Version Reviewed: 1.0.26
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
When Insomniac Games, developers of PlayStation classics like Spyro, Ratchet and Clank, and Resistance, release a game on iOS it’s pretty hard not to get excited. The developer’s strong pedigree even overpowers the seemingly cynical nature of Outernauts: Monster Battle's design and premise. While the game may ultimately just be a freemium take on Pokémon, its harmonious balance of systems at least makes it a very good freemium take on Pokémon.
There are lots of things for players to do in Outernauts, a simplified port of a two-year-old Facebook game, but they all revolve around the cast of collectible creatures. Insomniac can create sci-fi infused Saturday morning cartoon universes in its sleep, and it turns out that’s a useful skill when designing a bunch of colorful elemental monsters. While some of the basic ideas might be a little generic, such as Equifoal the grass horse or Molto the fire pig, the characters themselves are full of personality. Meanwhile, the world is slick, vibrant, and uses sounds like ambient space tones or powerful lightning blasts to great effect.
But Outernauts' monsters are meant to fight, not be gawked at. Players assemble their team by breeding monsters and incubating their subsequent eggs, or just buying new eggs with coins. Coins can also level monsters up - a fast but impersonal process. The size and strength of the teams have limits, but they increase as players gain experience. After finalizing their teams, players hop from planet to planet battling groups of monsters, other players, and even the occasional boss. During matches monsters will launch attacks, recharge, and launch attacks again. Players can manually direct monsters towards certain targets or just let the A.I. fight for them. A handy wheel at the top of the screen reminds combatants that fire types beat ice types, water beats fire, and so on. Battles are too straightforward for anyone searching for strategic depth. But they are quick and keep players feeling empowered and hungry for more.
Normally, a freemium game would then punish players for wanting to continue through harsh paywalls. Luckily, Outernaut's cavalcade of currencies coalesces in a way that never keeps players out of the action for long. Coins pay for most actions, and players earn them through winning matches and farming them from monster habitats. Gems cost real money, but they are usually just for speeding up processes that really don’t take up much time. The most annoying gate is the fuel system, which limits how many battles the player’s ship can take them to before needing to wait and get gas. But the amount of gameplay time a single charge provides should satisfy most players. Marathoning a game like this would only make it less fun.
Outernauts: Monster Battle is very simple, but it shows that good craft can surpass overly obvious inspirations and potentially exploitative monetization choices. Catch ‘em all.