iOS and Android Game Reviews

Pokemon Sleep: Gameplay – Part 4

In my last post I covered the basics of the premise of Pokemon Sleep: how each night you get a good night of sleep you’ll collect “Drowsy Power” that will allow your sleeping Snorlax to attract other Pokemon around him. As you get more quality sleep each night you’ll wake to find more species of Pokemon snoozing next to Snorlax in the morning. Each Pokemon species has a unique “sleep type”, and you’ll be able to collect different “sleep styles” for each.

So there’s your “gotta catch them all” bit of the game. As Johnny Carson used to say, “Buy the Premise, Buy the Bit”. If I need to get a good night’s sleep to see what all four versions of a sleeping Pichu look like, by gum I’m gonna do it.

I suppose the developers could have left it at simply collecting new Pokemon (which the developers of apps like Pokemon Smile did). But they added a whole bunch of other things to the game to continue to enhance your enjoyment and immersion into the game, while at the same time prolonging the life span of the game itself.

They wisely avoided including any “fighting” mechanisms into the game, focusing instead on more “collection”, namely, collecting berries from your “helper Pokemon” to feed Snorlax, and collecting recipes that you can use to cook your Snorlax’s favorite dishes. Yes, it is ironic that an app that tries to incentivize you to have some self-control in your sleep also seeds your mind with the thought of gluttony, encouraging your Snorlax and your helper Pokemon to gorge on biscuits, berries, curries, saurces, and being a general glutton, but I’ll give them a pass…and I’ll use Pokemon GO to lose any excess weight I gain from their subliminal suggestions.

Here are the various tasks you can do to make your Snorlax “the very best”.

Snack Time

snack time

Every day after you finish reviewing your morning’s haul of Pokemon, you’ll be given a “Bonus Biscuit”, which you can feed to one of the Pokemon hanging around you. You get one free Biscuit every day, but if you’re impatient you can always spend real money to buy more at the General Store.

There are also “very prized items” called Master Biscuits that will fill your Pokemon to the max in one shot.

You’ll get one for free, but after that you’ll need to trade in “Sleep Points” for more of them, among other goodies.

Using Berries to Raise Snorlax

Your goal is to raise your Snorlax to be as big and strong as possible. You do this by feeding it berries.

As you max out your friendship levels with each Pokemon, they’ll collect more and more berries for you to feed to your Snorlax.

You’ll see them walking around with a little magnifying glass above them if they have berries. Click on it and the berries will spread on the ground so you can collect them and give them to Snorlax. The more you sleep, the more energy your Pokemon will have to collect berries.

One pet peeve I have is that there’s no way to “collect all”, you do apparently have to “tap tap tap tap” every morning, which I imagine will get annoying after a while.

In addition to berries, your Helper Pokemon will find ingredients that you can use to make dishes.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinnertime

Snorlax does get hungry, so at certain points of the day you’ll see a little thought bubble above him telling you that it’s time for a meal. Here’s where you’ll want to take the ingredients you have an whip together the dish that he requests (mine was “Curries and Stews”)

There’s an option you can unlock quickly that allows you to follow a specific recipe, and I suppose if you’re really bored you can do that. But I just choose the “Auto Cook” option to toss random ingredients together and see what comes out.

You’ll see your dish “cooking”, which is really a way to present to you a Sleep Tip. The Sleep Tips are actually pretty good facts and advice related to sleep, and I have to give the developers credit here: normally I just disregard tips like this, but when it’s displayed while I’m waiting for my dish to “cook”, it does get me to read and re-read it a few times.

Snorlax will scarf the food down…

…and of course, fall right back asleep.

But he’ll get “bigger and stronger”, attracting even more Pokemon with different Sleep Styles for you to complete your Dex. Feed your Snorlax berries and meals throughout the day, and feed your Pokemon candies and “Dream Shards” to register as many Sleep Styles as possible.

I knew I was getting a little too much “into” the game when I learned after a week of play that I would be assigned a new Snorlax every week and got a little sad. They grow up so fast.

now, alas, it's time to say Goodbye to this Snorlax! We've gpt to pick next week's site


Here’s the explanation that was given.

Moving to New Sites. You’ll spend seven days—from Monday through Sunday—raising a Snorlax each week by building up its Strength a you carry out sleep research. Buy when the week is over, it will be time to say goodbye to that Snorlax, move to a new research site, and find a new Snorlax to help with your studies.



As if it weren’t enough incentive to feed your Snorlax and make Pokemon friends, Pokemon Sleep has a ton of “Missions” for you to accomplish which will earn you more prizes.


Okay, so what’s the verdict? I predict you’ll have a lot of young people mocking this game and going back to playing their traditional video games on the couch.

On the other hand, there’s a whole market out there, from parents who want to find ways to get their kids a full 10 hours of sleep, to workaholic adults (especially with more people who are working remotely and have lost all boundaries) looking for any way to get them to improve their sleep habits and get a full 7 to 9 hours to maintain good health and feel refreshed and functional the next day. I think these folks (which includes me) will welcome this game and this device to their lives. Medical science has proven beyond a doubt that getting enough rest helps provide your body with healing, energy, and vitality, and yet it’s the first thing most of us neglect. Here’s to Nintendo, The Pokemon Company, Select Button, and Niantic for taking another step of hopefully many more to use video gaming to improve our health and our lives.

iOS and Android Game Reviews

Pokemon Sleep and Pokemon GO Plus + Review – Part 3 (Using the “Fun” of Pokemon to Motivate You to Better Sleep Habits)

So as you’ve been reading the last few days, the Pokemon Sleep app was just the thing I needed to come out of “retirement”. Granted, I doubt there’s anyone left who used to read this blog back when it was called “” fourteen years ago. But if you’re out there, thanks for coming back 🙂

A lot has changed in my life over the last decade and a half. I got married, had a daughter, and grew more than a few grey hairs. Weight loss is still a concern for me, but even more so are things like blood pressure and heart health.

A few months ago, I learned that a friend of mine nearing his 60’s that he had a heart attack. I talked to him on the phone and he said that he kept himself in great shape, but the only thing he didn’t do right was get much sleep each night, and that’s what triggered his health issues. Thankfully, he’s on the road to recovery, but it was a wake-up call (no pun intended) to me to get my own terrible sleep habits in order. Since our company started supporting remote work, I find myself often working until 3am, only to realize that I hadn’t fallen asleep yet and I have a call at 9am.

So this device and app couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’m the kind of person who needs a little nudge to remind me to get off the computer and go to bed. My wife, bless her heart, tries every night to politely remind me “you should go to bed”. I say, “okay”, but then I end up spending two more hours on the computer. But since this app came into my life, I find myself panicking 10 minutes before my bedtime for fear that I’m not going to get “full credit” for my sleep tomorrow. I think this is precisely what Satoru Iwata had in mind. If there’s something that the Pokemon Company and Nintendo messed up with, it’s targeting younger people who can routinely pull all-nighters without missing a beat rather than Gen X’ers like myself who are starting to look for ways to buy ourselves just a few more years on this wonderful planet.

On to Day 3 of my experience with Pokemon Sleep and Pokemon GO Plus +.

Yesterday I covered all the “scientific” thought that went into the design of the app. Today, we’ll focus a little more on the “fun”.

When you think about it, the “fun” has been the missing component to getting people to build healthy habits like exercise and sleep.

We’ve covered the “exercise” part 14 years ago with Nintendo’s innovations around the Wii and the Wii U to promote exercise. In many ways, the Switch has continued some of this, and now that I have a Switch, I’ll be (belatedly) reviewing some of those games.

But to be honest, the “exercise game” of choice for me has been Pokemon GO (I’ve walked more than 8,000 miles with it), so the introduction of Pokemon Sleep is perfect for me.

We’ve been hearing on talk shows about the “sleep cycles” and “REM sleep” for years, but it generally goes in one ear and out the other. But a game like this is just the thing to bring the addictive qualities of video games and to use them to push us to building good habits.

So did the device finally get it right on Day 3?

Yes, it did. I woke up, clicked on the middle button for a few seconds, and the button flashed different colors and chimed with Pikachu’s frenetic voice.

I opened my app and clicked on the button to connect to the device. The device vibrated, which gave me hope that the app had connected.

connection issues with pokemon Go plus +

To my dismay, I got this message.

Pokemon Go Plus not found. Please check that it is nearby and not in sleep tracking mode

I groaned to myself. Does this mean that for a SECOND day my sleep wasn’t being tracked, and in fact today I had no data at all? I started to really regret paying $55 for this thing.

They say that the definition of insanity is to try something over and over again and expect different results. But I kept on pressing the button again and again. I got this same message three times, but on the fourth time I saw this.

Sleep data found in the Pokemon Go Plus +

I let out a sigh of relief. But of course, now that I saw the confirmation of “Sleep data found in the Pokemon GO Plus +”, the next question is…how much data did it get this time?

