Pokemon clones are by no means a new thing. With as much success as Nintendo's monster-catching RPG has enjoyed, clones are simply an expected part of doing business. They're not even a new thing for iOS. I've reviewed both Hunter Island [$0.99] and Band of Monsters [Free] in the last year, to say nothing of the many Puzzle & Dragons [Free]-inspired games released that borrow liberally from Pokemon. That said, with all of the clones, homages, parodies, and more that I've played over the years, none have skated quite so closely to Pokemon's game design as Micromon [$0.99]. There's little pretense about what they're doing here, with cheeky references all over the place and gameplay that is certainly the spitting image of Pokemon imagined as a $0.99 mobile game. Well, originality isn't everything.

As the game starts, you get sucked into a digital world, Captain N-style, through your mobile device. In this world, people collect, train, and battle with monsters called Micromon. After a brief prologue, your goals are made clear. You have to collect as many Micromon as you can, defeat the four town heroes, and maybe take on some bad guys along the way. You're basically on a road trip from town to town, with the routes between each town filled with Micromon lurking in the tall grass. Sometimes you'll go into a cave or something. It's Pokemon, guys and gals. Get out there, catch some monsters, train up your favorites, and take on all comers. Then, when your team is where you want it, go play against some human opponents to really test your skills. There's a story here, but like the one found in Pokemon, it doesn't matter very much at all.

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I could go into all the ways Micromon is like Pokemon, but there's not a lot of point to it, I think. If you're looking for an iOS game with the general feel of Pokemon, that's what you'll find here. The gameplay structure, the battles, the capture mechanic, and the monster development are all very similar to that game. Like a color copy of a painting, it's not quite up to the original, with balance issues, bugs, and a relatively short quest with a serious lack of post-game content, but for its price, it's kind of ridiculous how close this is to the real thing. In cases like this, I feel like it's more useful to go into what's different about the game, and a lot of that comes down to two things: simplification and monetization.

I think, if you're reading this review, it's very likely that you have played a Pokemon game before. You may have even cleared the main stories and battled a bit against friends. For most of you, you probably did all of this without realizing just how absurdly complicated the game design is under the hood. One of the things that has helped Pokemon thrive for as long as it has is that the games have some serious hidden depth to them. The best thing about that depth is that it's there if you want to explore it, but if you don't, it will never so much as make a peep, let alone sit you down and force you to learn it. You may have heard of or even engaged in things like IV breeding, which essentially involves manipulating the random individual values assigned to each particular Pokemon to produce super-powerful offspring. For the layperson, the main outcome is that each individual Pokemon is a little bit different from the next, so your Pikachu at level 15 might look a little different from your friend's Pikachu at the same level. It's a fun way to give the player a bit of ownership without causing major disruptions to the game balance, unless you min-max like crazy.

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Micromon has something similar to IVs, but they're quite different in practice. Each monster you earn or fight has a DR, or development ranking, from one to ten, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest. The higher that number is, the greater your monster's stat gains with each level will be. At low levels, it makes for a fairly negligible difference, but as levels stack up, there's a tremendous spread in power between lower DR and higher DR versions of the same monster. So even if you find that super-rare monster out in the wild, if its DR rank is low, it's not worth nearly as much to your team. It's very simple and straightforward, but it serves the same functional purpose as Pokemon's IVs. It creates somewhat individualized versions of the same monster and gives the hardcore players something to work for, without getting in the way of people who just want to make it through to the end of the game. Of course, you don't have to worry about DR ranks if you just pull monsters using golden eggs.

That brings us to the other big difference in Micromon. If the low price seems too good to be true, well, those of you who aren't so keen on IAP may want to shield your eyes. Similar to the indirectly-related Hunter Island, Micromon has quite a few IAP options for those looking to spend money to get ahead. You can buy two types of currency with your real money, the standard coins and the extremely rare diamonds. Coins are earned at a nearly-reasonable pace during battles, while you'll only be given a particular number of diamonds during the course of the single player game, with more earned at a terrifyingly poor rate from the multiplayer arena battles.

