Game Review: MagiKarp Jump (iOS)

When one thinks about Pokemon, the first thing that often comes to mind is powerful looking beasts that will win gym battles. There is the mighty Charizard, with devastating flame attacks, and the fierce Blastoise, with its overwhelming hydro cannons. But just as there are those that can make indispensable additions to any championship team, there are also those that pretty much just flip-flop around like a fish out of water… For example, take a look at good ole’ Magikarp. Look at that silly fish. Flip-flop… Flip-flop… So majestic…


Then along comes the touch-based mobile game Magikarp Jump, brought to us by the wonderful team at Select Button! It is an incredibly cute and happy attempt at changing our perspective on one of the most underrated Pokemon in the entire series. It comes dancing to our devices with cheerful music, beautiful and bright colors and sharp cartoon art.

At the beginning of the game, you are greeted by Mayor Karp. He is the aptly named leader of a town obsessed with everything Magikarp. The residents hold the bouncy fish in high regards and revere them as paragons of what it truly means to persevere despite the odds. They vigorously train them and hold spirited jumping competitions to see which is the greatest of all. Sadly, things have not been going well lately, and all of the Magikarp have been losing their motivation. Mayor Karp asks for your help in regaining their confidence.

On your journey, you will meet many of the residents through random encounters after training sessions and matches (won or lost). They will tell you how they were inspired watching your Magikarp win or offer encouragement and sometimes an extra training point if you lost. Others, like the carefree Nugget, will give you a few coins to help you on your road to Magikarp greatness.

Before you can go participate in the leagues, you’ll have to catch yourself some championship material. At the fishing pond, you are presented with three old fishing¬†rods to choose from. No need to struggle with your choice though, as each one does not seem to differ from the other. Once you pick one, you start a small scene of your line being cast. The splashing battle can be brief or has the chance of lasting longer to build the excitement on what your catch will turn out to be. One struggle is for the more common patterns and stats, two for above average and three for the rare. Some can start out with a higher jump point gain rate, some can earn a higher percentage of coins gained in events and some will even have a mixture of both. You might catch a simple orange colored Magikarp, or a pretty calico one with white splotches, one with a cute white skeleton pattern and there is even a chance of catching the rare shiny gold pattern!

There is also the chance of unlocking more as you progress and some of the patterns even clear up as the Magikarp gains levels and adds more to the journal. It will also give you the option to try fishing again if you want to attempt a different pattern or better stat boosts. Be warned though, this costs diamonds, which is a slow to earn currency and each attempt you make will increase the price.

You are given a pond for your Magikarp to live in. You can purchase decorations with diamonds that will help with various stat boosts and there are others that you can unlock by beating leagues. There are also themes you can acquire as you progress, but these are simply cosmetic and merely offer you a nice change of scenery. Around the outside of the pond are a couple of sign posts that, once touched on, will either offer you some useful tips or give you a way to see how your friends are doing in the game. The TV will take you to a random Pokemon related video on YouTube but doesn’t really offer you anything else other than a distraction from the game itself. Every few seconds food will start to appear in the pond that will add to your Magikarp’s jumping power. You start off with two different berries that will give small increases. More can be unlocked as your trainer level advances and made available to purchase and even upgrade to higher quality with coins. Food alone, however, is not enough to get your Magikarp ready to take on the leagues.

Next, there is the training. Like the berries, you start off with two training regiments (a sandbag to tackle and a huge counter to tally how many jumps they can do) and unlock more to purchase and upgrade with coins in the coin shop. Each one has three levels of jump point gains and a fun way to show off the effort put in. For example, the Timber training puts Magikarp’s tackle to the test against a tree. A good effort yields a small boost and shows the tree still standing with no noticeable marks on it. A great effort will get a pretty decent increase and show the tree looking a bit worse for wear, but nevertheless, still standing. An amazing effort gives you a pretty high yield and sees the tree split in half!

There are a few other ways that can help your fishy trainees achieve greatness. You can buy items in the diamond shop to replenish points or support skills, decorations for your pond that augment gains of all sorts and friendship items that will see familiar Pokemon faces show up in your Magikarp’s corner to cheer it on! After training, or even lost battles, you will have a chance to discover random encounters with even more random results. They range anywhere from a cheerful Roddy Tackle giving you a few coins to a soothing massage for your Magikarp from Mayor Karp himself, which restores one training point.

