The Pokéball Plus may be the year's hottest accessory for Pokéman fans, but peripheral maker Datel has released a device which, if you're only looking to play Pokémon GO, could end up being more appealing. The Go-tcha Ranger is the sequel to the standard (and totally unofficial) Go-tcha, which basically aped the functionality of the Pokémon GO Plus but came with the added benefit of auto-catching of 'mon and auto-collecting at Pokéstops.
As you'll know if you've used the GO Plus, you have to push a button to perform actions like making capture attempts and spinning nearby Pokéstops. The Go-tcha removes this limitation, which means you (in theory) shouldn't miss a capture or spin, but also takes away the one piece of interaction you have with the app. Some may see this as a positive, while others will no doubt come to the conclusion that it lessens the experience; the Pokémon GO Plus already simplifies the core Pokémon GO challenge, and the Go-tcha takes this to the next extreme by totally removing the need for any input from the player.
The Go-tcha Ranger retains this core functionality but adds in some other interesting features. The most obvious is the inclusion of a 1200mAh rechargeable battery which not only gives the unit prolonged stamina when compared to the standard Go-tcha, but also means you can top up your smartphone's ailing battery when you're out and about. The issue here is that with a capacity of just 1200mAh, it won't totally replenish your phone's juice; as an example, on our Samsung Galaxy S9+, a fully-charged Go-tcha Ranger took the phone's battery from around 60 to 80 percent before it stopped charging. Naturally, if you rely on this device to extend the longevity of your handset then it will use up all of its own power, rendering it almost useless until you next return home.
We say almost useless as the Go-tcha Ranger also has a compass on the top which naturally doesn't require battery power to function. There's also an LED flashlight which is activated by holding down a button on the top of the unit, positioned next to the OLED touchscreen which is identical to the one seen on the original Got-cha. How much you'll use these two features is debatable – the LED light is quite weak – but it's nice to know they're present all the same. Finally, there's a removable strap at the top complete with a keyring, so you can safely secure the Go-tcha Ranger to your keys or bag.
Both charging and topping-up are handled by two cables which clip into the sides of the device. The left-hand cable features a USB connection which can be used to replenish the Go-tcha Ranger's battery, while the right-hand cable features a Micro USB connection for charging other devices. Inside the box you'll also find adapters for the Apple Lightning connector and the more recent USB Type-C connection. There's a little plastic keyring for the former which can be attached to the Ranger's metal ring, but nothing for the latter – so if you have a phone with a Type-C port and you intend to charge on the move, you'll need to make sure it's put somewhere safe in the meantime.
The unit itself feels rather light, and is covered in a matte-feel plastic which picks up greasy fingerprints fast; compared to the bright colours seen on the official Pokémon GO Plus, it appears rather muted and boring, but that may not be a negative for those players who love the game but don't want to be judged by the rest of humankind for having a flashing child's toy on their wrist. The Go-tcha Ranger is small and lightweight enough to slip into your pocket, but the vibration which accompanies each catch and spin attempt is really loud, so you may wish to make sure you have that turned off if you're in a quiet environment.
When it comes to changing the settings of the Go-tcha Ranger, you can use the touchscreen (which, it should be noted, is almost impossible to see in bright sunlight) to toggle things on and off, such as auto-catching, auto-spinning of Pokéstops and even the connection to your phone. The unit has two 'catch' choices; you can, if you so wish, prevent the Ranger from catching any monster that already exists in your Pokédex. Likewise, you can choose to take the alternate approach and avoid wasting auto-catches (which are done with standard Pokéballs and therefore give you the weakest chance of success) on 'mon you've yet to meet; in these cases, you'll ideally want to use your phone for the best chance of bagging the elusive beast.
The other big news with this updated unit is that Datel has released a companion smartphone app which allows you to change settings from your phone, as well as update the firmware of the Go-tcha Ranger – the rather counterintuitive catch is that you have to disconnect the device from Pokémon GO entirely, otherwise Datel's app can't interact with it. The app keeps track of statistics related to the use of the Go-tcha Ranger too, but strangely it doesn't tell you how much battery life is left – something that would have been really useful. Naturally, the stamina of the Go-tcha Ranger will vary depending on how much you use it, and in what way; if you don't want to sacrifice any of the battery life to top-up your phone's stamina then you'll be pleasantly surprised at how long this thing can last between charges - we're talking weeks rather than months. While the official Pokémon GO Plus device has impressive stamina, it's reliant on a battery which has to be replaced when it's out of juice – with the Go-tcha Ranger, you don't have this added hassle (although it goes without saying that even rechargeable batteries have a finite lifespan). While we're on the subject, it's worth noting that two members of the Nintendo Life team found their original Go-tcha devices refused to charge after a few months; it remains to be seen if similar reliability issues will impact this new model. (UPDATE: Yep, our Ranger unit died within a year of ownership. Not great, right?)
While there are plenty of elements here that could be a lot better, the fact remains that the Go-tcha Ranger – like the standard Go-tcha before it – performs its function brilliantly. If you want to be able to catch 'mon and spin stops when you're out and about but don't want to have to keep pressing a button in order to do so, then this device will suit you down to the ground; it might sound lazy but there are legitimate situations – such as driving a car – where interacting with a Pokémon GO Plus could put you at serious risk; the Go-tcha's automated system avoids this danger and takes the effort out of playing the game – but when you've got a device which is doing the bulk of the work for you, are you really playing at all?
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