Developer: Riida.com
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

I’ll save more direct comparisons for later, but I’ll concede that Little Masters is a monster catching/training game for iOS devices. It’s structured quite a bit differently than it first appears, however. This is no continent-spanning adventure filled with badges and a color-coordinated team of antagonists; this is a free-to-play game. The freemium model doesn’t mean it’s something to be avoided, but it also means that people shouldn’t expect much of that “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” magic.

So one day the nameless protagonist whose sole purpose is to act as a personality-deficient stand-in for the player finds an egg sitting in his yard. Then his uncle tells him it’s an egg and jokes about cooking it. Then it hatches into one of three kinds of monsters (grass, water, or fire) and the rest of it falls into place. As I’ve said, Little Masters is not some big adventure, so the story is pretty nonexistent. What follows is a pattern of finding critters to battle via commissioned trackers, battling said critters, then acquiring their eggs to hatch in the stable in order to earn new monsters or sell off unneeded ones for a bit of coin. Aside from the occasional “quest” supplied by a wandering old person (typically of the “hatch monster X” variety), all that’s left to do is level up the team and take the fight to other players.

Despite the visuals being somewhat too questionably similar to Nintendo’s cash cow, they look quite nice. Each of the monsters is vibrant and detailed, and one could even argue that their design trumps some of Pokemon’s more recent creations. And much like the source material it’s pretty cool to earn new abilities and put them to good use. And not having to bother with healing monsters from fight to fight (they all go back to full health as soon as a bout is finished, win or lose) is fantastic. It’s just that the free-to-play structure kinda saps a lot of the fun out of it.

Little Masters is devoid of any kind of exploration, instead keeping players rooted on the farm/ranch/whatever. Fights with wild ‘Mons have to be set up through proxies by using a notice board at the bottom of the screen; a process that can take a few minutes or much longer depending on the level of the target in question or how energetic the “fight promoter” is feeling. Hatching eggs also takes time. Specifically an hour for each one. It doesn’t get in the way of the fighting but it can slow down quest progression when all the slots are occupied.

So long as the curious don’t download Little Masters expecting a rivalry with Gary Oak, and accept that it’s a freemium game, they should still enjoy themselves. It’s certainly not a major time-sink but it can make waiting more bearable in short bursts.

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