A monster-battling game with the guts to be just a little bit different
Mash It Up
We all know that the rise to prominence of monster-battling games is mostly down to the rise to fame of Pocket Monsters (aka Pokémon), but you're probably sick of hearing the comparison in every review you read. It's a rather unavoidable allusion however since you cannot play games like Moshi Monsters or Monster Legends without being reminded heavily of Pikachu and Ash teaming up to be the very best Pokemon trainer and team there ever was. The many clones that you'll find in your respective app stores have taken then idea and mashed it up with Farmville-like management simulation however, and out comes a game like Monster Life.
Release Date: 13/01/2014
Available on: iOS, Android
So, can a non-Pokémon, non-Nintendo, non-Game Freak title really capture the hearts of anyone that is perhaps neutral on the subject of monster battling? It's unlikely, but Monster Life is a game that's got many of the properties of Farmville but with a light-hearted battling system that's brought to life with some significantly impressive visuals of the kind you rarely see in most of the cartoonish titles that are so abundant in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Battling and Beyond
Whilst many games of this nature - Dragonvale is just one example - will have you concentrating more on the training and battling side of things, Monster Life is a little more varied and generalised in its approach to the genre.
Of course you will be raising a variety of heart-wrenchingly cute and entirely fictional creatures to battle with, but your responsibilities run deeper than simply making sure your creatures can limp over the finish line. You'll need to create a nice habitat for your creatures as well as ensure that they are properly taken care of and entertained, all on an ongoing basis. Hell, it's rather reminiscent of having a Tamagotchi back in the day, only with much, much nicer visuals and a hell of a lot more to be getting on with.
It's not just battling for the sake of it in Monster Life either. You've got some actual evil to fight off as opposed to simply battling and competing for almost no reason at all. In this way it's a little like Pokémon because, well, there's an attempt at weaving a storyline through the whole thing rather than just letting you raise, battle, and repeat.
Where Monster Life gets a little indistinguishable from pretty much any other monster-battling clone is in its management-sim areas. You've got to build your monsters a suitable habitat to live in as well as training grounds in which you will level up your monsters slowly. This all takes increasingly large quantities of resources to carry out, though various buildings earn you money and other rewards as you go. Resources are also spent to acquire new monsters, train them, and implement a number of decorative items around your general area.
Where the game deviates a little from its grind-heavy competitors is its relatively generous approach to the premium currency, which can be obtained more easily in this game. Conversely - and this is in contravention with other games here and not in a good way - you will find that the free currency is more difficult to obtain so don't expect to be able to tap wildly on the screen to harvest vast quantities of coins.
Good-Looking Fun on a Limited Basis
Alright, so it isn't Pokémon; we knew that already when we headed into this review, didn't we? Well you should have, because it looks nothing like Pokémon - though this isn't actually a bad thing. In fact, the visuals in this game are quite stunning and better than you will find in almost any other game in this genre. The entire aesthetic is based around a papercraft-like framework as if each of the animals have been cut out and made by hand from card and paper-based templates. It makes the game unique in a visual sense.
It's just a bit of a shame that the battling itself is rather generic and superficial. Single, double, and triple battles are available, but you'll find that the usual elemental match-ups, boosts, and basic moves are all things you've seen before; having a mere 20 creatures in total isn't exactly going to cut it against Pokémon's 600+ critters either. In the end, Monster Life is just another monster battling game spliced with Farmville 2: Country Escape-like management; it's worth remembering that it looks damned good though.
Monster Life is developed by Gameloft.