If there is a sentiment that sums up Moshi Monsters, it really is that one, and I mean it in the most flattering way possible. Nearly every moment of this exquisitely-crafted game shows tremendous polish, and it is all geared toward making the finished product more charming. While the game is clearly aimed at children aged seven to 12, there is more than enough here to keep parents involved as well.

The quality is apparent right from the start – Even as you wait for the Flash applet the game runs on to load, a fuzzy and floating purple monster eats your mouse arrow with a loud GLOMP! You can make him fly off and squishy-thud against the side of that window by quickly yanking your mouse arrow around the screen.

This purple monster always devoured my mouse pointer, but he’s just so cute that I can’t stay angry at him.

From there, it is a simple five-step process to creating your own monster. First, you chose from five types – the cattish Katsuma, Chewbacca-esque Furi, the appropriately-named zombie Zommer, a pink ball of fluff known as Poppets, the floating heart Lovlis, or my choice, a floating volcano and devil combination Diavlo. After picking, you can paint them two colors, and once agreeing to the conduct code and supplying an e-mail, you are deposited in your monster’s house.

The main “goal” of Moshi Monsters is to earn rox, which are shiny gems used to purchase food and furniture to keep your monster healthy and happy. There are other things to be done – you can catch monsters and keep them in your zoo, and play mini-games – but rox is the main currency and used to get the neat things for your monster. As you progress, your monster gains levels and unlocks other areas of the game and bigger things to buy.

The easiest way to earn rox is by taking a daily puzzle test. You can only play this once per day, but completing it gives you up to 120 rox, depending on how many questions you can answer in a minute. They range from the simple, such as basic multiplication and counting the number of squares in a picture, to the slightly harder, like trying to pick out a word from a jumble. Once you’re done with the daily challenge, you can play specialized mini-puzzles – for example, just counting problems or just identifying different nation’s flags – for five rox each.

The construction worker’s corny humor is fairly common for Moshi Monsters, and fits in perfectly.

Because of the caps on the rox you can earn with the puzzles, and an experience cap, Moshi Monsters does well in preventing burnout. This isn’t World of Warcraft; you’re not going to spend hours grinding for levels and gold, and fighting ogres in blood-drenched caverns. Moshi Monsters is a kinder, gentler game, and my sessions with it were more relaxed. Typically, 30 to 90 minutes a day was all I needed to get my monster Vince the Volcano (yes, I named him) to maximum health and happiness, and to play through two dozen or so puzzles available. Extra rox is available by catching butterflies and playing a Bejeweled-like energy game, but both are slower then completing puzzles.

Although the content of the game is clearly aimed at youngsters, my competitive fires were still stoked by the puzzles. Moshi Monsters does track both your peak score and your average mark in all of its puzzles, so I was constantly trying to best my previous marks. This did produce one of the game’s few faults though. Because the game uses Flash, it sometimes didn’t pick up my mouse clicks, so I’d have to click again, delaying myself for a few seconds. I don’t think it’s an issue a kid would notice, but I found it highly annoying when trying to beat my multiplication score.

Once you’ve earned rox from the puzzles, it’s time to spend them somewhere. Of the various spending options you’re provided with, the most compelling one to me was a Pokemon-esque catching game involving your garden. About a dozen different types of seeds can be bought for 15 rox each, and planting three and waiting for them to mature allows you to recruit moshlings – ridiculously cute little animals that run about your room.

For example, I have a duck named DJ Quack. When I click on him, he quacks, and it makes me feel happy inside. You can have up to six moshlings in your room, and I shamefully only have three so far, out of dozens. This is another minor quibble I have with the game. It encourages you to discover them by trial and error, but after peeking at the combination list in the game’s forum – helpfully linked at the top of each page – I don’t think I would have gotten any without help.

An example of the adorable moshlings that I’ve collected. DJ Quack is still my favorite.

If anything, game creators Mind Candy should publicize its forum a bit more. This is where a lot of the mingling is done between players, although I didn’t realize it at first. You have to purposely seek out other rooms to look at and grade; each monster is sort of in its own little universe, as opposed to existing and seeing each other in one.

Decorating your room is the one aspect I’ve sort of glossed over, but like everything else, it has a glossy sheen to it. The shops on Main Street sell a variety of furniture and food, both of which are used to keep your monster happy. I’ve never been much for design, as anyone who has ever seen my squalid house in The Sims can attest, but Moshi Monsters keeps things interesting by making the furniture interactive. As an example, clicking the spider chandelier makes it giggle and laugh and bounce from a strand on your ceiling.

Most of the puzzles are relatively simple, with youngsters in mind.

Really, the only two blemishes on this great overall product would be the lack of clarity about recruiting moshlings and the double-click problem in puzzles. Neither ever stopped me from playing. If you’re willing to work out $47.40 for a yearly subscription, or $6 per month, you get additional options like extra seeds, more shops at the Port, and the ability to spray paint your monster in more extensive ways. Free or paid, Moshi Monsters is worth trying if you have kids, or even if you’re just young at heart yourself.