New Pokemon Snap Preview: A Beautiful, Layered, and Mysterious Experience

New Pokemon Snap looks to be Nintendo's next big hit – a fun, relaxing game with low-pressure [...]

New Pokemon Snap looks to be Nintendo's next big hit – a fun, relaxing game with low-pressure stakes and a lot of nuances and layers to explore. New Pokemon Snap will be released on April 30th over 20 years after the release of the original Pokemon Snap game. Like the original game, New Pokemon Snap is all about taking pictures of Pokemon in their natural habitat – players will embark on set courses and snap photos of Pokemon as they roam about, using a handful of items to cause the Pokemon to react in different ways.

Last week, had the chance to participate in a guided preview of New Pokemon Snap to get a better idea of what the game will be like. The extended glimpse of what we saw had us convinced that New Pokemon Snap will be a massive hit for both Pokemon fans and casual players looking for their next "chill" video game experience a la Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

(Photo: Pokemon)

Our preview of New Pokemon Snap took us to the "Blushing Beach" course where we explored the area at both day and night. Some Pokemon appeared on the course only during the day and some only at night while others were present on the beach during both times. The controls seem to be relatively simple – players can use either gyroscopic controls or joysticks to move around the camera, and the camera also comes with a zoom function.

We quickly learned that each course in the game had multiple "levels" which were unlocked by earning Expedition Points by taking high-scoring photos and using those photos in your Photo Dex. Nintendo declined to provide details about what happens when you level up a course noting only that it was part of the fun discovery process within the game.

That discovery process seems to be central to New Pokemon Snap – it was quickly obvious that the Blushing Beach alone was filled with dozens of potential secrets to find and reveal. From Pokemon hidden in the underbrush to choosing between diverging routes, it seems like players will be able to visit each course multiple times without getting bored. And while finding hidden Pokemon might not be all that hard, the key to taking good pictures will be figuring out how to manipulate Pokemon to make the perfect pose or interact with other Pokemon.

(Photo: Pokemon)

Players have only a few different options on how to interact with Pokemon: the fluffruit seems to be the default way of interacting with Pokemon, and players can also use a melody flute or Illumina orbs to try to draw out reactions from different Pokemon as well. We didn't learn much about the Illumina orbs – the orbs interact with Pokemon directly as well as with Crystalbloom flowers, strange flowers that occasionally appear on courses. However, that seems to be another secret that will slowly be revealed over the course of New Pokemon Snap which adds another layer of mystery to the game.

One of the more fun parts about New Pokemon Snap is how the different Pokemon react to your presence and the other Pokemon around it. During one trip, we saw Pyukumuku and Corsola wave as we moved past them while other Pokemon ran away from our travel pod. The individual Pokemon all had different personalities as well. Some Pikachu were thrilled to receive a Fluffruit while others were disinterested in the fruit. One Octillery reacted when we tossed an Illumina orb at them while another ran away in horror when we revealed that it was standing near a Sandygast, a creepy Ghost/Ground-type that sucks the life force out of people and Pokemon.

The preview also provided some insight as to how photos were scored in New Pokemon Snap. Each photo has its own star rating which is determined by the rarity of a Pokemon's action. A Pokemon sleeping might score one star while a Pokemon using a move might score three stars instead. The four-star ratings are the rarest ratings and seem to be among the game's biggest secrets. Separately from the star rating, players will also receive a score based on the actual photo quality which judges things like how centered the photo is, how close the Pokemon appears in the photo, and whether any other Pokemon appear in the picture.

(Photo: Pokemon)

A major new feature we saw in New Pokemon Snap is the game's Re-Snap feature, a new photo editing feature that lets players adjust their photos after they've been taken. This allows a player to re-center a photo, add filters, change the angle of the shot, and make other adjustments so that the photos look perfect before they're shared online or with friends.

New Pokemon Snap looks more akin to a lifestyle game like Animal Crossing: New Horizons than a typical Pokemon spinoff game. It appears to be an absolutely gorgeous experience, with Pokemon frolicking in dynamic and beautiful settings. I could definitely see players losing hours and hours in exploring the same courses over and over, finding new secrets or trying to find the perfect pose. However, the game seems firmly aimed at the casual audience, built around the joy of discovery and the fun of getting to spend time in a fully-fleshed out Pokemon world.

New Pokemon Snap will come out on April 30th for the Nintendo Switch.