Haypi Co. – the same people who previously brought us the well regarded Haypi Dragon – this time around have set their sights on the monster collection RPG genre, producing the predictably titled Haypi Monster (out now, free). Even though they are admittedly far different games – with one being a mixture between Angry Birds and Worms, and the other a Pokémon clone – there still exists quite a few similarities between these two titles by Haypi Co., so don’t be surprised if I repeatedly refer back to Haypi Dragon during the course of this review. Thankfully – though – I will get this out of the way right now, Haypi Monster has learned from many of its predecessor’s mistakes and has generally hit the ground running far better than its forbearer did.

Haypi_0068_3518When you first start playing your initial order of business in Haypi Monster will be to select your avatar, of which it seems you can either select a male or female Irish leprechaun with a really big nose. Not exactly the grandest set of options, but it’s the monsters – not your trainer’s appearance – that matters the most when you’re dealing with a Pokémon inspired game such as Haypi Monster. With that – and some other minor matters of account creation – all out of the way, you’ll finally be ready to start your monster collecting adventures in full earnest after a short story explanation.

The first thing that you’ll probably notice once you’ve begun playing Haypi Monster’s game proper is that – much like Haypi Dragon before it – all of your options and stage selections are laid out via a handful of menu screens, although I would dare say that the menus in Haypi Monster are less confusingly arranged than those of its predecessor. The setup manages to get the job done and keeps the gameplay moving, thus ensuring that Haypi Monster is all about the critter battling rather than walking around talking to NPCs. As for the various options present on the game’s all encompassing main menu screen, I will be mentioning them all later on in the review as I get around to covering each and every one of them.

Haypi_Monster4The first option of interest that you might notice while looking at Haypi Monster’s main menu – especially if you haven’t already played its predecessor – is that in the lower left hand corner there will constantly be updates from a chat room, some of which won’t even be in English. Much like Haypi Dragon before it, this here is an always online pseudo MMO experience that can only be played in the presence of either a wireless router or a good tower signal should you specifically be using an iPhone. While this allows for you to have real time PVP matches against other monster collectors – as well as talk with (sometimes immature) people from around the world – it does unfortunately mean that those not on an iPhone will be limited as to where they can access the game, making Haypi Monster completely unusable for those 15 minute work breaks as far as some of you are concerned.

On the plus side, the chat room in Haypi Monster need not be your primary method of learning many of the ins and outs of playing the game like it sometimes was with Haypi Dragon. Outside of the initial – and somewhat anemic – tutorial that will be delivered unto you by your big-nosed Irish looking avatar of choice, the game also contains a far more expansive instruction manual that can easily be found in the settings tab. Furthermore, clicking on any item in your inventory leads to a far better explanation as to the purpose of that particular bauble than was given in the previously released Haypi Dragon.

Haypi_Monster5But enough talking about the various menu features for the moment, let us instead get to meat and potatoes of the matter by discussing the heart of Haypi Monster’s gameplay experience. Tapping the main menu’s giant blue swirling vortex looking thing will take you to a secondary menu that lists the six different zones you will explore in search of new monsters to capture and train. Despite the fact that this part of Haypi Monster is a mostly single player experience, you still must meet the aforementioned online access requirements in order to be able to do this.

After selecting a general area you will next be taken to a list of stages available in that region, tapping each of these levels will then list the recommended elements to load into your team – based on what most commonly appears in the area – as well as if there are any monsters appearing here that you haven’t caught yet. Much the same as I previously mentioned with the list of the six regions, these stages will all initially be locked until you have successfully completed each level that comes before it. However, you will be free to indefinitely replay any stage you have already gained access to – either for purposes of grinding or monster collecting – as many times as your heart desires.

Haypi_Monster3Once a level has been selected you will yourself staring down at what can only be described as a board game of some sort, with your previously selected Leprechaun serving as your game piece. Here on each turn you will be able to roll a six-sided die to determine how many spaces forward your little green clothed person will be moving, as well as use any health items – should your active creature team need them – before making said throw. Whatever space your avatar lands on determines what will happen next, which could include any of the following: you could find and begin fighting a random pack of monsters indigenous to the area, you could discover a treasure chest with valuables inside, you could come across a special shop that self supplies for half the price that the store on the main menu does, you could find a special recovery fountain that heals you, or you could even find a crystal that casts some form of buff/penalty upon your team.