I saw today’s date show up, which was a good sign.

session 2

And then I saw that I was “credited” with the full 7 hours and 46 minutes, which felt great. I think the difference that I didn’t put the device so close to me that I could roll over it, but not too far that it couldn’t sense my movement during the night.

sleep duration screen

I should say that it didn’t just feel great to see that the device and the app were actually working. I felt great because I’d gotten a solid night of sleep for the first time in weeks. The thought of my Snorlax being undernourished or not attracting my favorite Pokemon was enough to push me to go to bed at a semi-reasonable hour (for me at least).

Even more impressive, when I saw the “Sleep Graph” I could see my sleep cycles, from N1 to N2 to N3 and back and forth. I have no recollection what happened at 7 AM, but clearly whatever it was, I drifted back to sleep again.

sleep cycles pokemon sleep

Honestly I don’t know how much of this is truly accurate and how much is smoke and mirrors, but that’s almost beside the point. It got me to bed on time, it got me to sleep through the night, and the dopamine rush from seeing my sleep cycle alone turns sleep from a “chore” into something interesting.

But of course, “interesting” lasts only a short time, and that’s where the “fun” part comes in. Did The Pokemon Company, their developer Select Button, and Nintendo do a good job of extending the Pokemon brand in this new way while still keeping it fresh? There have been over 75 different Pokemon video games, not even counting the card game that started it all. How many times can we “catch them all”?

Well, happily, The Nintendo Company is known for being very protective of its IP, and this is not different. First, the Pokemon in this game (as well as other similar mobile games like Pokemon Smile) are rendered as cartoons, I believe so they don’t cause confusion with the most modern games like Pokemon Scarlet, Pokemon Violet, and Pokemon GO. But the art was done in such a detailed way, the storyline “works” within the Pokemon universe, and the little details of gameplay are unique enough that I believe this experience stands on its own.

The “Pokemon” Part of Pokemon Sleep

I’ll have to admit, as simple and straightforward as the sleep tracking functions are, it’s the Pokemon gameplay aspects of the app that I find a bit overwhelming from the get-go. There are concepts like Sleep Styles, a Sleep Dex, Recipes, Drowsy Power, and a dizzying number of new concepts.

Let’s start with the first one: Drowsy Power.

Tutorial: Drowsy Power

drowsy power

Finally, let’s turn our attention to Drowsy Power. You see, Drowsy Power is what I call the mysterious power that Snorlax on these island possess. It’s a power that seems to both draw Pokemon close and lull them to sleep. This power depends on a Snorlax’s Strength (how much it has grown) and your sleep time. By increasing this power, you can get lots of different Pokemon to come sleep near Snorlax. And then, you may discover some of the rare sleep styles they can display.

Pokedex entries from Generation I to the latest Generation VIII talk about Snorlax’s gluttony and its propensity for sleep, and they go as far to say that children and small Pokemon have been known to play on his belly, but it wasn’t until now that it had the power to lull others around it to sleep. But it’s a little expansion of the canon that makes perfect sense.

I skipped through these screens at first, but in many ways they’re the most important part of the introductory tutorials because they explain the premise of this game. Your goal, like every other Pokemon game, is to “catch them all”, but the way to “catch them” is to lure them near your Snorlax. The higher your Snorlax’s “Drowsy Power”, the more variety of Pokemon will come to you. Each kind of Pokemon will have a certain sleep style, but different Pokemon within each kind will have different “sleep styles”. As you attract different Pokemon with different sleep styles, you’ll start putting together your “Sleep Style Dex”, which will consist of the familiar Pokemon we’ve known for years, but different ones will have different styles of sleep, ensuring an exponential number of variations of Pokemon PLUS sleep styles to collect, something needed if this app is going to be used for months or years.

Here’s what my Drowsy Power was after the first day (the one that didn’t register my complete night of sleep).

drowsy power


I’m sure my score of 1,080,000 would have been higher with a fuller night of sleep and a working Pokemon GO Plus +, but I’ll take it!

And here’s the good Professor’s excited reaction:

It appears that Snorlax's Drowsy Power has drawn a small crowd here to sleep!

Surely enough sleeping around my Snorlax were some adorable Pokemon curled up and sound asleep. sleeping pokemon

The next step was to swipe around the screen to look for new Pokemon who were sleeping near Snorlax. While this was certainly fun, I question whether over time this isn’t going to get a little annoying each morning. I hope in a future update they give an option to just claim every day’s new entrants.

One nice thing about the “Sleep Style Dex” is that it adds a whole new dimension to Pokemon lore. As with any Poke Dex, you can read a little bio about the creature’s sleep habits, as well as view little videos of them sleeping. It’s adorable!

Sleep style dex - charmander

Whenever you discover a new sleep style, you’ll get a screen that looks like this:

meowth sleep style

Followed by the style name…

…and of course the Dex entry.

From Professor Neroli:

You’ll find that each species of Pokemon can be classified as having a particular sleep type. And your sleep type for a given session will cause Pokemon with that same sleep type to gather. 

In my case, my sleep type was deemed to be “Snoozing” for my first day, which is what brought Charmander and Pikachu there (Snoozing-type Pokemon tend to include Fire and Electric types). Not sure how Meowth snuck in there.

Presumably, as long as your sleep goes through all the cycles you’ll eventually have a lot of different varieties of Pokemon and sleep types (i.e., they won’t force you to sleep for 1 hour one night just to get the “Dozing” types :P)

Once you “catch them all” for the day, you’ll get a congratulations screen.

So far, so good. But next time I’ll start talking you through some of the more “advanced” concepts in this game, including Missions, Friendship Points, Biscuits, Berries, Recipes, Sleep Passes and other new concepts in this game that may seem off-putting at first, but make sense once you climb the learning curve.

iOS and Android Game Reviews

Pokemon Sleep and Pokemon GO Plus+ Review – Part 2 (About the Sleep-Related Data and Reports)

So, I went to bed at about 1:00am last night and woke up around 7:16am. Here are my updated experiences with the Pokemon Sleep app and the Pokemon GO Plus + hardware device.

The first unpleasant surprise I had was that when I clicked the middle button to tell the Pokemon GO Plus + that I woke up, Pikachu started singing a lullaby again. Which means that sometime during the night—when I was sound asleep—the device decided to stop tracking my sleep. That’s something that Nintendo needs to fix.

As I would later find out, the device stopped tracking at 3:18am. I don’t recall getting up at that time, so the device must have detected something during that night that made it think that I woke up, probably that I had my air conditioner set to turn off around that time (it’s possible that when that happened I tossed and turned in my sleep). Anyway, that seems to be a major flaw in the app: they really need to make it so that the device continues to track until I explicitly tell it not to.

Anyway, I started up the Pokemon Sleep app this morning and was greeted by Professor Neroli.

Looks like you succeeded in collecting your first sleep data! That means is't time to learn how we conduct sleep research

On the next screen I had the option to finally start the “Sleep Research Tutorial”, something I definitely recommend as I was to later learn that this app isn’t as intuitive as it probably should be.

The first thing I saw was my “sleep report” for this day.

sleep report pokemon slep

Tutorial: Understanding Your Sleep Score

The first tutorial is called “Understanding Your Sleep Score”. I don’t like the fact that you can’t go back and read Professor Neroli’s tutorials once you finished them, so I’ll transcribe what he said here.

understanding your sleep score: here you can see both how long you slept and your sleep score for this session

Here you can see both how long you slept and your sleep score for this session. An adult can reach a sleep score of 100 by making sure they get at least 8.5 hours of sleep. Your goal is to reach 100, so try to get as much sleep as you can

Here was my Sleep duration for the night, which as I said robbed me of about 4 hours of sleep. I wasn’t happy, but it’s still early so we’ll see if this happens again through the week.

sleep duration pokemon sleep

Next, you’ll be sent to the next tutorial.

Tutorial: The Different Sleep Stages

tutorial - the different sleep stages

Next, let’s look at your different sleep stages. These sleep stages help show how deep your sleep is. When tracking your sleep, I classify it into three stages: Dozing, Snoozing, and Slumbering. Try to keep an eye on how your sleep fluctuates over time

It looks like this is confirming what I mentioned yesterday: that Nintendo is taking the sleep cycles of NREM sleep and making it more accessible to the general population. “Dozing” appears to correspond to N1 (Stage 1) or “Light Sleep”, “Snoozing” corresponds to N2 (Stage 2) or “Deeper Sleep”, and “Slumbering” corresponds to N3 (Stage 3) or “Deepest Non-REM Sleep” as well as “REM Sleep”.

Here’s what my chart looked like.

Here was the jaw-dropping moment for me. After syncing my sleep data for the first time, I could see a graph of my sleep during the night. The app didn’t just track how much sleep I got, but through the night I could see my sleep pattern, going from N1 (“Dozing”) to N2 (“Snoozing”) to N3 and REM (“slumbering”) sleep, and how much time I spent in each cycle.  It also tracked the time it took me to fall asleep.

This was the “a-ha” moment for me that convinced me that this isn’t just a gimmick but an actual sleep tracking device. As you can see, after I fell asleep at 1am, the Pokemon GO Plus+ device tracked me as I went from Stage 1 to Stage 3 to Stage 2, fluctuated between Stage 1 and Stage 2, and eventually fell into REM sleep. Like I said, that cutoff at 3:18am was not accurate, so it’s missing the next 4 hours of sleep.