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With diamonds in hand, you can spend on a wide variety of things. You can purchase silver or gold eggs that can be used to pull a monster of a guaranteed minimum rarity, buy gold chips that help you catch monsters more easily, or buy new looks for your avatar. You can also use your diamonds to enter special areas with really awesome monsters to catch, but you're on a very brief timer if you choose to do this. While I felt strapped for coins early on in the game due to spending so many on chips to catch monsters, for the most part, I had no trouble putting together a solid team for the single-player mode without buying any diamonds, and you can indeed catch all 137 monsters without putting in an extra cent. The single-player mode also yields a decent number of free eggs as you play, so it's not stingy by any means.

My concern here comes with the multiplayer mode. You can battle people over the Internet, and obviously, the person with the stronger team has a major advantage. It's kind of against the spirit of competition, at least in the Pokemon sense, for people to be able to buy their way to teams that are almost impossible to put together through simple hard work. The Arena isn't working as well as it should be right now, with matchmaking kind of all over the place and bugs everywhere. That stuff needs to be fixed, but I think it's equally vital to maintain a sort of fair play about the multiplayer mode if it's expected to keep people around over the long haul. Getting a full team of DR10 top tier monsters is an absurd bar to overcome naturally, but someone willing to spend $20 or so can do it in a few minutes. It feels like a petty thing to complain about in a game this cheap, but this aspect just doesn't feel like it's best for the players or the game in the long run.

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I should also point out that there isn't nearly as much goofy side content in this game as you would find in a contemporary Pokemon game. As a result, the world doesn't feel quite as alive, but thanks to some excellent, colorful graphics, it's still a fun place to explore. Each of the towns has a very different style, and although there are a lot of reused objects, the towns and the houses have a nice lived-in feeling to them. There are tons of animated elements, and the battle scenes look great. The monster designs are pretty good on the whole, but many of them are obviously minor modifications of Pokemon. You're not fooling anyone, Crystoise. Not anyone. I'm not sure whether I liked or disliked the use of a Camelot-style emoticon system when the mute hero expresses him or herself, but it's certainly not something you see in a lot of games, so it at least stands out. I can't say the same for the music and sound, which hold up their end but not much more than that. The sound effects on attacks especially lack impact.

I feel like I've perhaps overemphasized the negative aspects here, but I just want to keep expectations in check. Micromon is probably one of the best dollars you can spend on a Japanese-style RPG in the App Store, and if you're even slightly into monster collecting, you're going to get a fantastic amount of value out of this game. I don't think it surpasses Pokemon in any respect, but I also don't exactly see Pokemon available in the App Store, and in that magical world where I could see it, I sincerely doubt it would be selling for a dollar or even ten. The IAP is very visible, but it's not required, so I can't hold that against the game too strongly. The game still has some bugs to work out, and the multiplayer mode needs a lot of attention, but we've already seen one good update to the game in the first week, so I have some faith the developer is going to follow through on any serious problems. Micromon shot for the Lunatone, and while it fell a bit short, it still ended up among the Starmies.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • spader623

    I'm... Tempted by this. The problem I have is that it seems like it's a P2W kind of game. Spend lots of real money, get the most powerful mons, beat everyone... Yet it IS only a dollar... Hmm. What's everyone else think?

    • Echoen

      It's primarily a single player game. It's fantastic at $1. The multiplayer is currently full of hackers and leavers so don't even bother till they find a fix for that. I can say though that you will have an early advantage in multiplayer (and possibly break single player) with buying eggs. Non-rare micromon are good too and they're easier to find and catch at maximum development rate.

      • spader623

        Like the other person posted, the multiplayer is a big draw for Pokemon, which this basically is, so if it's pay 2 win, you'll basically lose unless you put money into it.

      • Echoen

        True. However I was more inclined to get you to buy it for the content you get with $1 to motivate the devs to up their game. :) I really would stay away from the multiplayer as it is though.

