By George, they’ve finally done it! Kind of.

Pretty much every iOS gamer has thought about the possibility of playing their favorite monster-battling Nintendo game at one point or another. Unfortunately the Big N doesn’t seem to share their enthusiasm. But that’s okay, because now we have Haypi Monster. It’s not exactly a 1:1 experience, but it’s probably as close as an iOS developer has come so far. And it’s free-to-play, no less!

I never need much of a reason to run around a virtual environment and train fantasy creatures. I’m thinking Haypi Monster knows this, because it eschews any real semblance of a story and gets right down to brass monster tacks. After a brief tutorial (naturally) players are left to their own devices as they attempt to go out adventuring. Hopefully catching, training, and even fusing more monsters along the way. The bulk of the gameplay takes place in a number of different zones (forest, volcano, etc), each with their own indigenous creatures. These levels are presented as a sort of simple board game, with players rolling a six-sided die to move and the spaces they land on determining whether they fight anything, get a stat boost, and so on. Combat, on the other hand, should feel pretty familiar to Pocket Monster enthusiasts. Taking advantage of elemental strengths and weaknesses is paramount to success, as is weakening an intended captive before attempting to forcefully add them to the team.

Haypi Monster

There are a lot of little details to Haypi Monster that are easy to appreciate. First and foremost, having those elemental strengths and weaknesses that I’ve already mentioned called out prominently in each fight is a welcome change. I don’t have to try and remember if X is weak to Y or if it’s the other way around – everything is spelled out for me right on the screen. I also rather appreciate most of the monster designs. Draco isn’t quite as memorable as, say, a Charmander, but most of the designs look pretty good. I’m fairly fond of the Octobud myself, which is something like a spider made out of plants.

Still another element that I would’ve expected to dislike has turned out to be fairly cool; training. I’d expected it to involve something like paying ridiculous amounts of in-app-purchase money or tons of real world time, but it’s much more forgiving that that. Players can select any of their creatures for training, pick a regimen (more coins means more experience), and viola! Instant experience boost. The catch is that it takes real world time to recharge after every use, but I find it to be a much more preferable method than having to take a monster off the team for several hours in order to boost their stats.

Haypi Monster

Of course, being a free-to-play game, some concessions had to be made. The biggest irritation for me is simply catching a new monster. In short, the default cards used for capture just don’t cut it most of the time. I get that attempting a capture with a 47% chance of success means I might fail a few times, but burning through half a dozen of this limited resource in quick succession feels like someone “tweaked” the math in order to push the fancy in-app-purchase 100% success rate cards. It just makes the use of percentages seem arbitrary. I’m also not a huge fan of having to find synthesis recipes before being able to combine monsters into new forms, but as I’ve said; concessions had to be made.

Haypi Monster doesn’t quite hold a candle to Nintendo’s multi-sequel juggernaut but it’s probably the closest thing we iOS users will have to satiate ourselves for a while. Personally, I’d consider that a good thing.