Magikarp Jump is Nintendo's Magikarp raising simulator released in May 2017.
For those who are unaware, Magikarp, the titular Pokemon of the game, are famously the most weak and useless Pokemon in the entire series. In Hoppy Town, however, the player's goal is to train one of these useless creatures to compete against similarly useless Magikarp in the only context they can - jumping as high as they can off of the ground. While this is ostensibly a funny premise, in reality, it is tragically ruined because Magikarp Jump fails to deliver on any kind of gameplay at all.
There is little customization to be found in Magikarp Jump, with the extent being the ability to name the current Magikarp and a chance to get one of a few dozen rare patterns of Magikarp that one has a chance to catch. In normal gameplay, the player trains their Magikarp by feeding it with berries, a staple of traditional Pokemon gameplay, and going to special training exercises. These are glorified cutscenes, as player intervention doesn't even slightly impact the random result of the training. Training and eating increase Magikarp's 'Jump Power'. The stated goal is to win in a number of leagues in which the only objective is to jump higher than the other Magikarp in a series of - again - glorified cutscenes. If the player Magikarp has a higher JP than the opponent’s JP, they win - if not, they lose. It is as simple as it is uninteresting. If a Magikarp loses a match but is already at maximum power, it is retired, and a new one must be caught and trained from scratch to a hopefully higher power level.
A couple of semi-random variables like random events and the help of other Pokemon can affect the player’s progress, but generally it is a slow and steady grind to the top. It is essentially necessary to use winnings from tournaments - the basic currency of 'Coins' - to upgrade the Magikarp's food and training as the player’s trainer level rises and, in turn, the Magikarp's max level rises as well; otherwise, Magikarp Jump quickly devolves into the worst kind of boring grind. This would be forgivable, if the basic gameplay was not in itself a boring grind, with the player doing nothing at all but clicking on the same dozen buttons in a recursive cycle. In short, Magikarp Jump is barely even a game in the first place, and what little gameplay it has is uninspired and mediocre.
Magikarp Jump is a game about grinding, and so you’d expect it to be essentially pay to win. At its core, this is true - those who pay will progress faster than others - but in reality ‘Diamonds,’ the game’s premium currency, are given away at a decent fraction of the rate the player gets ‘Coins,’ the basic currency. Diamonds are used to buy furniture and the assistance of other Pokemon for the Magikarp’s pond and during tournaments, which offer a number of flat and percentile bonuses depending on what is bought. A number of consumables can be bought as well that will fast-track the training process by restoring training sessions more quickly or refreshing the assistance that other Pokemon can provide - these are, of course, all on timers of varying lengths. This is not necessary to progress through the early game, and by the endgame, the player will likely have enough Diamonds hoarded from normal play to buy some of what they feel they need. It takes a while to afford one Diamond object, and some will be given to the player over the course of regular gameplay, so Magikarp Jump is not an especially demanding game for the wallet.
The game is visually polished with a bright, catchy soundtrack, and a full suite of animations for almost every action - while these are not particularly detailed, the game can be forgiven for this since it isn’t trying for any awards in realism. This game does nothing to distinguish itself from any other Pokemon title visually, though it is perhaps a little more cartoonish than other Pokemon titles. The game seems to try to find humor in the famous uselessness of Magikarp - for example when catching a Magikarp after retiring the previous one, the rods that the player uses never go past the ‘Old Rod,’ the worst rod in the mainstream games. Instead, the player gets better and better Old Rods. If the player isn’t careful, Magikarp will evolve into a Gyarados, rendering it ironically useless and forcing it to retire. Jokes like these are par for the course in Magikarp Jump, but the repetitive nature of the game means that they don’t happen often, and in general, the aesthetics of the game can’t disguise its boring gameplay.
The game also continually makes sure that the player sees other Pokemon such as Pikachu and Charizard as if trying to reinforce the association between Magikarp Jump and the mainstream Pokemon games. This is a cute touch but fails to achieve any impact as these encounters are essentially just buffs and rewards or maluses, and don’t add much to the game.
Magikarp Jump has a limited food pool that slowly respawns and training points that limit Magikarp’s ability to train. These recharge in real time whether the player has the game open or not, and if the player doesn’t log in regularly there will be an opportunity cost involved in not regularly using these bonuses and training opportunities. However, the game has no daily login bonus - in fact, the game seems to completely ignore the player when they are not playing.
Updates are few and far between and do not add enough to grab the player, though a few quality-of-life updates such as the ability to backup saves have been forthcoming and new customization options have been added in the past. The last major content update for players was version 1.3.0 in August of 2017, and since then the updates for the game have been mainly bugfixes and QOL updates. Magikarp Jump appears to be banking on the longevity of the Pokemon franchise itself to float its own lack of support and long-term interest.
Magikarp Jump is a game based on a joke taken past the point of being funny. It tries to charm the player with beloved Pokemon iconography and amuse them with the whimsically useless nature of the Magikarp they catch and train while offering nothing of substance or actual weight for the player to sink their teeth into. While this may be a distraction or provide a daily sense of accomplishment for those who have little time to invest into heavier games, Magikarp Jump is not something that you should even approach if you want a game that will grab your attention for more than even a half-hour a day.
|Company||The Pokemon Company|