Pokemon and Farmville meet in Magic Pets
If the pet battling genre has its own battle cry, it’s got to be the beloved “Gotta catch ’em all” of Nintendo’s Pokemon. And to be sure, once you find a good entry in the genre, there’s a lot of fun in scooping up all of the collectible pets, learning their abilities, and battling them with your friends. But it’s the pets we want to collect; not the games.
Whenever a new pet battler arrives on the scene, it needs to stand at least a notch or two above its competition to warrant attention, and it’s not immediately clear if Magic Pets achieves this goal. It has spunk, sure, and there’s little wrong with it from a technical standpoint, but its novelties are few.
Yet that’s not to say that it’s poorly executed pet battler. If you want a story to go along with your pet battles, it has that. And the illustrations for the story prompts go a step beyond the stylized fluff we usually see on Facebook. You shouldn’t expect the next great evolutionary step in social storytelling here, but it goes a step further than most games of this type, it’s fun to watch some of narrative play out on the screen. Sometimes you’ll need to rescue NPCs from brambles, but most of the time you’ll battle various bosses as you amass the titular magic pets.
It’s a shame that the variety breaks down on the visual design of the characters you play and interact with, as the core gameplay centers on social sprites who looked as though they wandered over from FarmVille.
It doesn’t take long to realize that this decision exists for a reason; namely, you eventually start building a farm-like compound to house and feed the many pets you acquire across your battles. Even the process of finding new battles coveys this unmistakable feeling of familiarity, particularly in the way you eventually need to clear the fog surrounding your camp for an alarming glob of gold in order to click on rocks and trees to find more pets to battle and possibly capture.
The battles themselves are fun, but predictable, with the animals gaining their strengths or weaknesses through their alignment with the elements of earth, wind, fire, or water. It’s here, though, where both the social and payment options come into play. The runes needed to capture pets take several hours to craft without assistance. What’s more, you start out with a mere two slots for swapping pets in battle, and gaining more (which eventually becomes essential) requires purchasing the premium rubies. You’ll especially want these slots if you plan on participating in the PvP matches, but alas, these consist of little more than battle AI based on another player’s pets and thus don’t differ considerably from battles you’ll fight while leveling.
For all that, Magic Pets works well enough; it’s just that it feels too similar to games we’ve already played before and its limited animations may chase away players who want a little more “oomph” to their battles. Worse, slow leveling and social limitations on hatching pets also forces the experience to devolve into a grind at times, and it’s thus something of a frustrating game to play without many friends. But if you’re still a fan of both the aging FarmVille social template and the Pokemon-like experience of collecting and battling pets, Magic Pets is at least worth a try. There are literally dozens of different pets to collect here, and with frequent updates and an unusually interactive development team, Magic Pets will likely only get better with time.