Magikarp Jump, a game about raising Pokémon’s most useless monster, is out today for iOS and Android. It is just as much a game about training Magikarp as it is a game about losing your Magikarp in horrible ways.
I have been playing the game for about two hours, and I am terrified about making the wrong choice and letting my beautiful boy Magikarp die. The game is low-key vicious, though it might not seem that way at first.
Like many Pokémon games, Magikarp Jump begins by introducing you to an older guide. This time, it’s not a professor, but rather an old Magikarp trainer who becomes the mayor of a small town obsessed with Magikarp:
I’m guessing that all those inexplicable trainers with six Magikarp in the main games hail from this place.
Anyway, instead of picking a starter as you would in the main games, you have to pick one of three rods:
Depending on which rod you pick, you will get a Magikarp with random stats and patterns. It’s a small touch, but the fact that Magikarp can look different from one another is pretty cool. I wish the main games had something like this, shinies aside.
Magikarp in-hand, you get to work. Your job is to fatten up your Magikarp as much as you can, so that it can get bigger. Luckily, your Magikarp lives in a pond that magically spawns berries every so often, and you can just tap on the food to eat it. Each morsel increases your Magikarp’s jump stat, denoted in-game as “JP.” JP can also be raised by training your critter through a variety of activities, like jumping over and over again, or repeatedly tackling a rock monster. Your gains will be random; sometimes your Magikarp will have a great session that raises hundreds of JP, sometimes it will barely move the needle. Since this is a mobile game, there’s a limit to how many times you can train—right now, I only have three training points, and they replenish over several minutes.
Once you’ve beefed-up your karp, it’s time to take on the League! Instead of trading blows, the Magikarp league is all about seeing which fish can catch the most air. It all comes down to JP: if your jump stat is higher than your opponents, you’ll win.
The game is very simple; there’s no real skill involved. Mostly, you tap objects and read text. Having a powerful Magikarp comes down to how much time you can put into the game, and luck.
Where Magikarp Jump really shines is in its random encounters, which can happen at any time. Sometimes, Magikarp is just chillin’ in its pond when a Manaphy shows up, triggering a food frenzy:
Other times, a random stranger comes up to you and gives you money or words of encouragement, which can replenish your training points. Where things really get dicey is when Magikarp Jump asks you to make a decision. A few times, for example, my Magikarp has come across a shiny object in the water, and the game will ask me if I want to go for it. So far, I’ve only found Diamonds, a form of in-game currency—but the threat seems clear. It could be a hook. You could be sending your Magikarp to die!
If that seems morbid, well, the game has played me like that in other encounters. This one time, Magikarp Jump showed me a berry in a tree and asked me if I wanted to make my Magikarp go get it. I figured, sure, why not? To my surprise, a Pidgeotto swooped in and took my Magikarp. That Magikarp is gone now, presumably being digested by that asshole of a bird.
We all knew that Pokémon can be eaten, and that Pokémon eat each other—it’s something that the Pokedex periodically reminds us. I’ve never played a Pokémon game that makes death an actual mechanic, though. It’s kinda shocking! Judging by social media, I am not alone in feeling this way:
That’s the fun of Magikarp Jump, though. You never know what’s going to happen next. You could train the most powerful Magikarp only to have hubris take your baby away. Better to go out with glory, though: the alternative is that your Magikarp grows to its limit, only for the game to force you to retire it and train a new one. That aspect of the game sucks.
Right now, I am slowly trying to raise money to purchase decorations for my pond. I want my Magikarp to live like a king.
You can also purchase other buddies who will hang out by your pond and offer your Magikarp all sorts of special abilities:
Your first friendship item will be given to you for free. It’s a Pikachu because of course it is.
Honestly, I’m not too broken up about losing my Calico-colored Magikarp, if only because my next Magikarp was this beauty:
I can’t wait to make a dumbass decision and have my precious Magikarp die because of it. This game is good.