        Matchmaking is broken as a new player with only 1 micromon can be put up against a hacker with a full party of lv99 godly micromon. They need to fix it so you go against equally powered parties.

        Second, hacking is a huge problem since you can alter the values of your micromon in the save file.

        Third, players have been reporting battle reward points aren't always being granted correctly.

        It's still a surprisingly good game for the amount you pay. Failed kickstarter brought them to a publisher who had a say in the design so... You know.

      • RiptoR

        While it's true that the publisher's say in the design may have changed some aspects of the game, its influence may not have been that big. The only obvious change that the publisher probably pushed for was the initial price tag (99 cents instead of free/free-to-play)

        If you check the Kickstarter project page you can easily see that the in-game shop was planned from the beginning. They said "we will not sell power" and only "convenience and some really REALLY cool perks" would be for sale, but they don't mention what they were planning to add to the in-game shop specifically. It's debatable whether the eggs you can buy are "convenience" or "power", but it's clear that stuff like this was planned from the start.

        I myself was planning to back the project, but the sparse info about the in-game shop (and other aspects of the game) was the decisive factor why I didn't back it.

        PS: To be clear, I just wanted to say that the game has not changed much since the failed kickstarter. Also, I'm currently playing the game and having a blast, and I'm planning to drop some money in the in-game shop to support the devs for bringing a fun pokemon clone to the AppStore.

      • http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/hanskaosu/blog/ HansKaosu

        Never cared for multiplayer in Pokemon and i own all games

    • Eidaven

      I have played all of their previous games with IAP and if this one is the same you do not need to purchase any to enjoy or complete the game. If anything purchasing takes away from the fun of grinding for me. I haven't played this one yet but I imagine they structured their IAP similarly to their other games.

    • rewind

      Everything useful can easily be obtained by earning diamonds through regular gameplay. By the time you're done with the quests, you'll have earned 2 golden eggs, 3 solver eggs, and 700 diamonds. IAP isn't forced or even pushed towards at all. The storyline is great, the game is great, and what else would you do with that 99 cents?

    • black _developer

      I beat it without spending money - good game overall

      • black _developer

        can't say that multiplayer will be fair for newcomers though

      • Sebastian Padilla

        Hours of gameplay?

      • black _developer

        i would say 8

  • Based Xatu

    At the end of Pokemon ,the draw is multi-player. If this game's multiplayer is P2W, the draw of multiplayer is to hackers and people willing to dump money into the game. It's funny, because I saw the kickstarter campaign after it failed, and the developers wanted this to be a full premium experience.

    • http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/hanskaosu/blog/ HansKaosu

      no the draw of pokemon is to catch em all.

  • Goggles789

    Interesting, I never found the draw in Pokemon to be the multiplayer. I just loved the single player mode.

    • http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/hanskaosu/blog/ HansKaosu

      ditto

      • Dubdubdubdub

        Mewtwo

  • C. Stubb

    If you're not quite sure about this one, here's an idea: install the GBA4iOS emulator, download Emerald version, and enjoy the real thing. I understand how some people feel about emulators, but I honestly believe it's still more respectful towards Nintendo than supporting a cheap knock-off money-grab like this.

    • Raging Tiger

      I wouldn't call it a cheap knock off. A lot work was put into it. It's beautiful and smooth. I own a 3ds and Pokemon x and y and I still love this game. Not everybody can buy all devices so it's nice to have options or alternatives. And not everybody want to deal with emulators, besides it looks pixelated. Emulators on iOS got a long way to go.

      • Inaba-kun

        Just because you can't have something didn't mean you can steal it.

      • C. Stubb

        Without turning this into an ethics debate, I'd just like to point out that I didn't mean to condone any sort of piracy by suggesting the alternative of emulators, and that I personally own both a GBA system and an Emerald Version cartridge. I use the emulator because I find it more convenient to carry around my phone than to keep a GBA and box of cartridges on me at all times.

