetition isn’t all bad, though, since there’s almost certainly going to be things you didn’t see the first time (each Pokémon also displays four unique behaviours which you’ll need to register on separate playthroughs); some levels even have multiple routes, while moving up a research level also changes the Pokémon layout. Even then, it takes time to unlock extra mechanics, such as a way to speed up the pod you’re riding on.
Yet even if I wished things could have progressed a little, well, snappier, these blemishes were never enough to sully New Snap’s relaxed charms, which it continues to provide even after the credits have rolled.
In the Instagram generation, it makes perfect sense that New Pokémon Snap allows you to share and rate each other’s photos online. There’s even more freedom to tinker via the Re-Snap mode by adding filters and captions, as well as zooming in further to draw further attention to your favourite part of the photo. Yes, it’s a photo mode within a photo!
Despite a grindy progression system, New Pokémon Snap is a serene delight that will keep both Pokémon fans and avid photographers snapping away.
Genre: Photographic rail shooter
Format: Switch (tested)
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Nintendo / The Pokémon Company
Release: Out now