Alekon is a beautiful 3D creature collector game in the vein of Pokémon Snap, in which the objective is to take photos of whimsical creatures in order to bring them to life in your collection, and then complete the various puzzles and quests that they offer.

Alekon was released on the Steam store around the time when Pokémon Snap received its own sequel on Nintendo Switch, namely New Pokémon Snap and it looks like it manages to bring strong competition to Bandai Namco’s already popular games. While I didn’t have a chance to directly experience the original, I would still dare to say that Alekon represents an improved version of it, not only through the adorable art style but also through the fact that the gameplay was slightly altered, in my opinion – for the better.

In both games the idea is that you have several islands to visit, full of fantastical creatures that you can snapshot. You travel on a predetermined path, and take photos of what you can see around you by rotating the camera from the on-rails first-person perspective. The mechanics revolve around precision-timing your shots so that your pictures frame the creature perfectly in terms of size, angle and pose. Your pictures will then be assessed and graded, and for each of them you will receive a certain number of creativity points that will be used further to access new areas. Having to click at that exact millisecond in order to obtain a 10-grade picture can ruin the fun for players that aim to have a more relaxed experience and Alekon addresses this exact flaw that the original games have. While it still features this mechanic, in Alekon the player unlocks a new mode after a few runs through a level and after they manage to collect a certain amount of snapshots – “Wander mode” – which enables free roaming movement inside a level and interacting with the creatures from a close range. I absolutely love the degree of flexibility and the exploration aspect that the game offers and the fact that the timed restriction has been waived, while also keeping the classic mechanic during the first tries.

There are over 50 creatures to collect in Alekon and each of them has unique features and a distinctive personality, quite different from the Pokemons. After unlocking them, the player will be able to talk to them, solve their puzzles or help them with quests. Despite the adorably cute, family-friendly graphics, this is not a game for kids. Interacting with the creatures, taking pictures of them and some of the puzzles are probably enjoyable for younger players, but some of the dialogues and minigames are clearly aimed at more experienced players: philosophical debates or haggling, a borderline painful platforming sequence, a rings toss game that calls for precision, rhythm games that require speed and focus, whack-a-mole in which good reflexes are necessary are certainly not expected to be beaten by novice players due to their increased difficulty level.

Each creature has several poses / animations, and for completion purposes you’ll be required to unlock all of them, with the highest rating possible. In order to do that, you can throw donuts at them (another staple mechanic of Pokemon Snap games) in order to make them do funny animations or expressions, or change their position. The compendium of creatures will show you exactly what types of poses you still need to unlock, but it will not tell you how to do so. The rating can also be improved by taking better pictures of the same pose as the ones you already have in your collection.

For achievement hunters that aim to obtain all achievements, the game can seem grindy – plus some of the minigames are skill-based and will require practice, patience and endurance. However, it’s also highly addictive and even if you will need to repeat a level course several times, the Wander mode makes it much easier to capture the missing poses and explore areas or angles otherwise unreachable from your on-rail camera, thus enabling you to complete your collection in a very relaxed way.

It’s a game that can enrapture you for hours yet one which you can stop playing any time. Due to its flexible design of individual quests / tasks / minigames, it can also be played in short bursts. Overall, it’s a wonderful experience and a must-try for fans of Pokemon Snap games (and not only). As a person that doesn’t own a Nintendo Switch, I am very happy with this much more affordable alternative, yet of comparable quality to Pokémon Snap games.

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