Those who don’t want to leave things up to fate can even chose to toss a special loaded die instead that always lands on the value of their choosing, these special items can be earned from quests – found in chests – or bought at various shops throughout the game.

Haypi_Monster2Anyways, it’s when you land on a combat space that the part of Haypi Monster that everyone came here for takes place: strategic turn-based simulated-animal cockfighting to the death (or successful capture, whichever comes first). The combat engine used here specifically looks and plays extremely similar to how things go down in the more well known Pokémon games, with your opponent’s creature off in the distance and you being given a nice close-up look at your own monster’s backside. Each turn you will either select from one of the moves – of which there can up to four – that your up-to-bat creature knows, or you can forfeit your chance to attack that round in order to swap him/her out for someone else currently in your active team.

Preferably you would want to frontline a monster with an element that is advantageous against whichever particular feral creature that is currently trying to make mincemeat out of you and your pets. That is potentially unless of course you’re trying to capture it, since odds are you probably won’t be training something that you curb stomped into oblivion with a massively effective first strike. Same as with Pokémon before it, the effectiveness of a magic card (aka: Pokéball) in Haypi Monster is directly tied to how much of the opposition’s health that you can drain before you begin your capture attempt.

synOf course those who don’t want to mess with any of that can simply use real money to purchase golden magic cards that work 100% of the time, thankfully the developer – Haypi Co. – doesn’t play dirty with this fact by having monsters that can only ever be encountered a single time like Pokémon sometimes has been known to do.

In another move that is similar to how things were handled in Haypi Dragon, a special extra difficult level becomes available in Haypi Monster after all the normal stages in a region have been thoroughly trounced. These levels are intended to be tackled by a team of players working together in tandem, with all of their critters – as well as those belonging to the opposition – being frontlined at the same time. Successfully completing these challenge sections are the key to obtaining vital recipes for performing monster fusion, the prime method of acquiring creatures otherwise not obtainable by slinging the aforementioned magic cards around.

mon-caoThe monsters themselves feature a bright and colorful style art that is pleasantly consistent such that later evolutions of monsters actually do appear like meaner versions of their predecessors, and the various creatures do all seem as if they belong in the same title together. It is good that Haypi Monster gets this aspect of monster collecting RPGs correct, especially since inconsistency in the artwork – and/or unappealing designs – will really go a long ways to forcibly take someone out of the experience. That said, there are some monsters in the game – such a Maize, a living bushel of corn – that will leave you wondering just what Haypi Co. was thinking when they designed all 107 of them.

Now as I have already mentioned much earlier in the review, there is more to the gameplay in Haypi Monster than just the single-player experience that I have been covering thus far. There are also online PVP matches – delivered in a real time format, rather than the post-by-move mechanic more commonly seen on the iOS – for everyone who wants to settle matters of who truly has the most powerful monster team. Winning these matches will earn you valuable Honor Points that can be spent in a special section of the main menu store that accepts neither in game money, nor IAP currency, as their system of trade.

en_combatWhile they don’t actually let you select who you want to fight, instead matching you up randomly against another available player, Haypi Monster has managed to make the PVP opponent finding far more fair than it was in Haypi Dragon. Where as in the game’s predecessor you had a reasonable chance of being pitted against someone with a dragon forty levels your superior, at least so long as someone with such stats was concurrently trying to find a match, here a clever trick has been employed that evens things up considerably. In Haypi Monster both of the critters in the PVP battle will immediately be advanced to what their presumed level 40 stats would be, minus whatever evolutions and new moves they might have potentially gained along the way.

It’s still not an absolutely perfect way of selecting your opponent, but at least it’s light years closer to the definition of fair than the way that things were – and still are – handled in Haypi Dragon.

