Yesterday, I popped over to The Trafford Centre to check out Pokémon: Art Through the Ages.
The event, which was announced last month, is styled as a treasure hunt and requires you to look around The Trafford Centre for pictures and paintings of Pokémon. It features all 151 species from the Kanto Pokédex, with some small activities dotted around to get you exploring.
For anyone who's not aware of The Trafford Centre (TTC), it's a big shopping and leisure complex in Manchester. As well as shops, there's also an Odeon, a Namco Funscape, and even a Sea Life aquarium and Legoland Discovery Centre.
On the way into TTC, there's tons of banners advertising the event and plenty of signs to help you find your way to the starting point.
I headed over to The Orient main stage, where I was handed my activity booklet and pencil. I was offered a cardboard hat from a selection of Pikachu, Sprigatito, Fuecoco, and Quaxly - the upcoming Scarlet and Violet’s fresh crop of Starter creatures. I ultimately chose Pikachu. The entire time I was there I don't think I saw anyone plump for anything else. Sorry pals.
Before I headed off, I was able to meet Pikachu just before he went for a nap. I got a hug from the big boi, and then started to look around for these paintings.
At first, I was confused. I decided to focus solely on the oil paintings rather than finding everything in the Pokédex, and I made the assumption that the hints in the activity booklet would help me find them. I was wrong. What it did do was help me fill in more of my Pokédex, which was frustrating! At least I got to appreciate the banners and installations that have been set up around TTC which I might have not bothered going out of my way to search for previously.
The oil paintings are very easy to spot once you realise where they've been placed. I snapped some pictures of a few of them (I even contemplated writing this like an ironic completionist guide, but then realised I didn't have the patience to write down the location of all 151 Pokémon…) so you can get an idea of what the paintings actually look like. They're a bit smaller than I had expected beforehand, but they include some of the series' most iconic Pokémon, including Snorlax, Gengar, and Jigglypuff.
You may notice something amiss in that photo. Pikachu has censored it?! That's because the oil paintings each have a letter or number on them. Once you've found all 10 paintings, the letters and numbers you've found can be rearranged to make a phrase. Once completed, you can take your booklet down to the GAME store on TTC’s ground floor, where they'll stamp your booklet. I also received a limited edition Pokémon: Art Through the Ages poster, which has Pikachu on one side and Charizard on the other, as a prize for solving the scrambled phrase.
Unfortunately, the Pokémon bus was no longer at TTC. It was only there for the event's launch on Monday, and I would have loved to get some pictures of it.
There weren't many people taking part in the treasure hunt when I first began in the morning, but after lunch I saw lots of people in their Pikachu hats setting off from The Orient main stage.
All in all, I had a good time. Once I got past my initial confusion around six paintings in, it was fun walking around keeping my eyes peeled for the Pokémon. I wish I had taken the time to complete my Pokédex and photograph all of them now. I had a strange sense of nostalgia, seeing the Kanto Pokémon and thinking "ah, there's Poliwhirl!" or "yup, that's Mew," as I walked around and spotted them. Even though the Pokédex of the series has greatly expanded since Pokémon Red/Blue, there's still this great fondness for the original 151 Pokémon.
It's a shame there weren't more Pokémon-related activities or decorations, but TTC is still open like it usually is, so I can understand if Pokémon: Art Through the Ages had to be a little more reserved in its presence.
I definitely think this is something best enjoyed with a group of friends, and if you're looking for a chilled day out, it’s something I would definitely recommend! My advice would be to explore TTC like you would a building in a video game and to not pay too much attention to the activity hints written in the booklet. That guide does does at least come with a map of TTC though, so you don't have to worry if you're prone to getting lost (like me).
In front of The Orient main stage, there are also some tables set up for kids to take part in a special art class, and they air episodes of Pokémon the Series you can watch whilst you take a break. The main draw is probably Pikachu (evidenced by the sea of yellow hats I mentioned). At one point, as I stood overlooking The Orient on the first floor, a group of lads walked past me and I heard them noting that Pikachu was not out on stage at the time.
Pokémon: Art Through the Ages will continue to run until 13th November, and there’s more details on The Trafford Centre's website if you're thinking of going. I reckon it took me about an hour and a half to get my poster, so see if you can beat my time! (You probably can.)