QCF: Micromon

hen you think of household names in video games today, what are some of the games that immediately come to mind? Just to name a few universally recognized ones, there’s Call of Duty, Super Mario, and even what most moms across the world have affectionately referred to as “that weird Mine game with crafting.” However, there’s still one going strong; Pokémon, and while many of its contemporaries have challenged and it failed—one indie studio went a different way, and flattered the hell out of it in their game, and on a format that Nintendo openly displayed cold feet towards venturing in no less.

Micromon from Moga Studios blurs the line between love letter and thievery, but it fills it satisfies a very specific appetite of that monster-raising/battle adventure that mobile gamers have hungered for, and to its credit, Micromon actually does it quite well.

When picking apart what makes Pokémon so great, it isn’t always what’s introduced directly with the monsters themselves but what’s implemented with them to compliment the overall world and sense adventure that accompanies the quest as a whole. Traveling from town to town, talking to people and fighting wild monsters in an overworld made of branching paths, caves, hideouts, headquarters, and all of the regions that house them; sound familiar? Micromon doesn’t simply settle on emulating the most recognizable, and arguably, the easiest part of the core experience—it spans that whole pocket monster enchilada.

The sense of character and conviction is admirable, and admittedly, Micromon does a better job of maintaining the chase to seize the opportunity to catch any potentially rare Mon’ that you happen to encounter than Pokemon ever does or will—it’s a bit of a blessing and curse though.

Not all monsters are created equally, and Micromon doesn’t even attempt to hide it like the brand it liberally takes from, hell; it embraces it. Each creature is ranked based on two different factors: the first of which is rarity, the trophy worth of each monster stems deeper than mere collection value, rare monsters are just built with better, stronger stats the more scarce they’re graded to be. Nevertheless, the second factor, is arguably more important and can be the difference maker for choosing the right beast for your team.

Developmental rates put a lot of weight on top of the delegation involved when it comes to filling in the precious spots of six-monster stable. The higher the level is rated at, the easier it is to raise them, along with the added benefit of a beefier pay out to stat increases from raising the monsters levels—so in the same subtle nuances of Pokemon’s discreet trait system, no one monster will ever be the same, regardless of whether or not it’s the same species. The dynamic creates a genuinely thrilling gratification of being able to encounter a creature boasting the pedigree of being both, a rare monster with a high level development rate is one that only gets better, but the feeling is all too infrequent, and does it hurt some of its pacing.

Nurturing the best group of animal partners that Micromon has to offer does suffer from limited amenities afforded to players when it comes to the draw of chancing these particular circumstances in the wild. Mainly because it’s within these scantily-structured areas that fill the in-between progress of the main quest where the micro-transaction system is not so subtly encouraged by sheer design, and in spite of the moments of freebies the games throws at you here and there, it still tends to rear its ugly head all too often, in the worst way.

The highest development rate level is 10 for Micromon, and the odds of encountering the highest rate at level seven, and Super-rare to Ultra Rare creatures run at the realistic odds of anywhere between 200 and 300 consecutive encounters within the same map section of the overworld—a fairly perverse expectation for  time-investment right? So that where the transaction options come in; buying into the second in-game currency, diamonds, will give would-be tamers the chance to buy premium silver or gold eggs holding random Micromon inside.

As the value of egg would imply, Silver Eggs hold the potential chance of carrying a rare high DR leveled beast while Gold eggs guarantee one, and even then-still involves the use of a roulette wheel to determine the lottery of the prized furball waiting at the end of your credit card purchase’s rainbow. Granted, players can access this entire dynamic without ever spending a dime thanks the software’s introductory charity to the feature, and arguably, players could toil through the entire adventure without succumbing to constant shiny carrot on the stick that’s waved in front of you, but it the features straddle the lines of temptation and exploitation all too often. The test of restraint and the thinly veiled difficulty spikes that subliminally steers the promise of balance by spending a few bucks can sour a few segments of the game at times.

The battle system is a bit of a mixed bag, and if it wasn’t for one really forward-thinking grace thrown into its formula, than it would also be one of the factors that hold this ambitious clone back. The defining types or elemental categories or whatever the hell you want to call them comes to a staggering count of six possible characteristics of monsters to choose or battle from—the dearth of variety further suffers from a bafflingly confusing match up diagram that only seems to defeat any implicit logic involved when initially trying to comprehend it.  

You’ve got fire, water, wind, mineral, normal, and special, fire’s weak to water but it’s strong against wind, which is strong against mineral, and mineral is strong against water, and to be honest, Normal and Special types awkwardly play no role in advantage—they’re just sort of there…

I will applaud that unlike the brand it blatantly imitates it, new attacks and skills learned as you grow your monster permanently remain with it, allowing move-sets the luxury of a customizable load-out system that can be changed and experimented with to the heart’s content.

In spite of itself, Micromon is surprisingly more solid and fun than it should ever deserve to be, and astonishingly delivers an engaging and beautifully rendered world of monster battles that even the most faithful Pokémaniac just can’t deny.  For just one measly space buck, you can load you iPhone or iPad with engaging RPG that will not only scratch some really familiar itches, but possibly hook you into a new experience that’s filled with some pretty memorable offerings to top it all off.

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