Going in I thought this was a simple device just to time my sleep, but in reality it’s much more sophisticated than that. There’s an internal accelerometer in the device which is evidently super-sensitive, and it can detect my movements during sleep. Nintendo filed for a patent for this in 2019, and this is evidently the result.

Tutorial: Sleep Types

Next, Pokemon Sleep will classify your Sleep Type.

sleep type pokemon sleep

Here’s what the good professor had to say in full:

This next screen is where you can see your sleep type. Your sleep type captures the qualities of that sleep session and is decided based on comparison with your past sleep. When you don’t have much data yet, your sleep will instead be compared to generic sleep data. Build up your own data to be used for comparison, and the precision of these measurements will keep going up. I ask you to do your best to track your sleep every single day, without fail! 

The demonstration numbers shown in the screenshot are roughly equivalent to the averages that a typical adult spends in each stage (credit to the NIH Web site for this info).

  • N1 – Light Sleep – 5%
  • N2 – Deeper Sleep – 45%
  • N3 – Deepest Non-REM Sleep – 25%
  • REM – 25%

I didn’t have enough sleep recorded for it to give me my own numbers, but it did give me my “Sleep Type” as “Snoozing”, which means I got out of light sleep but not quite into REM sleep where the health benefits are the strongest.

As I said, it only caught 2 hours and 18 minutes, so if it captured my whole sleep cycle it may have given me different results. Let’s hope the device is more accurate in the weeks ahead.

What I love about this device and this app is how it makes these otherwise esoteric concepts more accessible to the general public, and helps us manage our sleep better. I plan on using it to get from my current bad habits (since I started working from home my sleep habits have been terrible; I lose track of time and sometimes go to sleep at 3am and getting only an hour or two a night). This app, with no exaggeration, may very well save my life, since I myself am getting up there in age. For younger people, survival may not be your #1 goal, but this app can help build good sleep habits that will help you for a lifetime. With good sleep comes high productivity, better health, good metabolism, and better mental health.

Update: Weekly Summary of Sleep

A Pokemon Sleep week lasts for 7 days and goes from Monday to Sunday. On the following Monday, you’ll get a letter grade for your “Sleep Consistency” based on your week of sleep. Here’s the grade I got after my first week, along with some visuals showing my sleep pattern for the short week since I started.

sleep consistency grade

Really nothing surprising here. It was my first week of playing, the device didn’t really work on Thursday, but on Saturday and Sunday the device did work and I just didn’t get a decent night of sleep for either night. Not coincidentally, it was Friday that I did get a full night of sleep and felt fantastic the whole day.

I’m reading some of the early reviews and blog posts about this app, and every now and again I see a note about how to “game the system”. I can’t help but chuckle at people who are so used to cheating that they’ll even cheat on a game like this. Obviously, the point here is not to win the game, but to use the mechanics of the game to provide an additional motivation to improve your health. But I suppose there are some in our society who just want to “win” at any cost.

After your “grade” you can see some statistics about your sleep, including how long it took you to fall asleep, your average duration of sleep, the total time you slept, and your wake up times. You can use this data every night to look for patterns to help you shake some bad habits or to give you a chance at better sleep.

data and statistics returned by pokemon sleep

For the next review, I’ll dive deeper into the more fun “Pokemon-y” aspects of the game. Perhaps the most powerful thing about this game isn’t the impressive technology, but how it uses tried-and-true Pokemon gameplay as a motivation to get you to be consistent.


iOS and Android Game Reviews

Review of Pokemon Sleep App and Pokemon GO Plus Plus – Part 1

Nintendo messed up a bit by not releasing Pokemon Sleep prior to the launch date of the Pokemon Go Plus +, which left a lot of people scratching their heads. While the integration on Pokemon GO was ready on the launch date, it’s not until you install Pokemon Sleep that this device really shows its potential. I think this also messed up with the naming; “Pokemon GO Plus +” is cute, but instead of associating the device with a seven year-old device, they should have started fresh with “Pokemon Sleep Tracker”.

Now that Nintendo has finally released Pokemon Sleep for the iPhone and Android, and now that I’ve used it for one sleep cycle, I can provide my updated thoughts on the Pokemon Go Plus +, as well as this app, which has the potential of changing, and maybe even saving, your life.

For the first few days after the launch of this device, Pokemon GO was the only app that could use this device, which left a lot of early reviewers scratching their heads. I just paid $60 for that??

But once Pokemon Sleep launched, it made a lot more sense. While the device’s integration with Pokemon GO was more of a side note and a curiosity, it’s with this app that this device reaches its full potential.

When you start up the app, you’ll see this notice that reiterates that use of this app is free. You can use the full version without paying for it (the main reason to pay for an in-game purchase would be to keep a “sleep diary” that stores your data over time, but you can certainly play the game without it. Same thing goes for the Pokemon Go Plus + device; you can technically play the game using just your smartphone as the way to track your sleep.

pokemon sleep free

Upon entering the game for the first time, you’re asked to enter your region and date of birth, enter a username, andsign away your life accepting a bunch of privacy and legal screens. You’re also asked if you’d like to start fresh or to transfer sleep data from another device, presumably one that you’ve had Pokemon Sleep installed on before.

You’re then greeted by “Professor Neroli” who sets up the story: he’s researching the sleep habits of Pokemon, including the Snorlax, and has assigned a Pikachu to you as a research partner.

professor neroli

You’ll be assigned your very own Pikachu who will he your assistant as he helps you in your “research”.

pikachu in pokemon sleep


You’ll then set your bedtime for each night.

pikachu in pokemon sleep


This is an important step, because whatever time you enter here will be your bedtime each night. You can turn notifications on so that you’re reminded to go to bed on time. You’ll get extra “rewards” in both Pokemon Sleep and Pokemon GO every day you get to bed by your bedtime and record more than 90 minutes of sleep.

Pairing the Pokemon GO Plus + with Pokemon Sleep

I was kind of surprised at how smooth the process to pair the Go Plus + was. After you enter your bedtime you’ll have the option of pairing your device.

Pokemon Sleep will request Bluetooth access.

pokemon sleep bluetooth

Once this is done, you’ll be asked to press the main button for “just a moment” (between 1 and 2 seconds seems to be the best).

Once the app finds your device, you’ll start the pairing process by simultaneously pressing the main button AND the top button (which if you don’t look carefully is hard to miss—the only other function of this button is to check the battery status).


If all goes well, you’ll get a message saying that the Device has been paired.


However, there were certain cases, especially in my first week of using the app, that I got this nasty message, despite doing everything correctly: Pokemon Go Plus+ not found. Please check that it is nearby and not in sleep tracking mode.

There’s a button that says “Communication Not Working?” which is useless; all it does is send me to the Web site with generic information.

Strangely, while the old saying is that “insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, the first thing I tried was just to press the button a few times, and lo and behold invariable at the 6th or 7th time the thing would finally connect.  My guess is that it just took time for the Bluetooth connection to be negotiated and made between my phone and the device (as they’ve launched new updates to the app, I find myself encountering this error less and less, so hopefully they fixed the issues.

How to Use the Pokemon Go Plus+ Every Night

The Sleep Tracking Tutorial, which for some reason they’ll just show you once and then never show you again, explains how to use the Pokemon Go Plus+ every night.

The first thing you want to do is make sure you don’t have Pokemon GO open, and that your device is connected via Bluetooth. Once you do that, hold down the main button on the device for about 1.5 seconds.If you hold it for less than that, the button will flash but won’t track your sleep.


Once you hear the sound (Pikachu singing a lullaby) your sleep tracking has started. You’ll want to place the device by your pillow.

Tracking will begin as soon as Pikachu’s lullaby starts. If you’re ready to track a real session, you should place the device by your pillow once the song starts. You can stop the lullaby with a short press on the main button. (You can also disable it in the settings)


When you wake up in the morning you can stop tracking by holding down the main button, again for about 1.5 seconds. You’ll hear a series of chimes and see the lights flashing different colors. 


How to adjust settings of your Pokemon Go Plus+ Device

One of the biggest frustrations from people who got the Pokemon GO Plus+ device before Pokemon Sleep was launched was that there was no way to configure the device. That’s changed with a few new screens in the Pokemon Sleep app.


On the first screen, you can set your device to wake you up and to notify you to sleep at a specific time each night. You’ll also see statistics in the Pokemon Sleep app about Pokemon GO that aren’t available in the Pokemon GO app, such as the total sleep time and number of Pokestops spun.


You can also configure the various Pikachu sounds that come out of your Pokemon GO Plus +. As you play the game, more and more different sounds will be available.

Finally, you’ll be able to set your device to connect to Pokemon Sleep automatically, to display a warning when the device needs to be charged, or to display warnings when the Pokemon GO Plus+ is in silent mode.



How Pokemon Sleep tracks your sleep

It wasn’t until walking through the Tutorial in Pokemon Sleep that I realized things I was doing wrong. To start your sleep every night, your device needs to be lying flat before you press the button.


Also you can’t have Pokemon GO open when you use Pokemon Sleep.