      • C. Stubb

        Fair enough. I can see how some people could enjoy a game like this on their mobile devices. Personally, however, there is a charm that the Pokemon series has that cannot be duplicated, no matter how polished the imitation is.

    • rewind

      Cheap knock off? This is one of the best knock offs I've ever played...

  • C. Stubb

    Remember how TA felt about 2048 ripping off "Threes!"? I don't see much difference between that case and this, yet TA despises 2048 but loves Micromon. Can somebody help me understand?

    • http://www.AppUnwrapper.com App Unwrapper

      I can think of several differences.
      First, Nintendo is a huge company that won't suffer much from this. No one is going to mistake Micromon for the original, pushing Pokemon into oblivion. With Threes, it was made by a small company and now more people know about 2048 than Threes (I've tried convincing strangers to get Threes when I see them playing 2048, but they just stare at me blankly).

      Second, Threes was developed for iOS and 2048 was made for iOS. If Nintendo put Pokemon on iOS, there would be no market for cheap knock-offs like this one.

      All that said, the game still suffers from having a premium currency that can't be farmed at all. That's the main thing that keeps it from being a great game. I lost out on a DR9 Legendary monster because I refused to spend precious diamonds to catch it.

      • C. Stubb

        Thanks for offering an explanation. Though I don't completely agree with your conclusion, I understand your premise well enough to appreciate the validity of your (and TA's) viewpoint.

      • beau borchardt

        The Game also suffers from a complete lack of originality. It may play well and look great, but is completely unoriginal. A lot of people will buy this because they don't want to have to spend $150 to buy a 3DS and Pokemon, which is fine, whatever a person wants to do, but don't try to convince yourself that this is in anyway as good or classy as a Pokemon game.

    • WrenDavey

      The difference is Micromon isn't cutting into Pokemon's profits because Nintendo won't release Pokemon to the App Store. Nintendo doesn't lose money in this situation. 2048 was only created to cash in on the popularity of Threes!, undercut their price point and steal their profits.

      So in short, Micromon is filling a consumer demand, while 2048 is profiteering.

      • black _developer

        agreed

    • rewind

      There are three differences. The first difference is that Micromon has it's own unique charm and is a very enjoyable game. It was developed very well and a lot of work was put into it. 2048 was made in a day and failed to make me smile. The second difference, as those above me have mentioned, is that Pokemon is on a completely separate platform. They aren't direct competition, because they're targeting two separate markets. In fact, Micromon will probably even provoke many people to buy Pokemon. The third difference is that TA likes indie devs, and TA does not like free-to-play knockoffs.

  • http://ninjasfate.com DarkSynopsis

    A part of me wants to pick this up since I've not played a Pokemon game since Silver and I'm always saying to myself I'll play the latest one and never do, don't even own a 3DS to play X or Y so this does interest me and I think its great that this seems to be a solid clone for the iOS but at the same time a part of my brain just says wait and play Pokemon again one of these days...

  • GreedPhantom

    Deserved. One of the best RPG on iOS and the best Pokemon Like.

  • Rachel Espiritu

    For whatever it's worth, I spent a long time with Dragon Island and Hunter Island, and I have faith in the company. Yes, there's definitely a Pay To Win Faster mentality, but that's not quite the same as Pay Or You Can't Win. Free players could hold their own just fine against the spenders and the hackers, if they put in the extra time and effort. It's not exactly fair, but it's not a broken system, and it does make winning feel that much better.

    And if you care THAT much about competitive balance, just play Pokemon Showdown. No single-player mode, but it's completely free and mimics Pokemon perfectly.

  • baelnor

    It is hilarious... A massive long review for a game that costs $1.29. I would get paid more for the time I wasted reading this than just buying.

    So I did.

    • tpianca

      So... No point in reviewing free games?

  • Inaba-kun

    Clones, the laziest and talentless way to make a game. Being original is incredibly easy, all you need is a functioning brain.

    • Raging Tiger

      Go make a game and let me know when it hits the App Store. Lmao

    • mattreeder

      That was such a hilarious comment hahahaha

    • rewind

      But Micromon is diferrent enough as far as the story goes. The rest is similar. But hey, it's a proven formula, and it's fun.

