Hot air balloons carrying the villainous Team Rocket have appeared in Pokémon Go.
The first of these floating vehicles appeared in the game last night, following a week of teases suggesting Team Rocket was up to no good once again.
Balloons offer a new way to battle Team Rocket members remotely, rather than visiting a hacked PokéStop.
If you have a Rocket Radar equipped you’ll be able to battle the group’s tough Team Leaders. Or, if you have a Super Radar equipped, you’ll be able to battle the group’s big boss Giovanni (and without the worry of finding one of his numerous decoys).
Balloons seem to be spawning in-game sporadically at the moment, though will feature more heavily in an invasion event set for the game’s upcoming battle-themed week of timed research. This is also set to reward a Super Radar so you can take on Giovanni again.
The addition of an alternative way to fight Team Rocket feels like a deliberate move to restart the game’s Rocket storyline in a post-lockdown world.
Pokémon Go previously featured a monthly story quest to take down Giovanni for a new Shadow Legendary Pokémon. This involved visiting numerous PokéStops, battling Team Leaders and finally tracking down the boss himself.
It was a great gameplay loop – but one which was suddenly put on pause as Pokémon Go reworked itself to fit lockdown conditions.
It’s also a neat idea from Pokémon Go maker Niantic, riffing on the Team Rocket hot air balloon from the Pokémon TV series, and the previous appearance of a real-life hot air balloon over the game’s real-world events to herald the arrival of Team Rocket into the game last summer.
Here’s how they look – and how flying Pokémon like Rayquaza can hilariously hit them around: