App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I’ve been something of a rabid Monster Rancher fan for years. Even before getting my hands on the original game I was salivating over magazine ads, desperate to see what might be hidden inside my admittedly lame music collection. My interest waned with the third game and it’s severely simplified everything, but the fourth was able to rekindle my love by bringing back some old favorites and incorporating honest to goodness new ideas into the formula. Then the whole thing turned into a big circus (literally) and I gave up. I still love me the second and fourth games, though. So naturally I jumped at the chance to check out My Monster Rancher. Turns out it’s not what I was expecting, but it also turns out that I’m okay with that.
Imagine adapting most of the series’ core elements (monster creation, adventuring, training, etc) into a mobile freemium structure and that’s My Monster Rancher in a nutshell. Most everything is simpler than it is in any console counterpart, and many actions are governed by real time countdown clocks that can be sped up via special items or real world money. This time around creatures are created through player profiles and other social means, so it’s very important to make “neighbors” and go around petting strangers’ monsters. I know, it sounded creepy when I read it in the description, too.
As a slobbering fanboy, I have to admit it’s pretty cool to be able to get back into ranching on my phone. Especially as a number of my favorites - aside from the more popular critters - have made a comeback (Yay, Monol!). And despite the intense simplicity of all the training, adventuring, breeding, and so on it can still keep me up much later than I’d have expected.
Though the “freemium simplification” can indeed be viewed as a turn off for even the most forgiving fans, the real problems with My Monster Rancher can all be found in the interface. Important information such as neighbor invites don’t display unless the player actively checks their history, and even then I’ve yet to be able to do anything about the invites I’ve received. Buttons also don’t always register on the first or even second press. Some menus are also unnecessarily cluttered with all manner of categories that could’ve easily been combined.
It might feel like it’s intentionally trying to kill the fun, but thankfully My Monster Rancher largely fails in that regard. It could be that my eyes are somewhat clouded by nostalgia and “Oooh! I remember that monster!” but I still think it’s a very viable source of free social entertainment. Now be my neighbor so’s I can build an army (RobsteinOne).