Pokémon Snap is, at its core, a game in which the player travels along a set track and takes pictures of many different types of Pokémon in the hopes of scoring enough points to unlock new locations and items. Players take on the role of Todd Snap who is called by Professor Oak to an unknown island to study the different types of Pokémon who live on it. Of course, the only way to do this is to take pictures of them or to "snap" a picture while riding a buggy named "Zero-One." Up to 60 pictures can be taken per visit to a location with the best pictures able to be submitted for scoring. Items are also used by the player to interact with the pokémon potentially allowing higher scores or level advancement.
Pokémon researcher Professor Oak is in his Lab researching pokemon on Pokémon Island when he calls in famous photographer Todd Snap to help him take pictures of the various Pokémon found on the island. Towards the end of the game Professor Oak discovers that there are many mysterious Pokémon "signs" found on the island and he also tasks Todd with catching pictures of these. At the very end Oak gives Todd one last task, he requests that he gets a picture of the elusive Mew in the secret Rainbow Cloud course.
Scoring happens after the end of a level when the player either enters the exit portal at the end of a track or runs out of film to photograph more pokémon, and consists of looking through the pictures you've taken in that level and picking the ones that you feel will receive high marks from Professor Oak. There are five different aspects of scoring which include:
- Special - This includes how rare the Pokémon is. For example you will get more points for taking a picture of Moltres than taking a picture of a common Meowth.
- Size - The bigger the Pokémon is in the frame the more points you will get.
- Pose - If the Pokémon is doing something obscure, like dancing or looking mean, then you get more points.
- Technique - There is only really one basic function to this...if the Pokémon is in the center of the shot, your score is doubled.
- Same Pokémon - If there is more than one of the same Pokémon in the frame you get more points.
There is a total of seven locations in which to take pictures, each with its own type of Pokémon. The seventh level is only unlocked when the player has taken a picture of the "Pokemon Signs" which are objects that look like certain Pokemon. Once all six of the Pokémon Signs are photographed then the seventh level is unlocked where the player then attempts to photograph the rare Mew.
During the course of the game, Professor Oak will give you various items to use to interact with Pokemon in the environment.
- This is a thrown item. It can be used as bait to lure Pokémon toward particular places, or to bring them out of hiding. You can also hit Pokémon with the apple to get their attention. It is infact an apple-shaped ball of Pokémon food.
- This is another thrown item which, upon contact, explodes into a powder-like deterrent. This works best for driving Pokémon out of hiding and into the open, although it will usually agitate them.
- The poke flute plays melodies that Pokémon respond to differently. Some will dance, others may come out of hiding, and famously when you play to Snorlax it will awaken from its sleep for a much better photo op.
Dash Engine The dash engine is an upgrade to your vehicle that allows you a temporary speed boost. This lets you advance through areas more quickly when the need arises. If you are in danger of hitting a Pokémon on the track, the vehicle will automatically stop, and will wait until the way is clear before it continues.
One criticism leveled at the game at the time of release was concerning the rather low number of Pokemon featured in it. Out of a possible 151 Pokemon (the entire lot back then), only 63 appeared in Pokémon Snap.
The following is a list of the Pokémon that can be found in the game, listed in the order of their appearance in the National Pokedex:
Getting Real Life Versions of Your Pictures
Nintendo started a world wide marketing campaign for the game by allowing people to bring their memory cards to a participating location, for a fee of $3 dollars, and get their pictures developed into a sheet of 16 stickers. Blockbusters in North America, Lawson in Japan, and Toys "R" Us in Australia ran the campaign until 1999. On the Virtual Console version of Pokemon Snap, you have the ability to save your favorite photos on the Wii Message Board and send them to your email or to your friends, giving you a new option to get real life versions of pictures.