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It was a sunny day of Pokémon catching — not too hot, but plenty warm enough to facilitate around 10km of Cyndaquill, Swinub, Charmander and the occasional Sneasel. Pokémon GO’s fire and ice-themed Solstice Event has been live for a little over a day now, offering up the usual suite of spawn changes and reward tweaks in advance of the big anniversary event. Soon, we’ll get some new collaborative gameplay options for the gym system and hopefully with them some new ways to play for a game that hasn’t really added any since launch. But for right now we’ve got a nice moment to prepare for that big change by boosting your level. And to that end, I find myself having a great time with the throw bonus that’s become sort of the centerpiece of the event.

For the next week, the game is offering up 3 times the XP for catching Pokémon, as well as 3 times the XP for nice, great, and excellent throws, as well as curveballs and first throws. Combine those with a discounted Lucky Egg, and you’re racking up 6 times the XP for all your catch-related actions, making wandering around catching Pokémon a pretty efficient way to gain XP. What I like about it is that it leans into some of the actual gameplay of Pokémon GO: trying to throw a Pokéball accurately and deciding what size target to shoot for. Normally, the bonuses are never quite high enough to care. With this event, it’s just enough that it feels genuinely satisfying to land a curveball right in that little circle.

The key thing is that this isn’t quite an across-the-board XP bonus: specifically, you don’t get any special bonus XP for evolving. That’s important because it removes the temptation to spend those Lucky Eggs on sitting around mindlessly navigating your Pokédex, which was always the most boring — if efficient — way to gain XP in the game. I’m not positive that these bonuses make it more efficient to run around catching, but it at least brings it to close enough parity that it feels at least as productive.

XP bonuses occupy an interesting spot in the game right now: they’re not much use for the hardcore set, who bounded over level 30 months ago, but they can serve a valuable function getting casual and midcore players up to speed, which could be useful if the gyms become remotely worthwhile with this next update. We could all use some Stardust, however. Also, as a complete aside, I like how the basic setup of the event — Winter and Summer Solstices — play into the game’s worldwide character.

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