App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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Do you remember the Tamagotchi toys from the 1990s? If you don't, here's a little refresher: It's this egg-shaped handheld device with a screen that displayed a little digital monster on it. Your job was to take care of this monster by feeding it and tending to it in a handful of other ways. This is essentially what the latest mobile Pokémon-themed game is as well. Pokémon: Magikarp Jump has you tend to generations of Pokémon's weakest monster in what is a curious, but not terribly deep experience.
Gotta catch just one
In Magikarp Jump, you play as a character who lives in a town whose culture is revolves around jumping competitions between Magikarps. As a budding trainer, you are guided by Mayor Karp to catch your first Magikarp in the game's tutorial, and from there you must train it to be the best jumper in all the land.
For all intents and purposes, the training and competing in Magikarp Jump follow the rules of your standard, free-to-play clicker. Your job is to level up your Pokémon, and you do that by tapping on food to feed it, spending training points to watch it train, and entering competitions when you feel your Karp is leveled up enough to win. To accomplish all of these things, there's no reflexes or strategy involved, really. You just have to be in the app and tapping on things.
A splash of variety
Magikarp Jump isn't quite just an endless loop of training and competing, though. Between training sessions, for example, you can encounter random events which may be able to reward your Pokémon with bonus experience. There are also currencies in the game that you can spend on new items to outfit your aquarium with, as well as Pokémon helpers that you can purchase to come over and help your Magikarp train.
These aren't things that really make Magikarp Jump more involved, per se, but they do work to keep you on your toes whenever you open up the app. This sense of discovery definitely keeps Magikarp Jump from feeling immediately grindy, but only marginally so.
The next generation
The moment-to-moment gameplay of Magikarp Jump isn't really compelling, but the game does have some peculiarities that may make you stay with it longer than you think. Most notable of these quirks is how Magikarp Jump has you train multiple generations of Karps as you go. Instead of just having one Magikarp that you can continuously level up, Magikarp Jump places a level ceiling on each one you catch, which makes you have to catch and train a new one once your monster has reached its full potential.
There are other strange ideas going on in Magikarp Jump, like how your Magikarps can develop different patterns, but none are quite as novel and perplexing as the idea of raising multiple generations of Pokémon's weakest fish. This may not make what you do in Magikarp Jump any more complicated, but it does add a bit of texture and depth to what would otherwise be a pretty flat experience.
The bottom line
Magikarp Jump isn't a great game so much as it is a curious, clicker-esque thing. It is laudable insofar as it takes a totally uninteresting gameplay loop and actually gives some life to it. This doesn't make Magikarp Jump feel any more like a satisfying game, but it does make it one of the more interesting Pokémon titles out there.