Magikarp Jump review: But nothing happened

Credit: The Pokemon Company
Credit: The Pokemon Company /

Magikarp Jump makes a strong first impression, but you’ll quickly run out of reasons to keep Splashing along through this mobile game…if it can be called a game.

Developer: The Pokemon Company
Publisher: The Pokemon Company
Platforms: Android (Version reviewed), iOS
Release Date: May 24, 2017

When Nintendo whispered about The Pokemon Company having more of a mobile presence this year, I wasn’t expecting Magikarp Jump to be the immediate realization of those mutterings. The game has been rumored for months out of Japan, but it was only after an English dubbing of The Magikarp Song that dropped in Japanese last year (much to the Internet’s bemusement) that The Pokemon Company finally showed their hand. Unfortunately, our desires for another mobile Pokemon game did not result in anything I would actually define as a “game.”

Magikarp Jump puts you in the shoes of a young trainer from a village where everyone raises Magikarp. Since Magikarp are worthless in battle, these trainers instead teach their Magikarp to jump (via their iconic Splash attack) as high as possible, then compete with them in leagues designed to test their jumping abilities against other Magikarps.

The game consists of one repetitive loop, as follows:

  1. Fish up a Magikarp from a pond
  2. Level it up
    1. Have it eat berries that fall into its pond at regular intervals
    2. Train it (available on a timer) in one of several different activities
  3. Take it to the league, and have it compete
  4. Once it either finishes a league or loses badly enough, it retires and you get a new Magikarp. Repeat.

Some of those activities sound vaguely fun to read about until you play the game and realize that literally every one of them is accomplished by simply pushing a button on the screen. Training does not involve any skill or actual gameplay. You push the train button, tap through some dialogue boxes, and you’re done. Leagues? Tap through some excruciatingly repetitive dialogue each time to finally jump, and either win or lose based on how high your JP (Jump Points) and level are. Berry-eating, oddly, requires the most interaction in the entire game, as you must tap each onscreen berry to devour it.

magikarp jump
Credit: The Pokemon Company /

And this loop is the entire summation of Magikarp Jump. Finishing leagues increases your trainer level, allowing you to fish up Magikarp with higher and higher potential each time. Bonuses to JP can also be accrued from an in-game store (with currency acquired via microtransaction or gameplay) or as rewards for finishing leagues, but these rewards don’t enhance the game any. They just make it easier to speed through the lower levels of Magikarp training, only so you can grind out the last few before max level and a league challenge that, at higher levels, only takes you one or two battles farther each time.

I have to ask, what is the point of all this? There is no skill involved, neither intellectual or control-wise. There is no story to uncover, no surprising reward for progressing further except for the guise of more efficient training, which is quickly swallowed up in how much JP it will take to get to the next level. Heck, the game is even rife with traps you can fall into via Random Events, where you can choose to either pursue a reward or not, with the chance of having your Magikarp’s run ended prematurely if you get greedy.

Credit: The Pokemon Company
Credit: The Pokemon Company /

As The Magikarp Song itself states: “Why jump? What’s the point when nobody cares?”

Perhaps that’s an accusation you could throw at most mobile games, but I’d argue that good mobile titles that are light in the gameplay department at least offer some incentive to keep opening the app again and again. There’s some new thing to discover, some fresh idea, or some reward. Magikarp Jump’s leagues, berries, training programs, and even the Magikarp themselves are all the same thing again and again, just with bigger numbers. Magikarp Jump may be comparable to a clicker title in this regard, except in this case you’re just clicking through dialogue, and the result is the same every single time.

If Magikarp Jump were actually a game, I would be impressed by its polish, at least. Being from The Pokemon Company, you are not continuously subject to ads, and the microtransactions are subtle and painless and unnecessary (unless you want to complete repetitive gameplay loops faster, for some reason). The writing is witty and self-effacing in an enjoyable way the first time you read it. Once you’ve seen the same dialogue fifty darn times, though, you’ll just wish you could skip to the part where your Magikarp gains the JP. Yes, we get it, Magikarp is weak and useless, and it’s funny. Har har.

magikarp jump
Credit: The Pokemon Company /

For all the goofy dialogue, though, there’s a seriously dark element at play in Magikarp Jump, too. On the one hand, your initial impression of Magikarp Jump drowns in cuteness, with adorable, child-like animations and cute Pokemon cheering for you as you jump. But then a Pigeotto swoops down and literally kills your Magikarp. It is dead. You do not take it to the Pokemon Center to revive it. It does not appear in your pond, happily retired. It is Gone. You cheerfully trot on down to the pond and replace it with another. You do the same thing whenever another Magikarp is no longer useful to you, resulting in a depressing cycle of pet replacement that teaches zero good lessons about how to treat beloved animal comrades. Don’t worry, kids, it’s okay to get rid of your pets as long as they are useless like Magikarp!

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I’m halfway through the leagues Magikarp Jump has to offer, but it was time for me to stop long ago. The game only gets grindier and more repetitive from here on out, and I’ve already seen just about every dialogue box in the game a good twenty times or more. I don’t know what The Pokemon Company could do to improve this experience, even if they do have updates of some sort planned. More patterns or Support Pokemon will not resolve the fact that Magikarp Jump is about as useless as Magikarp itself. As The Magikarp Song itself states: “Why jump? What’s the point when nobody cares?”

5. Magikarp Jump can barely be called a game and is instead more of an exercise in scrolling through endless text boxes. While a cheery aesthetic and some admittedly clever writing can keep you engaged for a few league’s worth of jumping, there’s simply not enough to this game to merit your attention for longer than a few days at best. At least, unlike the Magikarp, you can buy in the main games for 500 Pokedollars, with Magikarp Jump you get what you pay for.. The Pokemon Company. . Magikarp Jump

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