Mo’Monsters is yet another entry into the quickly growing sub-category of Pokémon inspired monster-capturing games. Developed by San Francisco-based startup Rumpus, the title is available now from the iTunes App Store as a free download with a wide variety of additional in-app purchases.
Much like Pokémon, in Mo’Monsters players travel the world in an attempt to collect a varied team of monsters, each of whom is based around a particular element. Combat unfolds in a turn-based manner, with various monster elements being weak and strong against others in a “rock, paper, scissors” fashion.
Unlike Pokémon however, which is a traditional Japanese-style role-playing game at its core, Mo’Monsters takes a much simpler approach, with players progressing through a linear series of challenges that are unlocked one at a time. Each challenge tasks players with battling against — and possibly capturing — a variety of different monsters. The eventual aim of the game is to capture all of the “dark monsters” that are terrorizing the land.
In battle, the player’s team of monsters lines up on the left side of the screen and the enemies on the right. Combatants take it in turns to unleash attacks of various types. Using basic attacks builds up action points, which may be used to unleash more powerful special abilities. It’s also possible to make use of items, mostly for healing purposes. Successfully unleashing attacks often causes collectible items to pop out of enemies, rewarding the player with experience, coins or health bonuses that must be tapped on in order to claim. Defeating a monster rewards the player’s team with additional collectibles, while knocking a monster’s health down opens up the possibility of capturing it and adding it to the player’s team — though this requires that the player have some “Fluxboxes” in their possession. Different types of Fluxbox are available, with those that cost hard currency offering a higher chance of successful capture.
Between battle, the player may make use of the in-game shop to purchase various items to improve their chances. A “Starter Bundle” provides the player with a package of gems, soft currency and an exclusive monster. Individual “dark monsters” may also be acquired via in-app purchase if the player desires, and real money may be spent on acquiring either soft or hard currency. Small quantities of hard currency may also be exchanged for soft currency and in fact this represents better value for the player than the equivalent soft currency package — though the inconvenience of having to perform this action in such small quantities may convince the player to just go for the more expensive packages up front.
Mo’Monsters is clearly designed primarily to extract as much money from its players as possible by making everything just slightly too expensive to be practical if playing for free. While this is a strategy that has worked for many mobile developers recently, players are starting to get wise to it, and it often draws criticism from App Store reviewers. Moreover, it’s simply a rather manipulative means of monetizing the game that isn’t very friendly to the player and doesn’t do much to build up goodwill. The game is, at least, up-front about its desire for the player’s cash — even before the actual gameplay has started, the player has the option of spending $1.99 on a more powerful starter monster without any indication of the benefits this will provide aside from the fact it’s more visually striking than the other two options.
Technical issues also blight the game throughout — it suffers from lengthy loading breaks, even on high-performance hardware such as the iPhone 4S, and it frequently freezes. In one tutorial battle, the game froze for a full ten seconds before continuing for no apparent reason. It does not appear to be streaming data from the Internet, as these issues persisted even with the device in airplane mode — the only difference was an on-screen popup saying “you should really find the nearest Wi-Fi spot.” These issues can destroy the pacing of a game, so it should be a priority for Rumpus to fix whatever is causing these problems as soon as possible if they would like to retain players.
Ultimately, Mo’Monsters has some nice ideas but is rather too obvious about its desire to get into the player’s wallet to be truly enjoyable. It has an appealing visual style and good presentation, but the technical and monetization issues mean that its future is, at present, somewhat questionable. With some solid updates to make the game perform better and be more friendly to players, there could be a good game here — as of now, however, it’s one to skip past.
Due to its recent release, Mo’Monsters is not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.