Here’s the cool thing about the app. It’s not as simple as recording your sleep from the time you press the buttons to sleep and wake up. The app will use the internal accelerometer in your Pokemon Go Plus + device (or your phone) to estimate when you first enter deep sleep, and it ends the last time you enter shallow sleep. As such, the app really works best if you sleep alone and put the device close to your head without you rolling over it or sleeping on it.

The stats on the app are incredibly detailed. You can track sleep duration, time it takes you to fall asleep, how deep your sleep is, and a “star rating” for how good your sleep was. For an additional fee you can purchase a “Premium Pass” which will keep a “Sleep Diary” for you, but the experience is just fine without it. Here’s all the kinds of data that the app can record for you. I used a screenshot from Nintendo’s site because these screens won’t unlock in the app until you’ve slept for at least one complete sleep cycle (90 minutes), but tomorrow I’ll share details from my own experience.

data recorded by Pokemon Sleep

As your use of the app continues your sleep will be “graded” based on how long and how consistently you sleep. The terms Pokemon Sleep uses roughly maps to the sleep cycles that are commonly accepted among the scientific and medical experts. Again, I’m showing Nintendo’s screenshot, but I’ll share my own experiences tomorrow.

  • Dozing: This is “Stage 1” of sleep when your breathing and heartbeat start to slow down.
  • Snoozing: This is “Stage 2” of sleep, which is shallow sleep.
  • Slumbering: This is “Stage 3” of sleep, otherwise known as “Deep Sleep”. This is when your brain waves are at their lowest and your body is getting the most rest and leads to REM sleep.
  • Balanced: This presumably means that you’re at your healthiest, and you’ve gotten a good amount of sleep for your best health.



As I said in the last post, I see this app and this device as an homage to former CEO Satoru Iwata’s vision of turning Nintendo into a “Quality of Life” company; he first announced this device in 2014, Nintendo received the patent for it in 2019, and now 10 years later it’s a reality. Along with obesity, sleep deprivation is one of the biggest health issues our society deals with, and between Pokemon GO and Pokemon Sleep, it’s cool to see Nintendo taking the lead in using the endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and seratonin we would otherwise get by sitting on the couch and using it to improve our lives and our health.


Common questions:

Q: Do I need a Pokemon Go Plus + to use Pokemon Sleep?

A: The app can be used without this device, but use of the device greatly improves the accuracy of the data over using your smartphone (plus, I don’t love the idea of putting the smartphone next to my head all night; unlike a smartphone, this device won’t emit a ton of radiation into your head all night).

Q: Why is the Pokemon Go Plus + flashing red when I try to start my sleep session?

A: One of the following is probably happening:

  • You have Pokemon GO open
  • You are holding the device in your hand instead of putting it flat on your mattress
  • You have more than two “sleep sessions” open

Q: What is the minimum time of a “sleep session”?

A: You need to sleep at least 90 minutes for the sleep to “count”

Q: Can I use the Pokemon Go Plus + without my smartphone on my bed?

A: Yes. You won’t get features such as the microphone recording your audio (which sounds kind of creepy anyway) but you the device’s accelerometer should be able to track even slight movements to determine what kind of sleep you’re getting.

Q: How do I know if a “sleep session” is being recorded?

This took me a while to figure out. You need to click (quickly) on the main button and if you see it flashing blue, it means a sleep session is in the process of being recorded. If it flashes white, it means the device is not tracking sleep.

Q: How do I put my device in Silent Mode?

This is another one I discovered by accident. Just press and hold the main button and the top button you use to check the battery to toggle the device between Silent Mode and regular mode. Handy for those times when you’re in a group and don’t necessarily want everyone to hear Pikachu screaming at the top of his voice.

Q: I forgot to start my device. Can I still get “credit” for my sleep? 

Kind of. If less than 30 hours has passed since your sleep session, you can enter it manually by putting the start date/time and end date/time. Just click the “Add Sleep Data” on the Main Menu. You won’t get the usual rewards, but you’ll get a small reward for the first sleep session logged for a day (unless you pay extra for a Premium Pass, in which case you’ll get all your bonus sleep points).

Q: I forgot to stop my session so it recorded too much time. Can I “delete” that time? 

I looked all over for a place where I could delete my data and I couldn’t find it. That messed up all my weekly averages for that week, but on the bright side I got extra rewards 🙂 But seriously, I hope this is a feature that they can add, as I imagine a lot of people are going to forget to stop their sleep sessions and/or may accidentally start one without realizing they did (which I did).

iOS and Android Game Reviews 1

Review of Pokemon Go Plus Plus (Nintendo’s new Sleep Device)

A great way to build healthy sleep habits

It’s been a few years since I posted here, mainly because there wasn’t all that much to post about. The Wii and Wii U had gone its course, and subsequent offerings from Microsoft, Playstation, and iOS and Android developers, while nice efforts in their own rights, just failed to capture the kind of zeitgeist that Nintendo did with the Wii that made them (and this blog) so popular around 2009. On top of this, a little girl game into my life in 2015 who has taken up most of my waking (and sleeping) hours, so I haven’t had time to blog.

That said, because of said little girl, I am thinking about re-starting this blog. I am the proud (albeit belated) owner of a new Nintendo Switch. And as was the case when I started this blog in 2009, I am mildly obese again and have high blood pressure to boot. I’m getting up there in age, and want to make sure I’m around as possible for my child. So I’m thinking about restarting this whole blog. Of course I still can’t call it “Nutwiisystem” thanks to the cease and desist letters from the short-sighted Nutrisystem lawyers (their diet didn’t work anyway—go with something like Noom who actually changes your eating habits). And I don’t have any expectations that this blog will ever reach the heights of popularity that it did in 2009. But as I did in 2009, I’ll try out a few Switch exercise games and live-blog my progress, sort of as a nostalgic nod back to those halcyon days.

Happily, the Nintendo Company has given me a good excuse to start blogging again with this release of the Pokemon GO Plus + device.

pokemon sleep device in handI see the early reviews for this thing are terrible, so I’m going to be a contrarian. Just like Pokemon GO changed my life in 2016 by giving me an excuse to get out and walk more (to date, I have walked over 8,000 miles while playing the game), I am confident Pokemon GO Plus + is going to change my life by helping me get some control over my terrible sleep habits.

There will be two applications that use this device by the end of summer 2022: Pokemon GO and Pokemon Sleep.

I see the early reviews for this thing are terrible, but I’m going to be a contrarian.

Just as Pokemon GO changed my life in 2016 by giving me an excuse to get out and walk more (to date, I have walked over 8,000 miles while playing the game), I am confident Pokemon GO Plus + is going to change my life by helping me get some control over my terrible sleep habits.

There will be two applications that use this device by the end of summer 2023: Pokemon GO and Pokemon Sleep.

Using the Pokemon Go Plus Plus with Pokemon Go

The oddly named Pokemon GO Plus + is a device much like the old Pokemon Go Plus (the small plastic tear-shaped device) as well as the Poke Ball Plus (the device shaped like a 1 inch Pokeball), the mechanics are pretty much the same. You pair your device using Bluetooth and new menu options appear in the Settings. You can set it so that you manually click the large button in the middle of the unit to spin PokeStops and Gyms and to catch Pokemon around you. Or you can get it to auto-spin PokeStops and Gyms.

pokemon GO screen when using Pokemon Go Plus Plus deviceThere are a few things new with this device. First, you can set it to throw Great Balls and Ultra Balls, something its predecessors could never do. Second, you can set it to auto-catch Pokemon using regular Poke Balls (this is something the “Go-tcha” device has been able to do for years, and Nintendo has finally caught up).

The big improvement is the addition of “Share Sleep Data with Pokemon GO” setting. Turn this setting on, and set a “reward time” In the morning (a time after you usually get up).

Then, when it’s time to go to bed, press down on the big button for a few seconds. You’ll see a blue light flashing and hear the dulcet tones of Pikachu singing a lullaby to you before you go to bed. Place the device near your pillow (not under it) and sleep for the night.

When you wake up press the button again. You’ll see rainbow colored lights and hear Pikachu excitedly greeting you in the morning. The next time you open up Pokemon GO, you’ll get a bunch of rewards, like Stardust, stickers, and hearts for your buddy. You’ll also see the amount of sleep you got. Pokemon GO will reward you depending on the amount of sleep you got.

Another bonus is that when you connect the device for the first time, new Special Research will show up called “Catching Some Z’s” with some simple tasks

Stage 1:

Catch 20 Pokémon in Poké Balls using Pokémon GO Plus + – 25 Poke Balls
Catch 10 Pokémon in Great Balls or Ultra Balls using Pokémon GO Plus + – 15 Great Balls
Spin 15 PokéStops using Pokémon GO Plus + – 2000 Stardust
Track sleep using Pokemon GO Plus + for 7 days – Komala

Stage 2:

Track sleep using Pokémon GO Plus + for 7 days – Snorlax wearing a Night Cap
Track sleep using Pokémon GO Plus + for 14 days – Snorlax wearing a Night Cap
Track sleep using Pokémon GO Plus + for 21 days – Snorlax wearing a Night Cap
Track sleep using Pokémon GO Plus + for 28 days – Snorlax wearing a Night Cap
Stage rewards: 2500 Stardust + 2500 XP

A lot of people are going to scoff at the device. “I don’t need an app to tell me to exercise or to sleep”. The point is, there are a lot of us who do need help in those areas, and I appreciate how Nintendo is using the dopamine rush of a video game to encourage me to develop better exercise and sleep habits.


Yes, there are annoyances. I’m sure the Pikachu sound will get annoying over time (although you can toggle that on and off by pressing the main button and the little button on top). And I hope that Nintendo and Niantic are reading these reviews and will add things like the ability to turn vibration off via the app (something their documentation promises in Pokemon Sleep, but it’s not in Pokemon GO.

My biggest gripe is a simple one: Nintendo didn’t include an instruction manual with this product, making customers go to a confusing Web site with FAQs to try to find basic information about the device. For example, it took me a few nights to troubleshoot why the unit kept flashing red when I pressed the button before sleep, only to find that it’s because I was holding the unit vertically in my hand and not lying it flat on the bed. I think they did themselves a disservice, as the technology in this thing is far more sophisticated (and thus worth the $50+ price tag) than it appears.

But I’m giving it five stars based on the potential of this thing to help a lot of people—adults like me who have terrible sleep patterns and kids who need the extra push to go to bed on time. For those of us who fall into these categories, this device has the potential to—literally—save our lives.

Using the Pokemon Go Plus Plus with Pokemon Sleep

As others have mentioned, in a rather unfortunate example of poor planning, Nintendo has failed to released the Pokemon Sleep app that was supposed to be the companion to this device, leaving Pokemon GO as the only app that can use this device for the moment. But in reading the documentation for Pokemon Sleep, it’s clear that the app will be very sophisticated, tracking not only the amount of time you slept but using its internal accelerometer to track things such as how long it took you to fall asleep and how deep your sleep was.

Why Nintendo is Releasing Pokemon Go Plus Plus

A lot of people are probably going to be puzzled as to why Nintendo is releasing this device. After all, Pokemon GO, while still a popular mobile game, is nowhere near the popularity it once was.

I believe the reason goes back to 2014, when beloved Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, the genius behind the turnaround of Nintendo with the DS, the Wii, Nintendo’s entry into mobile gaming, and the Switch, announced that Nintendo was getting into the “quality of life” business, with a “sleep device” being the first of their products.

Sadly, Iwata would pass away not long after his announcement far too early at age 55. Nintendo then probably went through a ton of internal debate about whether to continue Iwata’s vision. In 2016, some people in the company announced that the Quality of Life initiative was cancelled, only to have others in the company file a patent in 2019, followed by some quick scrambling by the company to announce that it’s still in development.

I believe the release of the Pokemon Go Plus + now in 2023 is in many ways good people at Nintendo pressing forward with this project, knowing full well it wouldn’t necessarily be hugely profitable, in honor of him and his vision to transform Nintendo and video gaming itself into a positive impact on society and public health.

I see little pieces of this “quality of life” initiative showing up in various Nintendo games, from the leg strap needed to play Switch Sports Soccer, to the introduction of Ring Fit Adventure and its unique physical device, to the cute “morning stretch” feature in Animal Crossing New Horizons.

Don’t believe the early negative reviews and the gaming press who are piling on denigrating this device. Like many other hardware products that Nintendo put out, give it a chance, and it may change your life.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pokemon GO Plus Plus

Here are some of the head-scratching questions I’ve had to figure out that were buried in Nintendo’s frustratingly-organized FAQs.

  1. Why does my Pokemon GO Plus Plus flash red when I try to press it before going to sleep?
    • This one took me a while to figure out. The answer is, the unit needs to be placed flat on your bed, not held in your hands, when you press the button. If the internal accelerometer senses that the unit is vertical, it will quickly flash blue and you’ll hear Pikachu singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.
  2. Does the unit need to be connected to Pokemon GO to track sleep?
    • No, in fact it’s just the opposite; the unit needs to be disconnected. You can do so by pressing the little Pokeball icon in the upper right-hand corner. Then, lay the unit flat and click the button.
  3. How do I know if my sleep is being tracked?
    • When you’re about to go to bed, place the unit flat on your bed by your pillow (not under it) and press the middle button. It should flash blue, and if you have the sound turned on you’ll hear Pikachu singing you a lullaby. Don’t touch it after that until you wake up in the morning—from that point it’s tracking your sleep.
  4. How do I “undo” the Pokemon GO Plus Plus if I accidentally start a sleep session?
    • This was a frustratingly difficult answer to track down; I wrote to the Pokemon Company to get a straight answer, but my guess is that you can’t really “cancel” the sleep session, you can just “restart” it by clicking the button again, seeing the blue light flash again, and starting a new sleep session. Difficult to tell right now whether the device somehow stores your aborted sleep session, but I doubt it. I’ll update this FAQ once I hear definitively.
  5. How do I get Pikachu to shut up??
    • This is one I found by accident. Press and hold the tiny little button at the TOP of the unit that’s used to check the battery (see next question) while at the same time holding down the big button in the middle. Pikachu’s voice will toggle on and off. You can also adjust this setting in the Pokemon GO preferences, and presumably in Pokemon Sleep once it’s available.
  6. How do I check the battery?
    • Click on that tiny little button on the top of the unit. If the tiny LED glows red, your battery needs charging, if it’s green you’re fine, and if it’s orange it could use a top-off.
  7. How do I turn off vibrate?
    • You can’t, at least not yet. There are some in the gaming media who are telling you to open up your unit and destroy it to turn off vibrate. DON’T DO IT. There will definitely be an option in Pokemon Sleep app to turn off vibrate; my guess is that the Niantic engineers working on Pokemon GO weren’t given the API instructions, which explains why this feature doesn’t appear there.
VR Fitness Game Reviews 1

The 14 Best Playstation 4 Workout Games with PSVR for 2020

Christmas is over, and that means three things. First, a lot of you are stuffed from feasting on Who pudding and rare Who roast beast. Second, it’s way, way, way too cold to go out and exercise. And third, a lot of you found brand new PSVR and Playstation 4 units under the three.

One tradition I had when I used to blog about Wii fitness games was releasing my annual Best Wii Fitness Games list right after Christmas. There’d be a huge spike in Google traffic looking for the best games that were both fun and also helped provide a great workout for trimming some of the fat that the one-two punch of Thanksgiving and Christmas eating.

And so here’s my list of the best exercise games for the PSVR. My schedule has been such lately that I haven’t been able to write an in-depth review of these, but those will be coming in the near future. But in the meantime, I wanted to share what I found so you can start your workouts now.

Most of these games are available as downloads to the Playstation Store, so you’ll need a Playstation Store Gift Card to find your account.

1. Beat Saber – Hands down (and up, and to the side), this is the best video game workout for the PSVR, and one of the best video game workouts ever. The concept is deceptively simple: you hold a move controller in each hand and as blocks come toward you, you need to swipe at them, in the right direction to the beat of some catchy music. Think of it like Dance Dance Revolution for your hands.

Of course, this isn’t your father’s DDR. What VR brings to the table is incredible precision–it’s no longer “swipe and pray” as it’s been with every other motion control game in the past. As long as your camera is set up in the right place, the game can pick up your full range of motion as you swipe your light sabers and duck to avoid giant blocks. As with any great video game exercise, it’s so much fun you won’t want to quit, and as each level gets progressively more difficult your dopamine and adrenaline kick in to the point where you don’t want to stop until you conquer the level. This game is the perfect balance of fun and exercise, which means it should be on the top of everyone’s workout list.

2.  BoxVR – While Beat Saber takes the prize for the most immersive and fun workout, BoxVR tops the list for a good cardio workout. The concept here is simple as well. You hold a Move Controller in each hand, and through the magic of VR they turn into boxing gloves. Targets come hurtling towards you that direct you to throw jabs, hooks, upper cuts, or blocks. There are multiple levels ranging from easy to intense. The workouts are designed by real instructors, so the programs feel just like the kind an instructor would give you at a gym. In fact, you can choose from a handful of gym motifs to put you in the mood.

3. Creed – Rise to GloryCreed: Rise to Glory launched with the release of the movie Creed 2. While most movie tie-in video games are horrible games that are rushed to market and where most of the money went into paying for licensing vs. paying actual video game developers, this one completely bucks that trend. It’s developed by Survios, creators of other huge VR hits like Raw Data and Sprint Vector. And while it’s not the same as real boxing, with the power of VR it’s by far the most realistic boxing simulation ever on a video game console.

You can play as Adonis Creed or as other characters from the film universe. You can get trained by Rocky Balboa himself (an uncanny valley representation of Sylvester Stallone) and then go straight to different venues where you fight various opponents. The VR is done well–the environments really do feel realistic when you look around, from small gyms to giant arenas. The boxing basics are there–punch, block, and dodge, and learn the patterns of your opponents to beat them.

