Magimon (iOS) review
Magimon is a new mobile title from Aeria Games. It’s a Pokémon-inspired card battle game, and is available now for free from the App Store. An Android version will be released “soon.”
Despite its clear attempts to put its players in mind of Nintendo’s popular Pokémon series, Magimon is a very standard Japanese card-battle game at heart. Players take on “quests” that involve zero interaction or decision-making to earn experience and increase their statistics, acquire new monster cards and fuse them together to increase their power, and then take monsters into battle either against computer-controlled “bosses” in the quests, or other players in an attempt to steal various crafting components.
There are a few twists on the usual formula. For example, the game’s quest mode requires players to scroll around a map and tap on various icons rather than repeatedly pressing an “OK” button to proceed as in titles like Mobage/Cygames’ Rage of Bahamut and Zynga’s Ayakashi: Ghost Guild, but this does not add any particular depth or feeling of true involvement with the game.
Of greater note is the “crafting” system, whereby players can acquire specific types of Magimon by collecting appropriate materials and using them in an appropriate “cauldron.” This is a little more interesting than the usual “free card once per day” mechanic of most rival titles, but in practice it is simply a replacement for the usual mechanic of finding cards during questing. There is a linear progression of materials that the player finds as they progress through the quests, and whether or not materials are acquired is largely determined by random chance, meaning a lot of “grinding” is often necessary to earn enough materials to afford a monster.
In terms of multiplayer features, players may battle one another for “rune fragments” that, when assembled, can be added to the player’s party to boost its power. Battles are completely hands-off affairs as usual for the genre, though it is possible to view a detailed battle summary afterwards to see what was particularly effective — or ineffective, as the case may be.
Herein lies part of the problem not just with Magimon, but with the increasingly-large number of Pokémon-inspired titles on the App Store — not one of them understands the core appeal of Nintendo’s own Pokémon games, which is that they offer a deep role-playing game experience in which the player has control not only of where they explore, what they do and how they make up their team, but also how their Pokémon battle against each other. A Pokémon battle is much more than a “numbers game” — it is a fully-interactive experience that requires strategy, tactics and the ability to respond to unexpected situations rather than simply ensuring you have a more powerful party than your opponent. Magimon battles, conversely, can be won simply by acquiring enough monsters to overpower your opponent, and do not require any “strategy” beyond this.
This is a great shame, because mobile Internet-connected platforms are absolutely ideal for a true Pokémon-style experience, and adding additional gameplay depth would not compromise the game’s ability to include social features and monetization at all. It would, however, reward player skill rather than the simple bloody-minded persistence and patience (or willingness to pay) that most of these games demand.
The lack of interactivity isn’t the only problem that Magimon suffers, however. Like most card-battle games, the interface is slow and clunky to use, with lengthy loading breaks when doing something as simple as switching from one menu screen to another. The game apparently attempts to mitigate this by providing the option to spend a good 10 minutes downloading art assets upon first startup, but this does not seem to speed up the game particularly significantly — there are still hefty delays when simply tapping a button, and the game occasionally freezes up altogether for several seconds with no explanation.
Given the current popularity of card-battle games among mobile players in both the East and West, Magimon is likely to do well, at least in the short term. It is, however, disappointing to see yet another developer taking the path of least resistance and making a game that is almost identical to the many, many other very similar games already available.
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A few new ideas here and there don’t disguise the fact that this is yet another rather dull, interactivity-free card battle game at its core.