They’ve gamified walking, brushing your teeth, and now sleeping is the newest in the sights of The Pokémon Company. Recently a time-limited beta of the newest mobile game for the franchise, Pokémon Sleep, released in select countries. Here’s our initial impressions of the game ahead of its full release ‘late July’! (Turns out it has started full release in New Zealand.)
The game involves a bunch of tutorials, most which happen after you do your first sleep session. It’s only after then that you can gain some more Pokémon to assist the mascot of the game, Snorlax, which is what the tutorials are about.
First, you’ll set up a time to go to sleep, with a window of an hour around that time you set. The game will encourage you to keep to that time window moving forward, although you can adjust it later (or, you know, lie). As you sleep, the game will record your sounds (which are stated to be only saved locally and wiped every 24 hours) to help judge what mode of sleep you are in, from Dozing to Slumbering. Based on how long you sleep for and how much time in certain stages, you’ll spawn some Pokémon the morning after. They each have multiple ‘Sleep Styles’, so in terms of collecting there’s not just the Pokémon, there’s collecting the way they sleep too. And Shiny Pokémon, for that matter!
You can feed these Pokémon biscuits. If you feed the Pokémon enough it’ll join your team. Every so often these helper Pokémon will gather Berries and other ingredients for you to feed to Snorlax and make cooked food with, as well as Candies for themselves, to level them up (and evolve). The food is for levelling up Snorlax – the higher its level, the more ‘Sleep Styles’ you could spawn. Note you will ditch the Snorlax for another one, potentially in a different location, in a week’s time every week, so it’ll be a constant grind in that regard.
This system seems alright, I suppose, if potentially grind heavy. Not only does Snorlax and each Pokémon have a levelling system, but so too does the Recipes. The higher their level, the more you can cook. Then you have Incenses, and rare Pokémon require more feeding to be able to befriend, and evolution items to buy… getting every Eeveelution might be quite the time sink in itself, as you’ll need multiple Eevee and an Evolution item for each, plus Eevee Candy. Patience seems to be key.
Another aspect to mention is microtransactions. You can spend real-world money on items, and also obtain a Premium Pass to get more items and save sleep data for longer than a month. Money has to be made somehow in a game, but for something that is aimed at kids, it’s hard not to feel a bit iffy about that, on top of the game wanting attention a few times a day to keep Snorlax fed, and making you wait for a meal to be cooked as part of that process.
The game development team is Select Button, the same team behind Magikarp Jump. It is not surprising then that the art style looks pretty similar to that title. It’s certainly cute and fitting for a game of this genre. We’d showcase some examples from our time with the beta, but the tiny bit of text buried within in-game news requests no images to be shared from the beta, which is a somewhat confusing one in regards to advertising… but we’ll respect it. You’ll have to take our word for it. There are plenty of Pokémon in Pokémon Sleep, although datamines thus far suggest they are fairly limited to the first three generations, with only a few generation four Pokémon in addition.
The animation is somewhat slow – not due to frame rate issues, but more a deliberate stylistic choice, it seems. It’s not bad, but it is noticeable, and while it does again fit a game about sleeping, it may slightly annoy others. It certainly stuck out.
The game requests having your phone on your bed as you sleep, and charging. Not under your pillow either, ideally. Granted, you could use the Pokémon GO Plus + (what a silly name) in place of the phone… but that is not a cheap accessory, and on testing it with Pokémon GO you appear to be subjected to a Pikachu lullaby every time you activate Sleep mode. So much for silent mode…
I tried one night with the phone on my bedside table instead, and it only somewhat tracked sleep. It decided nigh all of my sleep was Slumbering that night rather than something more realistic, so it clearly does need to track movements and sleep to give a more accurate reading. I’m unsure about the time it recorded as well – substantially shorter, but also some maintenance had happened overnight, so I’m not sure if that had affected the time recorded.
I have not used sleep apps before, but a quick Google suggests they also require a phone or watch to be used in bed. Nonetheless, for some kids – or adults – this mightn’t be great!
The music seemed fine, but I did mostly play on mute and for a limited time. The ‘relaxing sounds’ to use during Sleep are anything but – not something like rain or white noise, but instead tunes that would definitely keep me up.
Lastly, there’s some nice attention to detail. I found the Pokédex entries, all related to sleeping, to be neat, and building on the Pokémon themselves. Doduo for example had one head stay awake, unless it felt entirely safe, which was reminiscent of a few main series game entries.
Overall, it’s a game I feel I’ll try out a bit more when it releases ‘late July’ in my region (how vague), but I don’t feel I’d get too invested in it. I’m a patient enough gamer to not feel the need to put money in, but do wonder how well that would apply to the typical kid, and I can’t say I care much about how much I sleep or how according to an app, as long as I feel rested enough in the morning. It offers a neat aesthetic and charm in the Pokémon, and some world building through how they sleep and their Pokédex entries, but there is a potential for one too many different level-up schemes to turn the game into a grind. We’ll see how the full version of Pokémon Sleep turns out – until then, we’ll sleep on it.
Edited by Sheep.