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 colorful 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 colorful 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 creature's element determines 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 ten 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—an 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 or 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 take all of my money.