The concept of the "clone" among videogames is usually relegated to the bottom of the videogame barrel, both in terms of critical respect and actual quality. The argument always comes down to: "If a game practically borrows the idea, style and particulars of a much better game available elsewhere, then it has no real value." Unfortunately, the App Store is plagued by waves and waves of clones of more interesting games, which greatly diminishes the value of both the App Store as a whole and the original game that got cloned.
MinoMonsters attempts to clone the Pokemon franchise, but in a way that does not attempt to devalue either Pokemon, the App Store nor itself. It does so by over-simplifying the actual gameplay and cranking up the production values to quite an impressive level in places. Time and care was obviously put into the development of the game, and if the idea behind it was actually original and wasn't based on a more complex and interesting franchise I guess I would recommend it, but as it stands I'd tell you to pass on this game unless you are intrigued at the few elements the game does get right.
Backgrounds are static, and the story is told purely through several drawings and text captions. At least its style is creatively cartoonish, which brings a tone of "cutesy-wootsy" to the entire game, and that is welcome if not that original *cough*Pokemon*cough*. However, the animations of the actual... Minos? MinoMonsters? Creatures? Whatever, the creature animations are incredibly detailed. If you've seen the Pokemon anime and wished that the Pokemon games accurately reflected the anime's visual style and sense of dynamic action instead of sticking to its GameBoy roots with every new iteration, then you will greatly appreciate the amount of care and detail put into making the movements of these creatures as full of personality as possible, and the animation does succeed exceptionally well at that goal.
Although, I would like to make a quick comparison: Pokemon had 150 monsters when it started. MinoMonsters has... twenty? Maybe? The game did go through a significant update, so there are probably more creatures than that, but for a game that is trying to rip off Pokemon, having a relatively small variety of the little creatures available with one or two premium ones available for $0.99 or so, just seems... cheap. I guess that's why the creature animations are so well-done, to make up for and potentially blind us to the fact that, as good as the creatures look, there are not that many of them. At least none of them directly rip off - oh wait, there are so many Pokemon by now that I'm probably sure the argument could be made and possibly validated that the creature designs do in fact crib directly from The Pokemon Company's work. *Sigh* Oh well, at least it isn't all bad.
7/10, very detailed animation of the monsters, but the small variety of the creatures plus the static nature of the rest of the game makes for a cheap-feeling but cute and quirky experience. Also, it's "cutesy-wootsy", so beware if that style gets your goat, so to speak.
The creatures do have their own sounds and sound effects which contribute to each monster's personality. I did find their little audio quirks to be quite endearing, and it helps with the kid-friendly image this game works toward. The music, on the other hand, is very soothing semi-classical music, with the constant sounds of the surf pretty much anywhere you go. There is nothing even remotely edgy in the music which, surprisingly, I do enjoy, despite the fact that it is bland as a result. Even in the monster fights, the music just doesn't get the blood pumping and excited no matter what it does. But maybe that was the point? After all, for a kid-friendly title the less offensive the product looks and sounds the better, right? *shrug*
5/10, the sound effects contribute to the quirkiness of the monsters, but the music is the most bland, forgettable and inoffensive music to ever exist. At least the music is relaxing, which... which could... could.... *snore*
Plot & Gameplay:
The plot is so threadbare it can be accurately summed up in one sentence: Your ship crashes on an island chain with a ton of monsters on it, and it is up to you to bring peace and order to the place by training your own creatures to fight the rowdy ones. Really. The plot is just a shell that sets up the gameplay, which immediately causes the gameplay to suffer. It gives no real motivation for the player to get involved in this world, and we'll get to that part of the gameplay in a paragraph or two so be patient. If you really want to play this game, it won't be for the story because there is none, at least none that matters.
The gameplay, on the other hand, is something quite different. In keeping with the general simplicity of the graphics outside of the creature animations, the user interface is very fluid and easy to navigate with as few words as possible conveying all the information you need to know... or at least, it WAS like that. The recent update did introduce a lot of text to things like creature inventory management and alternate menus to view the same information, which seems counter-intuitive because it adds complexity to the inventory, which can quickly lose the kiddies if they are not old enough yet to read. It may even cause older players a head-scratch or two because one doesn't know exactly where to go anymore to do a particular action. At least the battle user interface has retained the simplicity of the original version of the game, so make of that whatever you will.
