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We put Pokemon Smile face-to-face with kids. They weren’t impressed

If you’re trying to get your children to brush their teeth, the new Pokémon Smile is designed to be a solution.

I tried it out with two of my children and based on our rigorous testing, I can say it may be a solution — once. But by the end of their teeth-brushing session, it became clear Pokémon Smile, adorable as it may be, might not be a long-term fix.

The Pokémon Company unveiled Pokémon Smile on Wednesday alongside a variety of other Pokémon-related announcements, including a new Pokémon Snap game, a mobile title called Pokémon Cafe Mixand others. Pokémon Smile is a free app available in both Apple’s App Store and Google Play that features a variety of Pokémon characters and encourages children to improve their tooth-brushing skills.

Although I have three children, two of them have always been loath to brush their teeth. But they love video games. So, obviously, we had to give Pokémon Smile a try.

When I downloaded the game from the App Store, I was asked to input information about my kids, including their dates of birth. I’m not quite sure why that’s relevant, so I skipped that option and moved on to asking them to choose their favorite Pokémon characters. One of my sons chose Pikachu and the other opted for Squirtle.

Next up, it was time to brush their teeth. My older son, armed with Pikachu, went first and started brushing. The game first shows a practice display to help players get a sense of how it works. With Pikachu on his head, he brushed away.

Once the practice round was over, it was time to brush. The game features a 90-second countdown with purple bacteria sitting atop virtual teeth. My son could see himself on the screen, thanks to the front-facing camera, and watched as he brushed away the bacteria. Along the way, he had Pikachu sitting on his head, which entertained him for a while.

Still, as the clock counted down, I could see him tiring of this game. Yes, he was brushing away the bacteria, but he kept looking at me to see if he could stop. I relented.

The same happened with my younger son. The idea of having Squirtle sitting on his head for a minute or so tickled him. And he made some faces while he was brushing. But again, the countdown proved too long and again, I relented and told him he could stop before his time was up.

But that’s not to say Pokémon Smile was an outright failure. These are two boys that can’t stand to brush their teeth. And if they do it, we’re lucky to have them brushing for more than 30 seconds. What’s more, if we’re not there to watch them, there’s a good chance they’re not doing it right.

Pokémon Smile was able to get them to brush for longer than they normally would. Better yet, it gave them a guide of where to brush in their mouths, so they could more easily get the job done. When they were finished with our little test, they had definitely brushed their teeth better than they normally would on their own.

But to say Pokémon Smile is a real solution for actually getting kids to brush their teeth doesn’t quite hold up. And when I asked them if they’d want to try it out again, they categorically said no.

“It was OK,” one of my sons said. “But I don’t want to do it again.”

The other bristled at the short list of available Pokémon options in the game. His favorite Pokémon, Charizard, wasn’t available.

Overall, Pokémon Smile is a nice thing to try with your kids. And with any luck at all, they’ll have healthier mouths because of it. But don’t be surprised if they tire of it in short order.

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Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology, video game, and entertainment journalist. He has been writing about the world of…
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