4. VirZOOMVirZOOM is not just a game, but comes with its own accessory–a full-sized exercise bike that’s surprisingly solid and sturdy and lets you control resistance. There’s also a VZ Sensor that turns any existing stationary bike into a VirZOOM controller.

The star of the show are the games, all of which you use the exercise bike to control your speed and buttons on the exercise bike to do things like shoot. There’s not just one game but multiple, including driving a race car, flying a helicopter, riding a horse, driving a tank, riding a pegasus, and rowing a kayak. While the $400 price tag may seem pricey, bear in mind that you get a number of these games as part of the price. I’ll describe more when I write my full review, but there are moments in the game that are truly jaw-dropping (the most amazing of which is when you’re riding your Pegasus off the side of a cliff into the air and look down for the first time).

If you look at VirZOOM’s founders and team, you’ll see that it isn’t just a startup of wide-eyed millennials. Among its team is are multiple former executives and staff at Harmonix (behind the creation of Rock Band, among other things), and the head developer of the Nintendo Wiimote, so there’s some impressive DNA in this product. Try it and you’ll see how amazing it is, and how $400 is a steal when you consider the hours you’ll be spending getting effective cardio vs. at the gym.

5. Knockout League – Released on February 13, 2018, Knockout League is a game that evokes the spirit of the old Punch-Out!! game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but takes it to brand new, virtual reality levels. In it, you’re a boxer fighting through round after round of cartoon  fighters with their own idiosyncratic styles. You can block, duck, punch, get an up-close look inside your opponent’s mouth, and do just about everything you can in real life, without getting punched for real. Read our full review here.

6. SuperHOT – Released on July 21, 2017, SuperHOT is a shooter game where you’re shooting hoardes of people chasing after you. For the faint of heart don’t worry, it’s rated “T” for teen, so you won’t see see blood and guts splattering everywhere; you’re just shooting at red block figures that disintegrate as you shoot them. This is another surprisingly good workout as you’re constantly turning and aiming and shooting.

7. SparcSparc is a virtual sports game that was released on August 29, 2017. It takes the single-player concepts of Holoball and Proton Pulse Plus (see below) but brings it to a whole new level. Like those games, it’s a virtual game similar to racquetball or squash. Unlike them, you can play against real people around the world. You stand inside an enclosed court and use your Move controllers to control your hands just like you’re playing racquetball. The graphics are simple, stylized line art, but the gameplay physics are remarkably similar to playing real racquet sports. In fact, after a while of playing, you get a workout similar to tennis, fencing, or boxing.

8. Sprint Vector – The object of the game is–to sprint. The PSVR, of course, doesn’t allow you to run very far on your legs, so this game has you swinging your arms to propel forward. Like a speed skater, you’ll be in a crouching position for much of the game, which ultimately will help you work out your core. You time your arm swings to move forward, as well as to jump, glide, shoot, use power ups, and climb. As confusing as that sounds, after completing the training and playing a few times the motions become surprisingly intuitive, and then it’s off to the races.

9. HoloBallHoloball was the first of two “racquet sports” PSVR games released on November 22, 2016. Racquet sports is one of the more obvious applications of virtual reality fitness–true racquet sports requires you to run back and forth, and of course that aspect of the sport is missing in PSVR (until they invent wireless VR headsets and shatterproof table lamps). But just moving within a few square feet of space and moving your hands produces a surprisingly effective workout. Between this and Proton Pulse Plus (below), this was definitely the stronger of the two.

10. Fruit Ninja VR – Released on December 20, 2016, Fruit Ninja VR is the ultimate incarnation of this classic game. Fruit Ninja on your smartphone was a nice diversion, and Fruit Ninja on the Xbox was the first to give your whole body a workout. But the PSVR version of the game brings the game to a whole new level, and is just about the closest you can get to the real thing without a set of machetes and fresh fruit. Watching animated fruit fly all around you in 3D is something everyone should experience.

11. Headmaster – Headmaster is a heady (sorry) game where you head off soccer balls just like in read life. There’s a fair amount of ducking, squatting, jumping, and moving that gets you a decent workout.

12. Carnival Games VR – Carnival Games on the Wii was a fun set of games that you might find in your local carnival or amusement park. The VR version brings it to a whole new level, where you can play 12 different carnival games. Most of them don’t provide a workout, but there are a few where you do build up a sweat, especially as you get obsessed into beating them (without having to spend $5 a pop as in real life). The standout, by far, is the climbing wall game where you need to race the clock to climb walls way up high going from hand hold to hand hold.

13. Dick WildeDick Wilde is a shoot-em-up game that a lot of people have reported provides a pretty good workout, thanks to a lot of dodging and ducking as you shoot everything in sight.

14. Proton Pulse PlusProton Pulse Plus was the second of two “racquet sports” PSVR games released on November 22, 2016. Again, it’s a game where you use your Move controller as a paddle to hit a bouncy ball; the goal is much like “brick breaking” arcade games. There’s a frenetic soundtrack and constantly flashing graphics that the game publisher touts as a throwback to the 90’s. The gameplay is a level lower than Sparc and Holoball, but at $10 it’s still a worthy addition to your collection, as it does some pretty good cardio as you get into the game.

As I said, in time I’ll be providing in-depth reviews of all these games, but I wanted to get this list to all of you with brand spanking new PSVRs who are looking for ways to get your heart pumping and your body sweating.

Working out with the PSVR does have its disadvantages, the main one bring that perspiration and VR headsets don’t really mix. I’ll dedicate an upcoming post to that as well, but the spoiler alert is that you typically need two things: a good fan blowing right at you (helps with motion sickness too), and a good sanitary mask to protect your headset from sweat.


Review of Ring Fit Adventure – Fitness Game for the Nintendo Switch

No, you’re not having dejà-vu. This is a review for Ring Fit Adventure, a new fitness game from Nintendo.

You know those old movies where someone walks into a old building filled with long-abandoned machinery, flips a few switches, and you hear the equipment whirring to life. That’s kind of what it felt like coming back to this blog.

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve loved reviewing PSVR games. But as immersive as they’ve been and as technically advanced they’ve gotten since the days of Wii Fitness Gaming, it’s still not 100% there yet. The bulky VR headset is still a barrier for me to use it daily. I’ve heard of people using ankle weights and wrist weights; but trying to exercise with VR is like having a head weight. It’s still not like the days of games like Walk It Out, EA Sports Active, and Wii Fit.

If you don’t remember the Wii Fitness craze, here’s a refresher. In November 2006, Nintendo launched the Wii, the successor to Nintendo’s GameCube console. Everyone was predicting the end of Nintendo as flashy new consoles from Microsoft and Sony came out. And yet the Wii’s use of motion controls changed console gaming. Instead of working out your thumbs, you could move your arms around to play games. In 2008, Nintendo followed up with Wii Fit, which combined innovative hardware (the Wii Fit Balance Board and the Wii Fit Meter) and a set of games that let you track your weight, do yoga and calisthenics, and play mini games that got you moving your legs and your arms.

The concept took off like wildfire. So did this blog. You can read the archives to see the history to see some of the fantastic fitness games Nintendo and third party game developers made (and a lot of shovelware from publishers looking to cash in on the craze). Microsoft and Sony scrambled to come up with the Kinect and the Move Controllers, respectively, to try to catch up to Nintendo.

And then it all stopped. Why? Mainly because the time people had been spending playing Wii exercise games was now taken up by people farming crops, crushing candies, and flinging birds. Microsoft’s efforts at motion gaming flopped. Sony repurposed the Move to support its new PSVR. Nintendo launched the Wii U in hopes to keeping motion gaming alive, but console exercise, for all intents and purposes, was dead. When the new Nintendo Switch was launched in 2017, Nintendo focused all of its marketing efforts on traditional console gaming. Motion gaming wasn’t even advertised as one of the benefits.

It’s now two years later, and Nintendo has launched its first fitness game for the Switch, called Ring Fit Adventure.

When I saw the first reports about Ring Fit Adventure, it sounded really gimmicky. It came with two accessories that were “dumb” in that they didn’t have any electronics built in–just a plastic “ring” called a Ring-Con that seemed like a glorified Mario Kart plastic steering wheel, and a leg strap that seemed like a glorified Zumba fitness belt. Am I really going to pay $80 for this?

But as with all things Nintendo, the magic came out with the software. And that’s where Ring Fit Adventure shines. Nintendo did something very smart–they didn’t try to re-create Wii Fit. Instead, they created a complete role playing adventure game (RPG), with characters that have personality, quests to complete, monsters to slay, goodies to collect, potions to drink, and an entire world to explore. According to Nintendo, if you play for an hour a day you’ll finish the game in about 4 months.

While I really like about Ring Fit Adventure is that it brings together a lot of the great features of some of the best old Wii games, fitness games and otherwise. As with that great game Walk It Out, you need to walk in place to get your character to move through the world. As with the flying chicken game in Wii Fit Plus, at some points in the game you need to flap your arms to fly. As with games like Pokemon, when you encounter an enemy you need to fight them in a turn-based way–only instead of mashing buttons you’re doing as series of exercise moves, from yoga positions, to squats, to core exercises, to try to knock your opponent’s health bars while preserving yours. As with games like Mario there are coins to pick up along the way, but instead of just walking over them you’re stretching the Ring-Con to pick them up.