You play the game by choosing four monsters from your stable of creatures if you've caught more than four and exploring one of the various areas in the game. The actual exploration of these areas is, well... dull. You tap on one of the circles that are around you, and your team moves to that circle. It is nice that each area has its own theme, but nothing interesting is done with that theme; no unique level gimmicks, no variations within the areas and no change in the mode of exploration. At any time, you have three missions which, once completed, give you a star. The number of stars you have determines which areas are open to you. As you explore, you will see other monsters around you. If your team and another monster (or monsters, they do form groups) land in the same circle, you initiate a battle.
While in battle, you tap the enemy to do a basic attack, or tap one of your skill icons if you have the energy for it, or tap the candy icon to throw a candy at the enemy and hopefully get the enemy to join your side, similar to "catching" in Pokemon. When you attack or use a skill (all of which are aggressive), when the attacks hit the enemy, items scatter off of the enemy like hearts which heal your creature, extra motes of experience, extra energy which is used to power skills, and other items like gems, collars and food. You have to tap on these little icons before they disappear to collect them. The combat strategy comes down to nothing but all-out offense and hoping that the right items get knocked out of the enemy before the enemy attacks. The fact that there is really only one strategy to gameplay other than switching out your main monster at the right times to keep your creatures alive feels, well... cheap. Your monsters do level up as they gain experience, which leads eventually to more powerful skills being learned.
Granted, there are other elements that matter to gameplay. But one particular item rears its head over all these other elements. And that is the candy. This precious resource not only allows you to run from a fight, it also revives any of your monsters that were KO'ed (once you get back to your home base) and allows you to "capture" new monsters. Believe me when I say that you DO NOT want to waste your candy, because without it the game pace goes from languid but flowing to frustratingly sluggish. Sure, there are other elements that help, such as collars that increase your monster's defense and gems that augment your monster's skills by giving them more power, but those pale in comparison to the might of Candy. I am not kidding.
There is a cash shop that requires you to purchase credits for things like collars/gems with special abilities and two premium creatures as well as more Candy, but the exchange rate between credits and real-world cash is higher than most freemium pricing models. Considering that the game is very easy to play, that may not be a problem, but there is no way to earn credits through gameplay so if you want something from the shop you will have to go for your wallet. There are also food items, found during exploration and combat, that increase your monster's mood. The better the mood of your monster, the better it fights. Your monster's mood also increases the more battles it wins. You can have your monsters sleep for some time to rest and recover at your home base as well, which lends itself to a nice aesthetic touch as night literally falls while your little monsters are snoozing. Awwww....
Overall, the gameplay really has only a surface resemblance to the complexity and tactics of Pokemon. The combat is essentially "hit-first-and-hope-for-good-random-drops" while the other elements of gameplay pale in comparison to the usefulness of candy. I am at a loss with the gameplay, because I definitely recall enjoying it. I think that my standards were simply lowered because it was just $0.99 initially, but the fact of the matter is that as cheap as it is due to its status as an iOS game (where anything over $0.99 of this type of game is reviled), the freemium elements of the shop do stick out like an aesthetic sore thumb due to the relatively higher pricing model of the credits. If this game did NOT have a cash shop, it would be a much more streamlined experience. Disregarding the cash shop, the gameplay is several very simple and easy systems all vying for your attention and failing to gel into a cohesive whole, and thus losing the player's interest.
4/10, one mud-puddle-of-a-mess that pales in comparison to its inspiration, Pokemon. It also shoots itself in the foot with a freemium shop that requires more monetary investment than most other freemium games. At least it is easy to play.
As much as I hoped to come forth and say "This is a Pokemon clone that may actually be worth something!", I am sorry to report that this game is still a clone. But at least among the gazillion other clones on the Internet (not just the App Store), this game has above-average production values and attempts to legitimately appeal to a younger audience, instead of just trying to cash in on the popularity and quality of Pokemon. But, at the end, this is still a clone of a much better franchise and should be avoided, despite where the game does get things right, such as the cartoony aesthetic and the quirky animations for the creatures. It's not enough to recommend it over its inspiration, but if you wanted something moderately mediocre with which to pass the time, you could do a lot worse than this.
Like that utterly broken port of Pokemon Yellow some idiot joker tried to post on the App Store. Heh, seriously, that happened. And it was so broken, you couldn't even get past the opening splash screen without the stupid thing crashing. And it wasn't even an official port or anything like that!
What? Don't believe me? Check this out.
Bottom Line: 5/10, Still a clone of Pokemon and as inferior as that status suggests, but at least it stands out from the other poorer-quality clones that exist.