App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Zenforms: Protectors does its best to tell players upfront about many of its particulars. This is a work in progress. The current plot is more of a chapter than a full story. More content is planned for future updates. Admitting to these obvious shortcomings is commendable in its own way, but they aren’t the only problems with this monster-catching adventure.
There’s very little to Zenforms: Protectors’ story, and players are told as much upon beginning the game for the first time. Creatures called Zenforms are created from special crystals, many people are trained as Protectors in order to maintain the delicate balance of the world (and as an excuse to raise and train these critters), and at some point a shadowy figure appears to cause trouble. That’s the plot thus far in a nutshell. Everything that takes place in-between the minimal exposition is classic “adventure RPG with monsters.” Players choose their first Zenform, then go out and battle other wild Zenforms for experience and possible assimilation. Items can be purchased to heal, give stat boosts, or capture. There’s even a bizarre little “arcade shooter defense” mini-game.
What really intrigued me about Zenforms: Protectors was the slightly new spin on monster training. Unlike many other games in the genre monsters don’t level up. Instead, every battle earns skill points that go into a general pool. These points can be used on any Zenform on the player’s team to learn new attacks or to evolve into a more mature form. These evolutions vary greatly depending on a Zenform’s individual stats and two of the exact same creature can change into drastically different forms, depending. So rather than trying to track down hundreds of individual animals players can instead create them all from a core selection of three “infants.” It’s like having a virtual pet but without the hassle of feeding or playing with it.
Zenforms: Protectors unique spin on monster collection is definitely interesting, but that doesn’t negate the myriad of small design problems. Navigating through the world without a useable map (the one earned after a certain point is practically useless for locating specific buildings) is one irritation. The digital movement pad being too stringent with its hit detection (i.e. thumb slips off the edge of the pad, character stops moving) is another. But what really irks me is having to tap my way through two separate menus to select an attack when in combat. Why we can’t simply have attack buttons sitting on the main battle screen for easy use is beyond me.
According to Calis Projects Zenforms: Protectors is a work in progress. This much is obvious after a few minutes of play. The potential for greatness is certainly there, but it has a long way to go if it’s going to be a contender in such a crowded market.