  • kevin8977

    Yeah, if we could just get the original Pokemon games on the App Store, that'd be great.

  • fraga500

    i'm hooked on this game, but i can't help but feel it's a pokemon knockoff (though not a cheap one, sometimes).
    at the same time you can see the devs put a lot of work into it, creating a whole pokémon-ish universe, the fact that you can buy your way through the game is preposterous.
    i remember when i was a kid and i'd bust my ass off, searching for all pokémons or simply training them for hours before facing some gym leader or the elite four.
    in micromon, all of the hard work can be skipped by simply buying some golden eggs, spinning the wheel and getting your extra-rare, maxed development rate little monster.
    these freemium features are a huge letdown, and are already being exploited by hackers,who can have infinite gems and coins, in the multiplayer mode.
    combine this with a simplistic battle system that could sure use some improvements, tacky menu design (wtf are those typographies?) and a
    graphic style i'm not particularly fond of (but this is too personal; the drawing and coloring are really well done), and i end up feeling like it is a cheap, money-grabbing knockoff.

    so, after writing down my thoughts, i think i realize why i am hooked on micromon: i've been looking at it through rose-colored glasses (because of the memories it brought back), being the big fan of pokémon i was.
    i think some people are acting this way too, overhyping a shallow (compared to the original thing) clone just because they're finally able of having a mobile "pokémon" experience.
    well, who can blame them? it's nostalgic and practical: it's inside your phone or tablet the whole time for the price of 1 dollar. big kudos to that.

    BUT damn, just because it may seem like pokémon (it's totally not), it doesn't mean we should all "deify" micromon, going all OMG MOBILEFHONEZ MONZTURR KATCHIN over it!

  • Gamera Love

    really enjoy this game. i don't even know why some people hesitate to grab it for only 0.99. there're so much content and it seem like the dev really put effort into this game.

  • Sylars

    DON'T WANT TO SPENT INAPP FOR GODLY MICROMONS?
    HERE MY TRICK USE THE EGGS YOU GET INGAME TO GET THEM!!!!!!

    You need a non jailbroken Iphone:
    at least one egg(silver or gold)
    Ifunbox on PC

    1.save ingame your progress
    2.connect to PC and open Ifunbox
    3.extract the Documents folder (now you have a backup)
    4.now ingame press lucky to use an egg and hope for your luck.
    THERE IS AN ALGORITHM FOR THE EGGS.
    Email me if you want a description of it, to increase the chance to get a godly micromon!
    redwipf.clonk@gmail.com
    5. If you got a lousy micromon close the app from background and overwrite the Documents folder on your phone with the one you backed up on pc! Refresh the documents folder.
    6. Open the game and Try again your luck until you get what you want. ^^

    • Kane

      Thanks for making this exploit public. It will be forwarded to the micromon team and patched in a new app update.

      • br4nd0n

        Owned.

      • Funem

        Only owned if you update the app. You can play it as it is, not seen any game breaking bugs yet that require you to update.

    • 61050

      what is the difference between this and running localiapstore on a jailbroken phone and just spamming the 'buy 13000 diamonds for $100" button. the end result is the same, with the only real difference being that you just wasted a shit ton of your time. if you are going to manipulate exploits to your advantage, stop messing around and just do it.

      or... you can just play the game... its actually a fun game still, even if you don't have a party of six dr10 vaithes at level 99.

  • black _developer

    I despised the faces as well

  • SpeedT

    Why is there so much hate here? I see comments questioning people's loyalty to Pokemon, and comments calling the devs lazy and talentless for making a knock off. My loyalty to Pokemon is the reason why I bought this. It's already been stated that Pokemon will most likely never hit the App Store and this is the closest you're going to get if you've already beaten every Pokemon game out there and you want more. It's definitely not as good as the real thing but the fact that I can play something so close to the real thing without it being an emulator is a win in my eyes.

Micromon Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 4.5