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Developer: MinoMonsters, Inc
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

As much as everyone would love being able to catch and train their own Pikachu on their iOS device, that’s just not in the cards for the foreseeable future. Not that plenty of developers haven’t been trying, though. The App Store has a respectable selection of games that attempt to recapture the magic of the source material, but there hasn’t really been a stand-out title yet. Well, okay, now there is.

MinoMonsters is a kind of simplified version of the… well, I guess it’s kind of a genre at this point. Players begin their adventure by selecting a starting monster (I chose the Crocoling), then exploring a tropical island while fulfilling a variety of tasks and grabbing up more creatures. Fighting other monsters yields experience and the occasional item, while critters learn new powerful skills automatically as they gain levels.

I could waste the whole review talking about MinoMonsters‘ graphics, so I’ll keep it brief. It looks absolutely amazing. The visual style, creature designs and animations (actual animations!) would seriously do Disney proud. Graphics aside, it’s also got a slick interface. Players just tap on the opposing monster to attack and then furiously grab up the various nicknacks that spill out. Said nicknacks range from hearts (restore health) and stars (experience) to lightning bolts (energy for special attacks) and equip-able items. It’s super easy, and the need to collect these extraneous drops keeps the constant fighting from dragging on too much.

It’s easy to love MinoMonsters for what it does right, but it’s hard to look past what it doesn’t. It’s decidedly lacking in depth when compared to Nintendo’s juggernaut with none of the expected features like evolutions or trading. Moving away from the unfairness of direct comparisons, there are still a couple of glaring issues. First, the shop is pointless. It requires coins (only attainable via in-app purchase), and there’s hardly anything in it. A second, much larger problem I’ve run into is the candy needed for catching monsters. It was fine initially, but shortly after gaining access to the third area the well dried up. Seeing as I need candy to complete one of my current area-unlocking objectives (catch a specific monster) involves catching one, I’m stuck. And no, I can’t do any of the others because one is in the area I’ve yet to unlock and the other (equip a gem) won’t register. Kind of a bummer.

MinoMonsters certainly shows tons of promise, and it’s freaking amazing to look at, but it’s still got a ways to go. Little things like bug fixes, sure, but I think making candy at least somewhat attainable later on would help the most. Still, it’s a cool game for what it is and is bound to be a welcomed addition to a genre in need of more quality examples.

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