App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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Ahhh, the joys of running a ranch full of super-cute monsters. I’ve got a stable full of unique critters to play with and care for, rival ranchers to battle, land to develop, and buildings that spew money every so often. Life is good. Monster Life is also good, although it does suffer from a couple of typical freemium irritations.
Inexplicably put in charge of a ranch devoted to raising and training adorable monsters (as is usually the case), players will have to balance TLC with expansion and the occasional fight in order to make a name for themselves. Habitats will house the little critters and bestow experience bonuses, extraneous structures will earn coins, and visiting other ranchers earns special heart-shaped stones that can be used to purchase various things as well as activating special modifiers during a fight. New monster eggs are steadily unlocked as levels are gained, and can then be bought and hatched in order to expand the bestiary. Different creatures adhere to different elements (fire, water, etc), and different elements have distinct advantages over others in battle.
I have to admit I’m a huge fan of Monster Life’s papercraft visual style. It all looks fantastic with the monster designs and the slightly textured look of all of the surfaces. The animations are also too cute to ignore. There’s also a fairly robust selection of monsters to obtain, which should keep players interested in rounding out their collection busy for quite some time. It’s also nice to play a freemium title where the real-time clocks typically count down in increments of minutes rather than hours. Thanks to these smaller restrictions there’s almost always something to fiddle with, so it’s possible to keep playing for quite some time before the Inevitable Wait makes an appearance.
The only real problem with Monster Life being a freemium title (and the only real problem with it in general) is that the network/social requirements sometimes get in the way, like most freemium games. Starting it up tends to result in some fairly spastic framerates and sluggish movement for a fairly significant amount of time until the game catches up to all that online stuff. Then there’s the constant requirement to log on through Facebook after each initial start up in order to use any of the social features. I get that the Facebook integration is a key part of the whole social gaming thing, but why can’t it simply keep me logged in or do it automatically while it’s chugging away for that first thirty seconds or so?
Even thought Monster Life stumbles into a couple of pitfalls typical of the freemium model, it also manages to gracefully sidestep a couple others. It’s a clever, rewarding, and adorable game for the most part, and one that probably shouldn’t be overlooked.