Developer: Miraphonic
Price: FREE (0.00)
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★½☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

We’re taught to condone animal cruelty from a young age—just remember Pokemon! Raising your favorite bizarre creatures with love and care, training them and grooming them, and, of course, pitting them against each other in vicious battles—we’ve been doing it since we were kids. Epic Pet Wars continues the sacred tradition with a Mafia-style MMO that revolves around a cute-ified form of cock-fighting.

img_00099Epic Pet Wars has already achieved mild popularity on Facebook, with some 23,000 active monthly users, and it integrates Facebook Connect. (Anything that doesn’t require me to remember more passwords is good in my book!) Log in, create a pet, and you can start the brutality playing!

If you’ve ever played a Mafia-style MMo, you’ll know what to expect. After picking a species of pet (each has its own strengths and weaknesses), you name it, and from there the fun starts. Your goals are twofold: first, create an uber-strong pet; second, create a huge “posse.” (Your posse is the equivalent of a mob in Mafia games.) Your pet has all of the basic stats (HP/Attack/Defense/Energy). Energy works much as you’d expect; depending on your level, one point regenerates every few minutes. You use energy for things like training, foraging, or petting your pet. Yes, that’s right—petting. If your pet’s mood goes down (if you flee or lose a fight, for example), petting brings its mood back up, though why you deserve its love is beyond me. (You’re the reason it’s getting killed, after all!)

img_00039Battling is, as the name would suggest, a main feature of the app. Instead of the typical dice-roll results, where you select a target and immediately receive your results, Epic Pet Wars utilizes a more involved system, complete with a dedicated battle interface. Your options are Attack, Flee, or Use an Item, and everything works on a turn basis. So, for example, you can eat some candy in the middle of a fight to boost your HP, or consume a power-up; you can also run if the going gets too tough for your pet to handle.

By winning battles or participating in training “missions” (in which you simply tap a button to expend energy and get a result), you earn both experience points (XP) and cash. XP are necessary to level your pet up, which allows it to become stronger, do more missions, and equip new weapons. Cash can be spent in the item shop, where you can buy Weapons, Armor, Accessories, Investments, Usable Items (one-time power-ups or healing items), and so on. Your pet can only equip one Weapon, one Armor, and two Accessories, so some strategy is required. Meanwhile, Investments generate hourly returns, so pouring your spare cash into Investments is a good way to increase your cash flow.

img_00059I’ve never been a fan of Mafia games, to be honest; I just found them boring. But Epic Pet Wars offers a number of improvements on the old formulas. For one, the animated battle sequences are much more involved. Also, there’s no limit on how often you can battle, because battling doesn’t require any energy points. This is usually a sticking point with Mafia games—even if you like them, you can’t play for more than ten minutes at a stretch thanks to your pathetically low energy levels. Oh, and there are actually achievements, which I’ve never seen implemented in a Mafia game before (though I’m sure that someone’s done it somewhere). The integration with Facebook Connect is a nice touch, but I really hate the Facebook app’s layout and interface. (If you want to add folks to your posse, though, browse some Facebook groups for codes.) The iPhone app, by contrast, has a clean, intuitive, responsive interface, though it sometimes gets cluttered.

Every game has its downsides, naturally. The gameplay may quickly get stale for some, and you can only play it whilst online. Also, there are a variety of options only available in paid versions (for example, Respect Points must be purchased, unless you feel like completing scammy surveys). I’ve always loathed folks who can buy there way to the leaderboards. The code-based posse system is pretty dull, and nothing out of the ordinary; innovation, while present, isn’t necessarily a strong point of the app.

But there’s enough innovation here that it’s actually managed to grab my attention. Maybe it’s simply the fact that battles aren’t capped by energy points, or that investments make it easy for even beginners to increase the size of their coffers. Maybe it’s the cute artwork. Whatever the reason, I thought that Epic Pet Wars—despite my lackluster expectations—was actually fun. You certainly can’t beat the price. While I wouldn’t spend money on the paid versions, I’m more than willing to spend my time engaging in a bit of fun, old-fashioned animal cruelty!

If you want to add me to your posse, ask away; my code is slnua. :)

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