The Ring-Con is a surprisingly versatile peripheral that’s really a Pilates Ring in disguise. It’s a resistance device designed to be twisted, stretched, squeezed, pointed, and to otherwise take a lot of abuse. A lot of time has passed since those old days of getting frustrated with the poor motion tracking of the early Wii controllers–the Switch controllers do a fantastic job of tracking your movements precisely and accurately. The combination of the red Switch controller (which you put in the Ring-Con) and the blue one (which you put in your leg strap) enables a surprisingly large number of different exercises. You’ll find yourself twisting your body to paddle your boat, doing high knee exercises to run up stairs, doing squats to jump on trampolines.

I also love how they thought of a lot of details. Living on a third floor apartment, back in the Wii days my downstairs neighbors sometimes had to pound on their ceiling with a broomstick to get me to stop. Ring Fit Adventure has a mode called “Silent Mode” that lets you do fast squats instead of jogging in place. Another cool idea is “Multi-Task” mode, where you can build up reps while watching TV or or sitting at your desk, and they’ll be “credited” to you when you go back to playing the main game.

Nintendo’s secret sauce has always been that it “gets” character development and the emotional connection we get to video game characters. It would have been so easy (and lucrative) for Nintendo to just dust Mario or Link and have them “star” in this game. Instead, they introduce a whole new cast of characters with personalities of their own. The main antagonist of the game is Dragaux, a body-building dragon who plans on unleashing his reign of evil on the world. Your sidekick/trainer/cheerleader is a character named “Ring” who happens to look exactly like your Ring-Con controller. Ring will encourage you as you go from quest to quest, moving through different levels and encountering different adventures.

You’ll find yourself sweating and getting a full-body workout. Different enemies will have different colors, and each of the colors represents a different part of your body you’ll be working out. Blue-colored enemies will get you to work out your legs, red enemies your arms, and yellow your core. With green enemies you’ll find yourself doing yoga poses.

What would a Nintendo game be without mini-games, of course? In addition to the main RPG game, there are a number of fun mini-games that manage to match the fun and addictiveness of the kinds of games they had in Wii Fit. There are 12 mini-games in all:

  1. Robo-Wrecker – A “whack-a-mole” game where you smash little robots around you by pushing and pulling the ring.
  2. Aerochute – A parachute workout that focuses on your upper body and core.
  3. Squat Goals – A game where you’re on a trampoline and need to jump (by squatting) to collect coins.
  4. Crate Crasher – Shoot off explosions by squeezing the Ring Con to destroy crates that are falling in front of you.
  5. Squattery Wheel – Squat and squeeze the ring to on a pottery wheel try to replicate a vase.
  6. Thigh Rider – Sit down and squeeze the Ring Con between your legs to steer a vehicle through an obstacle course.
  7. Bank Balance – Walk like you’re on a tightrope, leaning to collect coins and avoid bombs.
  8. Bootstrap Tower – Climb a tower by raising the Ring above your head and stretching it to jump.
  9. Core Crushing – Smash robots by holding the Ring Con against your abs and turning to hit the robots.
  10. Glutting Gallery – Hold the Ring Con above your head and lean left and right to avoid bombs and collect coins.
  11. Smack Back – Hit discs that robots are throwing at you by holding the Ring Con against your abs and twisting.
  12. Dreadmill – Run in place at just the right speed to collect coins, get out of the way of bombs shooting at you. Squeeze the Ring Con at just the right timing to collect coins that are higher up.

The game isn’t without the same kinds of annoyances that come with just about every other motion game in existence–the system will sometimes lose track of you, especially if you step out of the sensor range. But compared to the early years of the Wii, Kinect, and PS Move, they’re gotten it down pretty good.

If you’re been reading this blog since 2009, you’ll know that the one thing I look for above anything else in a fitness games is: is the gameplay so fun and immersive that I end up exercising without even realizing that I’m exercising? Happy to say that Ring Fit Adventure does that. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s going to necessarily kick off the video game fitness craze like Wii Fit did, but hopefully there’ll be enough interest that Nintendo will see fit to create other games that use the Ring. If you have a Switch already and are looking for a fun game to work out to, I’d say it’s a no-brainer.

If you don’t have a Nintendo Switch, this by itself may not be enough for you to get one, but on the other hand if you’ve been on the fence, this may just push you over.

Video Game News

The Future of VR Fitness – Oculus Quest

While I’ve loved using my PSVR for fitness, the one thing that’s gotten in the way (literally) are the wires, wires, wires. I can’t count how many plants, lamps, and cats I’ve knocked over while jumping out of the way of bullets in SuperHot or getting tangled with my VirZOOM bike.

In September 2018, Facebook announced a new VR headset called Oculus Quest. What is game-changing (literally) is that this is completely wireless.

Oculus already released Oculus Go last year, but it was skimpy on memory and ran on an older generation chipset. This new model will give HTC Vive a run (literally) for its money, as for the first time in an Oculus headset it features positional tracking, in both the headset itself and in the handheld controllers. Even more impressive, all of the processing power and battery are built right into the headeset. That’s right, no need to buy a $2500 gaming computer or even a $600 gaming console in order to run the latest generation VR.

arrested development michael george lightsaber gifWhat this means is that unlike the current Oculus, Vive, and PSVR offerings, your workout will no longer be confined to a 5 foot by 5 foot space. You’ll be able to run to the privacy of your garage Michael George style to play Beat Saber or any other game you like.

Beat Saber, in fact, is one of the launch titles, as is SuperHot, Creed: Rise to Glory, VZFit, and many more of the games that have gotten given stellar reviews to on this blog.. So you’ll be able to use it for fitness out of the box.

Needless to say, when it launches we’ll be posting some of our first impressions here. Stay tuned!

VR Fitness Game Reviews

Review of Sparc for PSVR

The PSVR doesn’t seem to be at a loss for racquet sports games. In November 2017 Holoball and Proton Pulse Plus came out. And then in August 2017, Sparc was released simultaneously for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the PSVR. Outside of a few tutorial and training mini-games, the entire game is played online (meaning that PSVR users need a Playstation Plus subscription).

The developers made the decision that your opponents would be real humans, so they didn’t provide the option of playing against an AI. In fact, they go so far as to not call it a “video game” but rather a “virtual sport – a unique physical sport only possible in virtual reality”.  While this probably saved them some development time, it’s a risky choice. It’s seven months since the launch, and there are some scattered reports of servers being down or users not being able to find opponents for long periods of time. My own experience has been hit or miss. At certain times of the day I’ll be waiting in an empty lobby for 10-15 minutes before someone joins. But other times of the day I get matched up right away. The dilemma of having to find opponents is largely helped by the fact that you can play against opponents on any VR platform, a welcome development that I hope continues.

The best way to describe Sparc is that it’s sort of a combination of racquetball, handball, and dodgeball. The rules are a little quirky, so you definitely do need to go through the tutorial a few times to get it. To summarize:

  • You and your opponent are standing at opposite ends of a court. One of you has a blue ball, the other an orange one. You pick up the ball by grabbing it with your hand and pressing the trigger button.
  • You hurl your ball at your opponent by releasing the trigger button as you make a throwing motion with your arm. They’ll hurl their ball at you. If your opponent gets hit by either ball at any time, you’ll get one point.  If either ball hits you, your opponent gets one point. The player with the most points after three minutes wins.
  • If your ball doesn’t hit your opponent it’ll come back to you. If it first bounces behind your opponent’s wall in an area marked as the “strike zone” it’ll come back to you bigger and faster.
  • Once you catch your own ball, it becomes a “shield” that you can use as a racquet to block your opponent’s balls and hit it back. Or you can simply throw it and it’ll become your own ball again.
  • Ultimately as you get more advanced in the game you’ll start devising ways to strategize against your opponent, for example by deflecting your ball off walls at odd angles or by trying to confuse your opponent by throwing your ball at the same time you’re deflecting their own ball back at them.
  • You can dodge out of the way of balls, although your playing space is limited to only about 2 feet to your left and right.
  • If you’re playing in beginner mode, your fists can also be used to deflect your opponent’s balls.

The controls are very intuitive, although some of the mechanics do require a bit of a learning curve. For example,  I eventually found that throwing in a backhand motion tends to get your ball moving much faster than attempting an overhead throw.

In the video you see here, I found myself getting beaten mercilessly by my opponent who quickly discovered my weakness–I was unable to deal with her bouncing balls up and down off the ceiling and floor. But in our re-match game I quickly adjusted by figuring out how to dodge them and throw her off by doing my own side-to-side bounces. Even though we were both obviously extreme rookies, being at comparable levels we managed to play some pretty competitive and exciting games.

There are two levels, Basic and Advanced, both with the same gameplay and rules and a few alterations to let players compete with or without assistance.

Once you select a level, you’ll ostensibly be matched with someone at your skill level to play again. It was great whenever I was matched with someone of equal skill, but more often than not I’d be matched up with a seasoned player who’d wallop me in a shutout. I wish the developers would have done something to ensure that matches were even–the current system leaves it much too open for Advanced players to come into the Basic queue to bully new players, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for players of moderate-to-advanced skill to have to deal with other players who are just learning the game.

