App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Question: What's free and combines Pokemon with a Tomagatchi? Answer: Honestly, I shouldn't have to spell it out. No, really, it's obvious. Still stumped? Okay, it's Morphs.
Morphs is yet another attempt at capturing that special Nintendo magic on an iOS device, and like most of the others it does a few things right and a few more not so right which I'll get to in a bit. The core game involves caring for a little blob-thing (a morph) by keeping it fed and happy, while also going out and exploring in order to net cash and gems for upgrading the little guy's stats. Monsters regenerate health over time, which means there will be plenty of playing for a while then having to do something else while a critter rests up after a few fights. The same goes for training, which can only be done once every couple of hours (pass or fail).
Morphs' gameplay revolves around three key things: training, exploration and combat. Training is split between into five different mini-games, each corresponding to a specific attribute (attack, defense, fire, earth and water) and each a decent enough distraction for a minute or two. The tasks range from flicking arrows at a moving target to rapidly tapping the screen to charge up a fireball, with successes earning crystals needed for upgrading and failures earning zip. Exploration is done on a grid representing the current area, with blacked-out squares indicating spots that need searching. Sometimes this yields items and money, other times an opposing morph might pop up to make players fight for their spoils. It's always pleasure to find more cash and upgrade crystals, but sometimes another morph will erupt from the ground and dampen the mood.
I say this because the fighting in Morphs is by far my least favorite thing. The music is repetitive and the sound effects are even more so. The animations are unimpressive. There's almost no satisfaction to be had from winning because experience points have been dumped in favor of the upgrading crystals that aren't always dropped after a fight. Worst of all is the pacing, which admittedly picks up once more morphs are added to the team, but can be excruciating in one-on-one bouts. It basically boils down to "tap morph, tap enemy, wait for attack meter to recharge, tap morph, tap enemy, etc..."
I'm perfectly fine with Morphs' simplified mechanics and freemium model. Overall it's a good free-to-play game that almost gives players the monster brawling they've been clamoring for. It's just the fights that drag it down. I'm positive there are people out there who won't have a problem with it, but at this point I'd rather pay for a game that holds my interest than play one that doesn't for free.