Getting back to those main menu options that I promised I would cover later on, I would now like to point out that – should you be one of those types that got extremely into the minutia of Nintendo’s Pokémon titles – that Haypi Monster actually does have something resembling the more famous game’s IV (Individual Value) system. In Pokémon the IV was the random stats a creature began with fresh out of coming into existence, meaning that two different Pikachu did – in fact – not start out equal at level one. While perusing your team – deciding who you should take with you on your next stage run – you can pay a nominal in-game money fee to have the creature’s initial stats rated, making the system a bit more transparent here than it was in Pokémon.

en_petInfoI am pretty sure it doesn’t have an EV (Effort Value) system – though – since they actively encourage players to use the main menu’s special training feature, another concept returning from Haypi Monster’s predecessor. Using a training booth on one of your critters causes it to gain an amount of EXP based on how much you pay, with prices listed being available in both in-game and IAP based currencies, except this time the training is instantaneous. This is in contrast to Haypi Dragon where the cool-down clock represented not only how long it would take for the booth to become available again, but also how long it would take for the EXP gain to kick in.

While there does exist an option to pay IAP currency to instantly negate whatever cool down that exists, the presence of stat normalization in the PVP system means that this will also be less unbalancing than it was in Haypi Dragon as well (although there was the fact that those in Haypi Dragon who bought their way through levels often did not learn the finer points of how to aim, and thus often ended up losing to lower level players because of it).

Since I have just mentioned the IAP currency of Haypi Monster a great deal, the publisher’s self titled Haypi Coin, I should like to point out that games by Haypi Co. genuinely find a delicate balance that most other companies do not when it comes to ‘Freemium’ titles on the iOS. Generally companies either create a monolithic IAP curtain that exists for the soul purpose of violently harassing money out of the player’s wallet at every step and turn, or goes the complete opposite direction and ends up offering nothing of particular value to anyone. I am happy to say that – having spent a great deal of time with numerous titles by Haypi Co. – that they manage to make their games genuinely never hit any sort of vulgar IAP brick wall, while still managing to offer things that players would actually want for those seeking to support the developer (and they also don’t get more evil with each update,  either).

mzl.jopzkdmh.480x480-75That said, those who want to obtain a Neo of their own – Haypi Monster’s Pikachu esque yellow mascot like thing – will only be able to do so once they have bought a bag of Haypi Coins from the developer. It is specifically the act of buying the coins – rather than spending them – that actually unlocks Neo, meaning that winning the occasional free Haypi Coin does not let players eventually accomplish the same thing. On the other hand – though – increases to the player’s item storage space are now far more reasonably paid for with in game currency here, rather the cost in Haypi Coins that was demanded back in Haypi Dragon.

I should also point out that the quest system is yet another thing returning from Haypi Dragon, and – as with pretty much everything else I have mentioned thus far – has also received key improvements over how it was previously implemented. Players can receive a plethora of rewards by completing a variety of goals set out for them in their quest list, some of which are missions that can be repeated anew each and every day. In Haypi Dragon it was easy to fail to get credit for the daily quests as you had to manually turn them in the same day they were accomplished, where as in Haypi Monster the rewards are doled out automatically upon completion.

I would like to now close by briefly mentioning that I apologize for not having anything to say about Haypi Monster’s breeding feature, but I was unfortunately not able to get far enough into the game’s adventure to unlock it during the course of preparing for this review.

iFanzine Verdict: For those looking for a monster collecting RPG on the iOS that plays as close as possible to the more famous Pokémon series, Haypi Monster certainly plays and feels far closer than anything I have experienced thus far. It furthermore features both co-op stages, as well as real time PVP matches, something that simply can’t be said of pretty much any of the game’s contemporaries in the iOS market that I am aware of. Finally, Haypi Monster is currently available for absolutely free – a price you can hardly beat – without then going on to use that as an excuse to harass players with a fake gameplay IAP curtain at every twist and turn. The only real downside here is that the always online requirement of Haypi Monster far more heavily favors those who own iPhones, everyone else will only be able to get their creature collecting fixes in whenever they happen to be in the presence of a wireless access point.