GREE’s latest title for iOS devices is Monpla Smash, a “monster battling” game that tasks players with exploring the world, capturing monsters and using them to fend off the machinations of an evil organization.
While the app’s basic description may sound somewhat akin to Nintendo’s immensely popular Pokémon series, in practice it is closer to the numerous “card battle” titles that have been such big successes GREE and DeNA already. Players complete quests by tapping the screen to advance forward in a linear fashion and are occasionally required to engage in battle against other monsters.
Battles are almost entirely hands-off, though Monpla Smash does elevate itself above the mindless tapping of rivals like Rage of Bahamut thorough the “Smash” mechanic from which it takes its name. As monsters automatically attack one another, a Smash meter in the corner of the screen builds up. When it reaches 100, players are able to tap the on-screen Smash button to unleash a monster’s special attack. The effectiveness of this attack is determined by a minigame in which a monster image flits around an on-screen bullseye. The closer the image is to the bullseye when the screen is tapped, the more effective the attack will be.
Defeating an enemy with a Smash attack carries a chance of turning the fallen beast into an egg, which allows the player to collect it and add it to their arsenal. Like in other card-battling games, monsters may be “fused” together to level them up, with bigger bonuses available if the monsters’ corresponding elements match. When entering a new quest, players may also “borrow” monsters from other players — either friends or randomly-chosen strangers — to support them in combat.
Monpla Smash’s gameplay is still extremely shallow when compared to more traditional role-playing games but the added interactivity and excellent presentation make this a considerably better experience than titles like Rage of Bahamut or Gang Domination. The game has clearly been designed from the ground-up as a standalone mobile title rather than a web game that constantly streams and reloads its data, and this means that it is full of excellent animations and high-quality sound effects. This makes a surprising amount of difference to the whole game experience — rather than being an exercise in boredom endurance, it becomes much more satisfying and “gamey.”
The experience isn’t perfect. Adding friends is a somewhat clunky procedure, with no less than four buttons in the menu where just one “add/invite friend” button would do. There appears to be no means of pitting one’s team of monsters against a rival player. And, for some reason, the game assigns an arbitrary random username to players by default rather than using their GREE username — and the option to change it is buried in a menu that simply says “Other,” meaning some players may not find it at all.
Despite all this, though, Monpla Smash represents a step in the right direction for the genre. While it’s still not a particularly deep or satisfying experience for “core” gamers, it does at least feel like a bit like a “game” rather than a badly-designed website, which is progress at least. In order for the genre to truly move forwards, however, players need to be given more meaningful choices to make rather than simply tapping their linear way to victory.
As a new release, Monpla Smash is not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards, but check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.