Captain's Log First Look: Locanimals

I'm a sucker for Pokémon. I've been hooked since I was a kid, and I don't see my quest to be the very best ending anytime soon. More than any other game that I've loved Pokémon lends itself to a busier lifestyle. I can carry my 3DS with me anywhere I go, sneak in a few quick battles, and come back to right where I was hours later. For many others, carrying a dedicated handheld at all times just isn't an option. If those people want their Pokémon fix, they either need to wait until they get home or try their luck with one of the many clones available on their app store of choice. While most are fairly paint by numbers affairs, the recently released Locanimals looks to take the Pokémon formula and adapt it to take advantage of the unique provided by mobile phones.

Captain's Log First Look: Locanimals

Locanimals is, in essence, Pokémon meets FourSquare. As you traverse the real world in your day to day travels, you encounter different locanimals based on the locations that you visit. For instance, choosing a wi-fi signal that was classified as a "laboratory" got me SCOT-ETC, a robotic Scottie dog locanimal, while a "bar" classification yielded Raycoon, a raccoon like creature who wears sunglasses. This idea came directly from the idea of the overworld in Pokémon, but instead players are exploring real world environments. After selecting a signal, you have are presented with the opportunity to either battle the locanimal that appears or return to the home menu.

The location based aspect of Locanimals has a deeper meaning to it than just a means to find new creatures. The locanimals can also be thought of as a unique digital scrap book. Say you encounter a new locanimal while on vacation. If you are able to capture that locanimal, you will have a small memento of your trip to use whenever you boot up the game again. Although the current number of locanimals doesn't allow for wholly unique creatures in every locale, programmer Christian Bruggeman hopes to one day offer some form of unique locanimal, whether fully unique creatures or color variations, in different areas throughout the country.

Captain's Log First Look: Locanimals

The final piece of the puzzle, the battle system, takes inspiration from the spectrum of gaming. There are the obvious choices in an RPG setting, attack and defend, as well as unique special moves for each locanimal. The special moves each have a different cool down period, so players can't simply spam their strongest moves, which gives Locanimals a more strategic pace than single-player Pokémon. The team plans on continuing to tweak the battle system moving forward to provide the most enjoyable for players.

Beyond adding new locanimals and fine tuning, a quest system is being developed to give players more concrete goals to accomplish. These quests will add new things like story content or other rewards to encourage players to go to new locations and play the game. Although capturing all the locanimals may be enough for some players, it's good to hear that players who don't necessarily want to "catch 'em all" will have a reason to continue to play the game into the forseeable future.

Locanimals is currently available on the iOS App Store for free. You can find out more about Locanimals at www.facebook.com/locanimals, locanimals.tumblr.com/, www.twitter.com/locanimals, and www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/locanimals/.