Virtual monsters haven’t seen a cuter makeover since Pokemon’s release stateside. The freemium pet sim/ Farmville clone is a familiar mishmash of tropes we’ve seen everywhere from Nintendogs to Dragonvale. And though it suffers from some of the very same issues we’ve seen in the freemium titles before it, it’s still one of the best-looking and addictive monster raising titles currently available on the platform.
In Monster Life, it’s your job to raise a small farm full of little papercraft monsters, varying from tiny birds, hippos, and even bats, all in neon and candy-colored regalia. As their trainer and caretaker, you are responsible for their livelihood and ensuring they eventually become strong enough to combat the lurking Chaos that lies in wait on the other side of your humble farm.
Can’t we all just get along?
In between feeding, bathing, and training your multicolored friends, you can also rub and tap them– you know, to show them how much you care, and for coins to pop out that you’ll absolutely need to rely on in order to generate buildings and resources and decorations to spruce up your abode.
Free currency is paid out in coins, and is easy enough to generate, but premium currency is metered out in much smaller amounts, and that’s the fuel to the recharge-upgrading, monster-training, and resource-farming fire. For players wanting to zip through monster raising, building up an admirable farm, and collecting additional resources, the game will no doubt feel quite sluggish, despite the adorable monsters and absolutely gorgeous art direction.
This guy knows how to party.
There’s plenty to do though, even if you choose to never spend one additional real-life coin. Meaty tutorials go a long way in assisting new players with monster training and the proper ways to generate resources, as well as the rules of battle. There’s an extremely simplified system in place here that serves its purpose, but it’s nothing even close to the battles you might be expecting. Points may be spent to upgrade monster stats and occasionally you can super-power your attacks by tapping on your monsters a la Super Mario RPG, but for the most part the battles move through the paces on their own. It’s an interesting enough spectacle to watch, in any case. If you’re a casual player only really looking to enjoy the pet sim aspects and time management/growth potential, then this isn’t a huge issue, but for those of us ready to also take on another Pokemon project, how barebones the combat system is can be a little disappointing.
But it’s hard to look at Monster Life without a smile etching its way across your face. The simple papercraft monster designs, cheery, popping visuals, and calming atmosphere should be reason alone to give it a look, even if it’s just a quick one. This is a lovingly crafted game with plenty to do and fantastic visuals — quite possibly some of the smoothest and most decadent we’ve seen on the gorgeous retina display. With a few updates to combat and speedier currency spawning, Monster Life could well escalate to an app that should reside in your essential catalog. Until then, bask in its adorable monsters and enjoy it for what it is.