App Review: Free-To-Play Pokemon Game Comes At A Cost

Zuko Monsters has several advantages over Pokemon, the long-lived monster collecting role-playing game series that clearly serves as its inspiration. It's got sharp and colourful graphics filled with personality, with nary a pixel to be seen. Timed finger taps during battles add a simple element of interactivity that Pokemon's battles lack.

Zuko Monsters is also a free-to-play game, but the price paid for that freedom is so large that it overshadows the positives, making this a pale and disappointing shadow of the games it seeks to emulate.

When you stumble upon a grizzled hero being relentlessly pursued by a mysterious villain through the back streets of a futuristic city, he bestows upon you the power to capture and control Zuko Monsters, a collection of 30 colourful creatures happy to battle on your behalf for the good of all people that aren't villain-kind. The grizzled hero then sets up a shop where you can spend cash money on the equipment you'll need to play for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Sounds like a scam to me.

Zuko Monsters' adventure pays out on a series of playfields littered with spots to explore, people to talk to and new areas to unlock. Exploring either grants the player experience or launches into a monster battle, in which your stable of three creatures face off against a wild Zuko Monster. As with Pokemon, a creatures element determine its strengths and weaknesses — water puts out fire, fire burns plants, etc. It's pretty straightforward and not all that original.

What is original is the way you capture new creatures. Instead of purchasing capture devices, players have a limited supply that replenishes over time, at a rate of one capture ball every three hours. When the game starts the player can have 10 of these total. Once they use them all up, they have to wait, or pay for more using in-game currency (accumulated at such a slow rate it begs to be purchased with real money).

So say I am in battle with a particularly nasty creature, one that I don't have in my stable yet. I beat it down to a sliver of health, hit the capture command, and it fails. With only one ball left, I have to wait 24 hours — and entire day — before I can try again.

Or I can spend some cash.

It's all about time or cash in Zuko Monsters. Healing monsters is a matter of waiting for a timer or spending cash. Completing a mission is a matter of waiting for a timer of spending cash. Each action point on the map has a smallish timer on it that can be sped up using cash.

Zuko Monsters is a rather pretty Pokemon-style game — I am convinced the majority of the positive reviews for the title are based on the completely charming opening moments. Unfortunately I already have several pretty faces in my life that takes all of my money.

Zuko Monsters

Genre: monster-collecting RPG Developer: Goodbeans Platform: iPad Price: free


    It's a real shame about all these F2P games coming out now.. people who happily pay upfront for the game without all these hardcoded restrictions.. but instead the developers/publishers want to bleed people dry instead. There's no way in hell I'd give an app like this to a child or teenager let alone near an adult with impulse buying addictions.

    It's becoming an increasing trend on the app stores, all of them, and one that I hope eventually goes away but it won't be for a while I'm sure. There are occasionally titles that come out with a really decent blend of F2P, micro-transactions but they are few and far between..

      Yeah, I'm real sick of this. It's so much better to have a "lite" version and a paid version - but even then, it had better be $2.99 or less, or I'm just not interested.

      The other side is an F2P game that is poorly balanced though, such as "Middle Manager Of Justice", where it's quite easy to play the game and unlock everything you need without spending a cent. Then the developer gets nothing.

      And, that said, these games that are fleshed out with a story and great graphics and mechanics probably need more than $2.99 from each player in order to be worthwhile, and I don't think the market is yet prepared to pay much more than that upfront.

      But yes, I'm very, very sick of the feeling that they're trying to bleed me dry.

        Well.. you only need look at the Big Fish Games line up and the huge amount of sales they are making to know that prices around the $5.00 to $7.00 range are well within the budgets of many people. They let you play the first chapter or so (usually around an hour or so of gameplay) and then if you want to continue, you pay the fee.. if you don't, just delete and grab the next one.. You could simply play the first hour of all their games and get a lot of free gameplay.

    Isn't this par for the course with these free games, you don't have to spend money but it's so slow it's not worth it if you don't spend money.

      Yes.. but there are different balances.. some are so reliant on IAPs that you can barely enjoy the game and others go to the other extreme where you wonder why they didn't just charge $0.99 and then include IAPs as an option.. then you have those that are really well balanced and all others in between.

    "Timed finger taps during battles add a simple element of interactivity that Pokemon‘s battles lack."

    And if this was ever a part of Pokemon (from, say, DP onwards) people would have just been moaning about how 'stupid touch screen gimmicks ruin everything' and how unnecessary it was.

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