There are, what I like to refer to as, gamble encounters. These are exactly that. A gamble. You can choose to play it safe and get a bunch of jumping points or risk it all for the chance to win a massive addition to your pool. However, if the outcome is not favorable, this time it won’t be a lump sum of points you’ll be losing. That’s right, you lose your prized Magikarp and in ways that have made me stare at my phone in disbelief! One example; you encourage your Magikarp to jump for some berries in a tree. While it is in mid-jump, a Pigeotto swoops from the sky and carries it away leaving you to walk back alone… Yes, you will have to catch another one and start over, but look at the bright side! You still have all the boosts you gained through all of your hard work thus far and will be able to train up the next one fairly quickly. There will even be the chance of gaining a rare pattern next time!

This will be a good place to lead into the next topic, the jumping league competitions! You can choose to take a league match one at a time with training in between or wait until your Magikarp is a leaping force to be reckoned with at its maximum level. However, as exciting as it would be to rip through match after match, your maxed out Magikarp will be dreaming of that ultimate prize. Retirement. Once they have reached that goal, it happens regardless of whether you guys have beaten the current league you’re on or not. When you have fished out the next championship hopeful, the retiring Magikarp has some encouraging words (or stares..?) of wisdom for them before swimming off to the depths of the pond. All of the retired winners will make an appearance in the background once in awhile and when you touch them, you can see the stats that they went out on top with.

Now you can focus on the newbie and train them to follow in the previous Magikarp’s jump prints. Being that they are a newb, they will not be taking the spot the winner left off at. They will have to start back at the beginning of whatever league you are on. While this is frustrating, it won’t be for long. As I have said before, you still have your current level of boosts, Pokemon buddies, upgraded training regimens, items and decorations and you will get back there quite quickly. This can keep things fresh and moving and provide new opportunities for encounters and patterns that haven’t been discovered yet.

This next topic can be a tricky one to talk about. Micro-transactions. They are often intrusive and are constantly being pushed in your face, making it difficult to fully enjoy the game and making you feel that you will not be playing it properly unless you buy something and often. I honestly feel that Magikarp Jump handles micro-transactions quite well. They partially mention the ability to purchase diamonds and exchange tickets, used for getting multi-packs of items, in the beginning, but never really bring it up again. They kindly let you know that the option is there if you ever want to use it but never once have they ever shoved it in your face or made it feel necessary. Myself, I often forget that it is there and my gameplay and enjoyment never suffer for it. It is merely there as an option and for those that enjoy being able to augment their experience with real money. There is even a nice bonus for getting more diamonds in a day if you have purchased and used exchange tickets a certain number of times. While I am leery on something that rewards you for spending money multiple times, I feel that Select Button has added this feature in a tasteful way that some of the larger companies could take note from. I can say that I don’t care for micro-transactions at all, but I will not put down anyone for using them in this case. Everyone has their own style of how they play and enjoy their games!

This game really only has a couple of flaws or minor things that are unnecessary. The amount of times you have to restart a league and generations it takes to beat one could be streamlined a bit. Sure there are a couple of great mechanics designed to speed things along, but later in the game, it does not do too much to calm the sting of having to repeat some of the same matches many times over many generations… Repetition to some can be a game killer. One of the minor things was the fact that you have to pick from three of the exact same rod with seemingly no difference between them what so ever. At the start of the game, the mayor presents you with one and later on with one of a slightly better quality, yet when you get to the fishing pond, you have to choose from three of them. One option could have been where Mayor Karp presents you with a rod and you go fishing, still with the option of trying again with diamonds. The second option could be that when you go see Roddy Tackle, there are the three rods to choose from and later there are slightly better rods available. To do both doesn’t make too much sense.

From its sharp cute cartoon style, cheerful music, addictive touch controls and its amazingly positive and encouraging theme, Magikarp Jump is nose to fin a great mobile game that does so many things well! Magikarp teaches all of us the beauty and power of perseverance despite the odds, and I for one am happy to learn! And best of all, it’s free!

Magikarp Jump was reviewed on iOS, all screenshots were taken from both iOS and Android versions of the game.

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