Review: Pokemon Go Is a Nifty Idea Marred by Glitches

It's a steamy summer afternoon in Washington and the National Mall is packed -- and not just with the usual protesters, tourists and schoolkids. It's been overrun by bulbasaurs, charmanders and rattatas, not to mention the smartphone-wielding hunters bent on tracking them down.

If that last sentence sounds like gibberish, you're immune to the hottest app in years. "Pokemon Go" (Nintendo/Niantic, free, for iOS and Android) has not just swept the nation, it's taking over the world. That says a lot for the lingering affection many have for the adorable "pocket monsters" that first came to life 20 years ago -- because the game itself is kind of a mess.

The premise is irresistible: Pokemon burst into the real world. While you walk around your neighborhood, the little guys pop up on a map on your phone. When you tap a creature, the app switches to your camera; hold up your phone and you can see the creature floating in front of whatever landmark you're actually standing in front of. Then you have to catch the critter by swiping on your phone to fling a "PokeBall" at it.

It's a weird sensation, seeing these familiar characters suddenly inhabiting familiar spaces. (The Secret Service really needs to do something about all the zubats flying around the White House.) But that's about it: You can't really do much with a Pokemon once you catch it. Essentially, "Pokemon Go" boils down to a worldwide scavenger hunt.

That's not a bad thing in and of itself. Anything that forces a couch-bound gamer like me to get outside and exercise is a positive. And the game's maps are dotted with "PokeStops," where you can not only grab Pokeballs and snacks for your creatures, but you can also learn a little about local landmarks.

Beyond the "collect-'em-all" mechanic, you can also...

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