MinoMonsters Brings Pokemon-Style Battling to Facebook

The youngest pair of founders backed by early-stage venture firm Y Combinator is taking a shot at the social gaming market, with a Pokemon-style title called MinoMonsters. Still in the early stages of development, the game has gained around 113,000 monthly active users in its first month on Facebook.

The game at this point is quite like Pokemon, with players collecting a wide variety of monsters scattered around different types of terrain. The play is pretty basic, and a number of the mechanics are either not functional or not fleshed out (which likely contributes to the low daily active user count). That said, what does exist is of surprising quality, and suggests that the game has great potential to grow.

Before we get into the review, we should also note that founders Josh Buckley and Tyler Diaz had originally built the game as a stand-alone web site but Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg convinced them to port it to the site, which they did within a week — TechCrunch has more details about the company’s background, if you’re interested.

Anyway, players start out with a single monster, with the choice to select a sort of bear, a bird, or a lizard-frog-thing, each with its own abilities. Once in the game, players are immediately greeted with the objective of battling other wild monsters, leveling up their own, and capturing others; a quality interactive tutorial guides first-timers through the back story and provides tips for fighting.

In order to battle, players move about the world map and have the option to visit sections classified by their difficulty (e.g. very easy, easy, medium, etc.). Once there, they engage a random monster and take turns battling in a traditional Pokemon style, with different attacks consuming different amounts of Energy. As the opponent weakens, they can utilize an item called a “Minocard” and attempt to capture it for their own collection. This works identically to “Pokeballs” in Pokemon, meaning that if the monster is not low enough on health, it will not be caught, thus players must weaken enemies to a low enough health so that they can be captured, without actually killing them. Moreover, regardless as to whether or not the new monster is caught, the Minocard is consumed.

With each battle, users will be allowed to utilize whatever monsters they currently have at their disposal, and whichever ones are used will gain experience towards a new level. In fact, the ability to use multiple monsters is a good thing, as losing one can be very easy if the player is not careful and attempts to battle a creature that is too strong. Moreover, should one of their monsters fall, they will actually lose experience.

Regardless, as players win, and gain new levels, not only will the monsters gain more damage and health, but will unlock new abilities as well. Each one of these will take a period of time to learn, with the option to expedite the process using Facebook Credits.

As a matter of fact, one of the distinctly incomplete portions of the game shows up here. With each bout, players earn in-game currency — Gold — but there is no way to spend it yet. It is noted as “coming soon,” but as it stands all items must be purchased using Facebook Credits. This includes health potions, energy potions, and the noted Minocards. Currently, this is probably the biggest deterrent for returning users, as there isn’t quite enough to hook new users into paying with Credits yet, thus the game play is very limited for them. As it stands, the only way to acquire more of these items, is to complete various quests (e.g. defeat X amount of monsters) or get lucky enough to get them after a battle in lieu of gold.

A lot of the game is still in development, but even so, it does come with a surprisingly high level of art quality. As a matter of fact, the static visuals actually look better than many larger, more established developers’ titles, so it will be interesting to see how the title evolves over time.

On the negative side of things (and not referring to mechanics still in development), the biggest issue of notice is the premise and objective of the game. As it stands, players just move from point to point, beating opponents and capturing them where they can. The stated objective at the start of the game is to collect more monsters, but, unfortunately, there isn’t a context in doing so; meaning there is no way to know how many there even are to collect. Additionally, collection is only done individually.

Though this will likely change in the future, friends that are invited to play don’t appear to be tradable with; a shame in a collection-type of game, as trading is something that can make such titles much more fun. Currently, the only social elements consist of leaderboards and the occasional wall posting.

All in all, MinoMonsters is quite impressive, with a visual quality better than more established companies; Buckley and Diaz are 17 and 18 years old, respectively, but clearly know what they’re doing. That said, the game still has some work to do, and this refers to more than what is just left unfinished. The app needs to find a way to differentiate itself from Pokemon and really needs to give the user a more clear goal. If that goal is to collect all the monsters, then a context of what that means is needed. Either way, the game is a decent first title, so it will be curious to see how it grows and changes from here.