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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Pokémon Smile's “Let the camera see your face!” Made Me Pokémon Frown

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Can you help? ...And would my dentist even approve?

The announcement that I found to be the most hype from yesterday's Pokémon Presents was Pokémon Smile. Why? Because I already am on the record (and photographed it) as a supporter and practitioner of integrating Pokémon and oral care. Pokémon Smile was made for me. (Well, besides the whole “it's for little kids assisted by their parents” bit.) Even better, it's full of cute artwork, which is another thing I really appreciate.

Pokémon Smile starters Bulbasaur Charmander Squirtle Pikachu Eevee
Here are the Starter Pokémon you can choose from.
I, of course, went with Squirtle.
Pokémon Smile artwork Pikachu Snorlax Slowpoke Pidgey Lapras Vulpix Onix Exeggutor Psyduck Jigglypuff Mewoth Scyther Dewgong Gengar Charizard Electabuzz Metapod Poliwag Aerodactyl Sandshrew
Do you think little kids only care about the first generation?
(From left-to-right row-by-row:
Pikachu, Snorlax, Slowpoke, Pidgey, Lapras.
Vulpix, Onix, Exeggutor, Psyduck, Jigglypuff.
Meowth, Scyther, Dewgong, Gengar, Charizard.
Electabuzz, Metapod, Poliwag, Aerodactyl, Sandshrew.)

Here's the downside. The game didn't even work. (Scroll to the bottom of the article for an update.) I get stuck at this screen:

Pokémon Smile let the camera see your face stuck
It's not that I don't have a face or anything. I'm not a Shy Guy. Or Allister.
But the camera doesn't work at all, even though Pokémon Smile has the permission for it.

It doesn't matter if I restart my smartphone or uninstall and reinstall Pokémon Smile. It doesn't matter if I'm holding a toothbrush or I'm standing in very good lighting. In fact, it doesn't matter if I'm grinning or scowling. I'll always get stuck at the point where I have to let the camera see my face, with a giant grey circle impeding progress. And I can confirm that my smartphone's selfie camera does work, though I won't share that imagery on this site. That notice, despite the white glove touching it, isn't a touchable button, either.

Thus, I can't actually use Pokémon Smile, which is infuriating. (Though I brushed my teeth anyway.)

My smartphone should be able to work. It's a Samsung Galaxy S6 running Android 7.0. This meets Pokémon Smile's minimum requirement of Android 6.0, though they also note that compatibility and functionality is not guaranteed, even on devices that meet the requirements. How... lame. The game has many one-star reviews similarly noting they have trouble on the exact same spot that I do.

But on top of that, even if the app did work, Pokémon Smile isn't compatible with my (or any) electric toothbrush that my dentist specifically recommended to me because it's superior to a manual toothbrush. Basically, The Pokémon Company wants you (and/or your kids) to form good tooth-brushing habits, but only around inferior toothbrushes that my dentist has told me for years to stop using because they're ineffective.

I guess I'll have to settle for Pokémon Café Mix for my cute Pokémon fix. ...Oh, it doesn't support TV mode or the Pro Controller since you gotta use the touch screen? Nevermind, screw that. 

Major article update, June 25, 2020:

Pokémon Smile got an update (version 1.0.3), and to my surprise, Pokémon Smile actually works now. I appear on the camera! (And you're not getting a screenshot of that.) The game asks you to brush certain areas of your teeth within a one-minute, two-minute, or three-minute total time (you can pretty much do whatever you want and it won't know any better). I used my electric toothbrush, but the game didn't seem to know the difference. The biggest challenge is actually putting the mobile device in a position where your face is in the frame. I brush my teeth in front of a big sink. Where am I supposed to put the phone? I put it behind the sink's faucet, but that means I basically have to squat low enough so I'm in view.

Pokémon Smile you caught a Rattata
My tooth count is closer to Rattata's than a human's.

Going back to how it suggests you to brush in certain areas throughout the experience, Pokémon Smile notably doesn't inquire about how much teeth someone actually has. It was basically a two-minute non-interactive screen saver of Squirtle bubbling at plaque monsters. At the end, a Rattata appeared, and I caught it with a Master Ball.

Basically, do you want a screen saver while you brush your teeth? Yes? Then play Pokémon Smile. I don't think it's making me brush my teeth any more than I would usually, though. 

Pokémon Smile sticker gift brush for the first time tomorrow Pikachu
Brush again tomorrow? Not tonight? Well, alright...

Ludwig absolutely loathes mobile gaming, and situations like this is emblematic of why. If anyone wants to pass along a picture of a Pokémon Smile Tauros (assuming Tauros is even in the game), please do so in the comments section.

There's a picture of Ludwig using the app taken from the in-app photo-taker!
How well does Pokémon Smile actually create good tooth-brushing habits in its players? Read our review about that.
Pokémon Smile got updated two years later to include Johto Pokémon.


  1. I hope they patch this, I was hoping to use it too.

    1. Not sure if they'll ever touch the game again!

      They certainly don't plan on content updates, according to their support site.

    2. They DID do an update to the game, and so I did an update to my article.

    3. Yessssssss totally gonna download it then!

    4. How's that register on your "looking forward to it" scale? >_>

    5. "Oh, this is a neat thing, I'd like to check it out" out of Genuinely Looking Forward To It. (It's a very subjective scale :P )

    6. For reference, with the highest rating being Genuinely Looking Forward To It, the LOWEST rating is "Yeah, I super don't care." The rating given to Pokemon Smile is somewhere in the middle.

  2. All Pokémon Smile artwork (all 151 Pokémon from Gen 1 are present) including Tauros:

  3. Are you sure it's noninteractive? We chose Bulbasaur and Bulbasaur does not use razor leaf at the plaqued Pokémon if my daughter stops brushing her teeth, if she is too slow the attacks come out slower. One night she was fast enough to whipe away the smaller Pokémon quarding the boss Pokémon and to clear the boss Pokémon of its purple but last night she was too slow so smaller Pokémon kept showing up taking Bulbasaur's attacks instead of the boss.

    The trailer suggests it is made for young children and their parents supervising them. I hold the phone and track her face while she focuses on brushing and fighting the plaque Pokémon. She used to resist brushing her molars now when reminded she actually does because this game encouraged her.

    1. It's noninteractive in the sense that if you just brush your teeth the way you would if there wasn't a smartphone in front of you, you'll pass it, as opposed to taking Pokémon Smile into account.

      In this sense, it's like Jump Rope Challenge where you don't need to be jumping but you'll still succeed. I'll keep, uh, brushing my teeth and see if it's any different, though since I don't have a supervising parent on-claw to hold the phone up for me, it's physically uncomfortable. >.>


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