I tried playing Jewel’s Pokemon Explorer – and ended up loving everything but the long loading time

The exclusive Pokemon Explorer sticker: my reward for not completing the game.
Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Apart from shopping at Singapore’s first Pokemon Center, fans now have one more reason to visit Jewel Changi Airport: to play the Singapore-exclusive mobile game, Pokemon Explorer.

The game, which was jointly developed by Jewel Changi Airport and The Pokemon Company, was officially launched on July 10, but has been available to the public since July 1.

Given the popularity of Pokemon Go – which was released by games developer Niantic – I wondered if this shopping mall game could compare, as it sounded like it was designed for kids.

To find out, I visited Jewel to play Pokemon Explorer over an evening – and ended up loving it, except for a couple of tech hiccups.

Here’s how the evening went:


I visited Jewel Changi Airport at 5pm on a Thursday to take on Pokemon Explorer.

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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Resisting the urge to join the queue for Shake Shack, I stopped by the concierge counter on Level 2 (near the main entrance) to rent a free power bank first.

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Please, please do this if you didn’t bring one along. Like Pokemon Go, this game will drain your battery faster than water flows down Jewel’s Rain Vortex.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

To access the game, I downloaded the Jewel Changi app, then pressed on a small tab on the home page featuring Pikachu and Eevee.

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Pressing the button with Pikachu and Eevee on the Jewel app (left) will send you to the Pokemon Explorer page (right).
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

After picking a partner Pokemon, the app directed me to look for Pokemon standees across Jewel, and scan them to unlock mini-games.

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There are 25 partner Pokemon to pick from. This Pokemon cannot be changed once the game starts.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

The home page then showed up, with a map of where the Pokemon standees were in Jewel. There were 10 in total, each represented by a different Pokemon.

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The map also showed the location of the Pokemon Center (Level 4) and an upcoming new standee on Level 3.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Here’s where the game immediately started to get difficult. While the map showed the general area of the standees, they were well-hidden.

A Jewel rep confirmed this was done on purpose to make the game more challenging.

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Overall, I spent a ton of time finding those darn standees, compared to playing the mini games.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

I ended up staring at the loading screen a lot during the whole experience. (It pops up every time you start and exit a game.)

Per game, I spent about 15 minutes waiting for the app to load, but it could have been due to the fact the game needs 2GB of phone storage space, which I’m not sure I had.

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While you’re waiting, you could try tapping on Pikachu and watch him jump. That’s what I ended up doing for over an hour of collective waiting.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

When the first game – a fishing game – finally loaded, I was blown away by the high-quality graphics, and how much the designers had worked to incorporate places in Jewel in the background.

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The recreated forest valley looked very similar to the actual one.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

I quickly realised the games were actually quite difficult. At the fishing game, I only caught one miserly Tentacool.

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“I was trying to take screenshots for this article while doing it,” is what I told myself.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Here’s a mini-waterfall in Jewel’s forest valley…

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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

… and its in-game equivalent, involving the player trying to catch a shiny Magikarp (a nod to Pokemon Gold and Silver).

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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

In another game, I had to bounce Igglybuff on small trampolines up a tree – a great reference to the Manulife Sky Nets attraction in real life.

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10 points for relevance!
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Some of the games involved tracking facial movements, and often resulted in players looking something like this:

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Cute for kid players, embarrassing for adult ones.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

It quickly became apparent I was terrible at all the games – including one where players had to locate Pokemon in a dark maze.

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They ran away all the time.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Appropriately, this game sat next to an actual maze in Jewel’s Canopy Park.

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Because where else? Also, I played it at night, and it was actually quite scary.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

As the sky got darker and darker, I was still trudging through the games, including one themed after a berry forest.

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Combining Alolan Exeggutor with actual palm trees? Very apt.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

I’m not kidding, the games were actually hard. Here’s my score for the berry game.

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Shamefully, a kid beside me scored way better than I did. By this point, I had started to regret thinking that Pokemon Explorer was an easy game.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

To be fair, some games were easy, like this one, which just involved taking a photo.

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I took a photo of the Rain Vortex. It didn’t turn out so good.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Unfortunately for fans, four of the 10 games are sitting in Canopy Park – which you’ll need to pay S$4.50 to enter.

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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

My absolute favorite game of the evening was Pikachu’s Speeding Slides, which had some wicked graphics.

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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Here’s where I realised coming in the evening meant the game was super-challenging. Once Canopy Park got dark, it was nearly impossible to find the standees.

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No standee, no game to play.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Worse, the standees were cleverly designed to look like actual (non-Pokemon) standees dotted around Canopy Park. I felt like I had unlocked an ultra-hard playing mode – but the added difficulty was exciting.

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An stan dee with information about the plants in Canopy Park  (left) and a temporary standee for the Pokemon Explorer game (right).
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

I tried extremely hard to find a standee supposedly located near this pond, but couldn’t see a thing. The same thing happened at the Foggy Bowls attraction.

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I felt like an old person looking for their glasses.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

By the way, here’s what that pond looks like in the daytime.

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Ah yes, actual light.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

After searching to no avail for 30 minutes, I gave up finding the last two standees and went the Pokemon Center to claim my prize – which turned out to be an exclusive laptop sticker.

Overall, I finished eight out of 10 games after a tiring 3.5 hours.

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Players who complete at least one game can get the prize.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Players who complete all 10 games get listed on a ranking screen outside the Pokemon Center, which shows the 10 highest scores.

Jewel said that once the rankings stabilise, the Pokemon Center will award the all-time top 10 players with special gifts.

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As the game is relatively new, players are currently still moving in and out of the top 10 rankings.
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Would I return to challenge the current #1? Maybe not. My total score was under 1,000.

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I was exhausted. How did they do it?
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Business Insider/Rachel Genevieve Chia

Overall, Pokemon Explorer turned out to be tons harder and longer to play than I expected – which was both good and bad.

Pokemon cut no corners on the graphics of this game, which was beautifully detailed, immersive, and well-designed.

The mini games turned out to be pleasantly challenging for adults as well as kids, and were  quite addictive. I was sorely tempted to re-play many of them to get a better score.

Unfortunately, I may have underestimated the game’s difficulty, as it took a long time to find the standees, wait for the game to load, and then play.

The loading time on my phone was a key reason I didn’t have a lot of fun, as the games and home page took ages to load. Sometimes the screen hung or the game exited by itself, meaning I had to start the loading process all over again.

To be fair, Jewel did advise that your phone should have enough memory space for the game files, and maybe mine didn’t. I also left other apps running while playing the game, which could have made it slower.

Worse, another friend couldn’t play the game at all because none of the mini-games would activate.

But apart from from the tech hiccups, Pokemon Explorer turned out to be a great way to spend time in Jewel.

My advice for serious players: budget enough time to go at it leisurely, instead of dashing from floor to floor, trying to finish before the Canopy Park closes (like I did). Those set on getting into the top 10 list should even consider spending the entire day there.


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