I love the details of the game. You can customize your avatar to some extent, and then during the game it mirrors your physical movements exactly, from your throwing and blocking motions right down to body language so you start to get a little bit of a sense of your opponent’s personality (or at least their humanity).  Every match won’t start until you give your opponent a virtual “fist bump”. As you’re waiting in the queue to start a match, you can be a spectator watching the current match take place in very cool miniature form. After each match, there are lots of stats you can view to savor a victory or look for areas of improvement after a loss. They put a lot of thought into every detail.

Can you get a great workout from Sparc? Absolutely! Your arms are constantly in motion, of course, but you’ll also be working out your core as you crouch and dodge out of the way of incoming balls. I found myself sweating after just two or three 3-minute matches.

My biggest gripe is the one I mentioned before; I wish they’d built an AI you could play rather than forcing you to go online and play human opponents–this would allow you to truly practice first before challenging a human. The mini-games are supposed to be like “batting cages” or “automatic ball launchers for tennis”, but they’re so far from the real game that they don’t really help you except in learning basic mechanics.

Another gripe is the reliance on PSN and online multiplayer. Granted, the cost isn’t something the developer could control, but as we’ve seen with other active motion games in the past, the typical player of Sparc isn’t going to be the hardcore gamer that tends to pay the fee for PSN every year, so ultimately I think this is going to hurt the game, especially among people like you and me who are less interested in play as a “competitive sport” as we are trying to get a workout. Again, the “solution” would have been for the developer to allow players without PSN to play against a bot, but all indications are that they’re not going that route.

All said, the game gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars from me. It’s clearly the best developed of all the “racquet sports” games for the PSVR, and you can get a solid workout from it. If you have a PSN account and a lot of patience to practice and get good at the “sport”, there aren’t many better motivators than real human players to get you playing again and again.



VR Fitness Game Reviews 1

Review of Knockout League for PSVR

VirZOOM is the best fitness game for working out your lower body–everything from your thighs (quadriceps) to the back of your legs (hamstrings) to your hips (flexors) to your butt (gluteals), as well as your abs. But what to do if you want to work out your upper body? Here’s the game for that.

If you’re old like me, you can remember when an arcade game called Punch-Out!! came out in the mid-80s, followed by a port of the game to the Nintendo Entertainment System. It had you fight against round after round of interesting characters, each with their own signature moves to figure out. In 2001, Konami released Mocap Boxing for arcades; a game where you held two boxing glove controllers and the image on screen punched and bobbed and weaved with you. In 2006, the Wii was released along with Wii Sports and its addictive boxing game. Microsoft and Sony followed with Kinect Sports Boxing and The Fight: Lights Out in 2010.

The Fight: Lights Out and Sports Champions 2 by Sony had been the closest video gaming came to real boxing, especially when you played the games in 3D. But Knockout League for PSVR takes video game boxing to an entirely new level.

When you start up the game, you see a message: “This is an active game. Please make sure that your play space is clear. Stay in the center of the cleared play area and do not walk around.” This was great news for me, as I’m playing in a tiny space, so if I were to move a few inches to the right, I’d likely punch a hole in the wall, and a few inches forward and I’d punch that same hole in my TV screen. To meet the minimum space requirements for Knockout League, you need to be standing 6-8 feet away from your TV, and being able to stretch out your arms and move them around without hitting anything or knocking anything over. At first I was concerned that I wouldn’t get as good a workout if I couldn’t use move around, but that concern went away very quickly.

The opening scene has you in a gym that’s both cartoony and realistic, like a Pixar movie. You can look all around the gym and see trash cans, bulletin boards, water bottles, weights, trophy cabinets, shelves, posters, and mats, with florescent lights above just like a real gym. Your hands turn into boxing gloves, where you can examine them close up down to the laces (okay, I still geek out over just exploring VR worlds…I’m sure my grandkids will look at me like we look at those people in the 1800’s who spent hours looking in amazement at movies of horses running).

You select “New Game” and then you’re asked to enter your height (presumably for the game to get your play area right) and optionally, your weight (for the game to track your calories burned). You then set a name–you get to choose from a pre-determined adjective or honorific (big, little, mr., etc.) and a noun (rebel, princess, lightning, etc.). I suppose this is their way of making sure online leaderboards never have naughty words.

Next, you see a message saying “Get Ready“, with blue arrows of increasing size on the floor leading to you, and a green circle under your feet. This is where you need to double-check if you’re comfortably away from walls and furniture–the green spot marks the place you’ll be standing throughout the game. If you want to change positions, you can select ADJUST.

Next, you find yourself inside a boxing ring face to face (and I mean face to face) with your trainer, “Doug Johnson, the greatest fighter in the history of the Knockout League”. The developers (thankfully) decided not to go down the road of The Fight: Lights Out, which took themselves a little too seriously but it all came undone when you saw the image of tough guy Danny Trejo holding two magic wands. Knockout League channeled Punch-Out!! by creating characters that are over-the-top caricatures, each with their own signature boxing moves and styles.

Your trainer is reminiscent of every boxing trainer you’ve seen in the movies. He’s tough on the outside, but you know he has a heart of gold (and if you peer closely into his mouth, teeth and perhaps a tongue of gold as well). You start out with some tutorial sessions where he teaches you the basics of punching, blocking, and dodging. The mechanics and simple–to punch, you simply throw your punches like you’re really boxing. To block, you need to hold your gloves in front of your face–but the gloves will glow blue, and then quickly turn pink, and then back to normal. You need to time it so that your opponent’s punch hits your gloves when they’re blue. To dodge, you just move your move out of the way of the punch.

It took me a while to get used to it, but I realized it was because I was trying to play “video game boxing” instead of thinking like a real boxer. Once I got more comfortable with the three-dimensional space, I found myself playing more effectively.

There are several rounds of tutorials and training, but you can go right to the fighting as well. Before you fight, there’s one last “Tip From Doug”: “Dodge or block attacks to create openings for your punches, but NEVER chase after your opponent if they stumble backwards“. This is where you need to block your instinct to chase after your opponent.

You start off in a room where you can see pictures of your next three opponents and watch “films” that talk about them (on a wide movie theater screen, no less). You’ll also see your current opponent’s name, the number of wins you have against him, the best time, the fewest hits, and the best score. Press the red RIGHT button to continue.

Your opponent comes face to face (and I mean face-to-face) with you. You can see your and your opponents health indicator in the corner.

As with Punch-Out!!, you’ll find yourself facing quirky opponent after quirky opponent. Also similar to Punch-Out!!, you’re not really “boxing” as much as you’re finding repetitive patterns in your opponent, and strategically punching, blocking, and dodging at the right times (in fact, if you try to punch your opponent’s face without blocking first, you’ll be hard-pressed to land a thing).

Those who are expecting a Wii Sports-like “flail your arms wildly at your opponent until he goes down” will be disappointed, as are those who might be expecting a completely accurate boxing simulation. But IMO, it was brilliant of the game designers to go with a winning formula introduced with Punch-Out!! Once you start noticing mastering the whole idea of studying your opponent’s moments weaknesses and attacking them, and studying your opponent’s strengths and finding ways to counter them, the game becomes boatload of fun–and very addictive. Also similar to Punch-Out!!, your opponent starts to annoy you so much that you don’t want to stop until you can get the satisfaction of kicking the snot out of him.

There is a bit of a learning curve with the game. It took me a while to even get through the tutorial in one shot, and it took me about a dozen tries before I figured out how to beat the first opponent, Tri-Tip (the epiphany for me was when I realized I can literally duck UNDER an opponent’s punch–glancing out of the corner of my eye at his glove going over my body–and then counter with a barrage of punches. This is not your grandfather’s boxing game.

The video doesn’t do the VR justice. With your PSVR glasses on, you can look right into the eyes of your opponent where it seems like his face is only a couple inches from yours.

As for fitness, wow. Up to now, the most sweaty I’ve gotten on a PSVR game other than VirZOOM was SuperHOT, where it’d take me an hour of play to build up a sweat. With this game, within seconds my heart was pounding, my arms were sore, and I was perspiring profusely (and this on a wintry day outside with the ceiling fan going).

From the first video game I reviewed on this blog many years ago, I’ve said that the holy grail for video game exercise is having a game so fun that you don’t realize you’re exercising. Knockout League represents the pinnacle of that dream. This is as real an experience as you can get without actually having to have your head punched in over and over again.

Knockout League was developed by Grab Games and Vive Studios. I love the fact that they decided to release the game for all major VR platforms, and not just the HTC Vive. So everyone with a PSVR, HTC Vive, or Oculus can play it, and at less than $30 it’s a steal compared to much lower quality PSVR games being sold in stores.

Knockout Leagues easily gets a 5 out of 5 stars. If you enjoyed Punch-Out!! on the original NES, and if you’re looking for one of the best upper body video game workouts of all time, you are going to love it. PSVR owners can download it at the Playstation Store.