Poké Ball Plus Review: Great for Serious Pokémon Trainers

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If you want to get as immersed as possible in the new Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee games on Switch, why not get yourself a real-life Poké Ball? Nintendo's Poké Ball Plus lets you do just that.

This $49 gadget serves as a cute and comfy one-handed controller for the latest Pokémon games, delivering fun vibrations and sound effects every time you catch a new critter. It also tracks your steps when you bring it out into the real world, allowing you to rack up experience points and get items in both Let's Go and the Pokémon Go mobile game.

While it's a bit limited (and pricey) when judged solely as a Switch controller, the Poké Ball Plus is an excellent companion device for serious fans who play tons of Pokémon Let's Go and Pokémon Go and want to get the most out of both games.

I Choose You

The Poké Ball Plus is a well-made and adorable little piece of hardware. The tiny 2-inch ball has a nice heft to it at 2.3 ounces, and it nestled comfortably between my fingers thanks to its cozy soft- touch surface.

There's also a wrist strap and a finger ring to keep the ball in your hands when you're using it to hurl in-game Poké Balls via motion controls. The ball charges via a USB-C port, which is covered by a somewhat flimsy flap.

The ball  has only two buttons: a small joystick nub that doubles as your main action button, and another button up top for bringing up the main menu in Pokémon Let's Go Eevee or Let's Go Pikachu. I found the ball extremely comfortable to use for hours on end while playing Let's Go Eevee — there's just something nice about being able to kick back and play the  game one-handed (though you can do this with a Joy-Con as well).

Of course, one of the biggest draws to the Poké Ball Plus — especially for kids — is what happens when you actually catch a Pokémon with one.

I couldn't help but get giddy every time I heard a Pokémon's battle cry come out of the ball whenever I caught one.

The Plus serves as an accurate motion controller for tossing in-game Poké Balls, but what's even cooler are the vibrations, LED patterns and sound effects that combine to make you feel like there's actually little Pokémon bouncing around in the palm of your hand. The haptic clicks and flashing lights that occur every time you make a catch are satisfying, and, because I'm a grown child, I couldn't help but get giddy every time I heard a Pokémon's battle cry come out of the ball whenever I caught one.

I do have some minor gripes with the Poké Ball Plus. For one, the joystick is small and sensitive, which sometimes made me pick the wrong item when navigating menus or trying to enter text.

The ball's two buttons are all you need for playing through the Let's Go games, but the limited controls mean you can't use it to open the game's settings menu, go to the Switch's home screen, or shut the system down. Don't expect to use it on other Switch games besides Pokémon, either.

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Using a single Joy-Con with the game is just as comfortable, and gives you access to more functionality. You'll even get the same cool HD rumble effects while catching Pokémon, just without the fun lights and sounds that come with the ball.

Ready for Adventure

While the Poké Ball Plus has some limitations as a video game controller, it's absolutely magical as a companion device for when you shut your game off and venture out into the real world.

Thanks to the ball's built-in accelerometer, you can use it to take any of your Pokémon from the Let's Go games for a "stroll" and earn experience points for them based on how many steps you rack up. Better yet, the Poké Ball Plus also syncs  with the Pokémon Go mobile game, allowing you to track steps, spin Poké stops and catch Pokémon all without having to take your phone out.

While the Poké Ball Plus has some limitations as a video game controller, it's absolutely magical as a companion device for when you venture out into the real world.

After a day of walking around Manhattan with the ball in my pocket, I was delighted to come home and find that my Geodude shot up from level 13 all the way to level 23 just from my step count. It also helped me scoop up a ton of items and experience points in Pokémon Go. As someone who has a limited amount of time to actually play Pokémon Let's Go, I appreciate that the ball lets me make some sort of progress in the game while I'm out doing my daily routine.

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It's also important to note that buying a Poké Ball Plus gives you instant access to Mew, the iconic, typically hard-to-find psychic Pokémon, in the Let's Go games. This certainly adds value to the overall package and gives you a nice in-game boost out of the gate, but it could spoil the fun for folks who are looking forward to the challenge discovering Mew themselves.

Bottom Line

When I first started using my Poké Ball Plus with my copy of Pokémon Let's Go Eevee, I found it to be a novel but limited and not totally necessary add-on. Now, I barely leave the house without it.

Nintendo's $49 companion device serves as a cute and comfortable controller for playing the latest Pokémon adventure on Switch, but the real draw of it is being able to gather experience points and earn items — in both the Let's Go and Go games — just by walking around.

If you're only playing Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu or Let's Go Eevee, and don't care much about the step-tracking capabilities, then your existing Joy-Con will serve you fine. But if you play tons of Pokémon on both Switch and mobile, the Poké Ball Plus is an awesomely adorable accessory that lets you get more out of both games by simply having fun in the real world.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.