I don't watch a lot of television. This is mostly because I was paid to watch television in a former life, which has granted me an intimate knowledge of housewives, ducks, and the coastline of New Jersey that I work every day to erase from my brain. In spite of this, I can say without question that Rick and Morty is one of the best television shows going today. The writing is immaculate, the humor is surprising, and the characters are real enough that you feel for their trials and tribulations. Therefore, I was initially very excited for the announcement of Pocket Mortys, a mobile RPG based on the show and heavily inspired by Pokemon. Any game that could capture even half of the greatness of the television show's writing would be an amazing accomplishment. As the time dragged on, my hope faded, and I instead found myself playing a game that fails to capture both the spirit of the show and the addictive nature of its portable inspiration.
Pocket Mortys starts out with a premise that will be familiar to anyone who's seen the show. Rick is banging away at a new invention in the garage, and Morty is whining about said invention and the horrors it could unleash. Said horrors walk through a portal, our heroes chase them, and the player is whisked into a turn based battle where Morty is forced to punch a slightly different Morty owned by a slightly different Rick. After the battle, you are captured by the Council of Ricks for engaging in unsanctioned Morty battles, and the only way to get back to your home dimension is to take down Ricks in other dimensions, gather their badges, and eventually eliminate the Council and prove you are worthy to battle Mortys.
Even the earliest Pokemon games had a small narrative component to push players through the game. The story in Pocket Mortys stops dead after the intro outside of incidental dialogue and the occasional fetch quest. The game trades heavily on the story of the Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind episode, but doesn't really do anything with it. Instead of acknowledging that they're retreading story elements and winking at the player, the game is happy to reference things from the episode in place of jokes and call it a day. There are voice clips from Justin Roiland portraying both Rick and Morty, but they're in such a small quantity that they quickly repeat, and the repetition will force most players to mute the game before they get out of their first dungeon.
Speaking of which, players will find excitement in their first few trips into randomized dimensions. The various versions of Morty running around and the alien trainers are all visually striking in the same vein as the best creations from the show. The graphics really do stand out on mobile, and the developers did a great job of capturing the style of the show in the miniature sprites walking around the overworld.
As you grow your roster of creatures, you'll find that the more unique Mortys you can capture are funny in just the right way, and each Morty has attacks that are themed appropriately. Your Old Morty will attack by pinching his opponent's cheek, while a Business Morty will attack by pushing papers and exploiting his branding. Of course, these kind of jokes are only really funny once or twice, and the humor is drained even faster when you realize that every attack is presented with a generic animation no more complicated than a Rattata's Tackle.
I have played every mainline Pokemon game so far, so I can tell you from experience that the basic monster battling is not the main draw of the series. Pocket Mortys has copied the structure of the combat system, but almost none of the nuance. Status effects are completely absent, and elemental types have been replaced with a simplified rock paper scissors setup. The latter would be fine if not for the fact that the type assignments are seemingly doled out at random, so players are required to memorize useless trivia or completely ignore the small damage boost the system provides.
The repetition grows as you progress further in the game. You quickly start to run into not only the same Mortys, but also the same trainers, giving you the exact same dialogue they gave you the last time they appeared. The game's difficulty is on par with Pokemon's campaign, meaning that it's surprising when one of your Mortys falls in battle and most confrontations are exercises in patience rather than exciting conflicts. The game truly lost me as the combat lost its luster, as everything Pocket Mortys includes is built around grinding through these tedious battles over and over.
Pocket Mortys is a free to play mobile game, which means that the experience includes a few places for players to drop their money or time in exchange for virtual goods. Blips and Chitz machines are scattered liberally around every level, and you can use them to exchange $0.99 for a ticket good for four random item drops and a free Morty that is usually a few levels above your current party. The game gives you a few of these tickets after your first victory against The Council of Ricks, and the Mortys I got were not only more powerful than the ones I caught in the wild, but also in evolved states that would usually require the combination of more than one Morty of the same type.
The game's regular currency is called Shmeckels, and this can be earned by winning battles or by watching a thirty second video advertisement. I was never even close to running out of this currency as I played, which makes healing items abundant and cranks down the difficulty even further. Both these microtransaction schemes are fine for what they are, but being able to buy your way out of the few tough fights the game presents undercuts the joy of collecting and raising your creatures that this genre is known for.
In summation, Pocket Mortys is a Pokemon-like RPG that lacks a narrative for ninety five percent of its running time, simplifies its battle system to the point of inconsequence, and encourages players to skip raising their creatures via microtransactions. It lacks any of the creative spark that Rick and Morty has shown in its two seasons on television, existing solely as licensed filler content for fans to devour. Worst of all, it started to turn me against the wonderful voices of the two main characters with its overly repeated dialogue. Even in small bursts, there is nothing substantial about Pocket Mortys, and your Rick and Morty fandom is better spent doing almost anything else related to the show. Wubba lubba dub-dub indeed.
Pocket Mortys was reviewed on Android using an Nvidia Shield Portable and provided early for review by Adult Swim Games. It is available for free with in-app payments on iOS and Android.
Any joy that the Rick and Morty branding brings to Pocket Mortys is quickly stamped out by the focus on simplistic combat and extremely repetitive dungeons. This is a disappointing cash-in based on a wonderful show that fails both as a clone of Pokemon and as a mobile time waster.