It’s not an exaggeration at this point to say that there are more than a few Pokémon clones tumbling around on mobile, and even a couple of official titles themed around the ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ mentality from Nintendo. Pocket Mortys is both an entry into this sub-genre of the JRPG, bringing with it a certain sense of humour that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Unlike when we reviewed ‘Steven Universe: Attack the Light’, we’d already encountered the animated series ‘Rick and Morty’ before reviewing the game. This helped because aside from the obvious parallels with the Pokémon franchise, the actual content of this RPG is unlike anything else you’ll have played. The show, written by Harmon (of ‘Harmonquest’ and ‘Community’ fame), is effectively a twisted fusion of Doctor Who, Back to the Future, 80s retro nostalgia and hard sci-fi as seen through a filter of family abuse. The core concept, which carries over to the game, being the relationship between inventor Rick and his long-suffering but dim witted grandson Morty. If this sounds like fun to you, it’s because it is. If this doesn’t seem like your thing then back away slowly.
Graphically the game uses HD art assets in 2D for characters that resemble chibi-style variants of the show’s main cast. These are overlaid on 3D environments but plays in a top-down traditional manner (2.5D as this process is known). It works extremely well as a visual style, balancing between being new and classical at the same time and allowing for a sharp, rich colour palette that brings to life an animated cartoon. There’s a broad, but not largely differing amount of locations to explore that are randomly generated, as well as a large hub area that shows creative design choices. The Mortys themselves are fairly amusing in the way that they’ve chosen to re-create the same character on a loop, varying from simple alternate colour shirts to crazy black-hole hybrids.
Sound draws directly from the show, and aside from lifting the theme song wholesale for the title screen (which is best described as Doctor Who meets Farscape), this means a series of amusing snippets of dialogue thrown out at intervals. These range from dry wit to outright snark and can be quite enjoyable, but do draw attention when you’re playing on the bus or in public so there’s a good chance that the bulk of the game will be played in silence.
Narrative is usually a weak-spot in collection based games, and ultimately there’s not a massive narrative arc on display in this title. There IS however an excellent central concept. Rick is one of many Ricks spread out across a multiverse (DC comics lawsuit pending) of parallel worlds. He’s an inventor so clever that at some point every version of him has invented interdimensional travel. A group of Ricks formed an alliance and started their own government, keeping tabs on Ricks from all worlds and acting as a kind of mass community. Each Rick is usually accompanied by a Morty, they’re an inseparable pairing. Our ‘one true’ Rick and Morty are the series protagonists and somewhat anti-establishment in that they’ve refused to sign up. Grabbing them and refusing to let them go home until they’ve overcome trials, they set up the central concept of battling Mortys like captive monsters, grabbing and subduing stray Mortys for the same purpose. It’s a hard science fiction concept given a comedy makeover and applied in a novel way that gives the game a unique drive. The writing is usually witty, or referential to the series, and discovering alternate versions of characters is a lot of fun.
If you’ve played a Pokémon title then you already know how the bulk of the gameplay works, traditional top down exploration with items strewn about the landscape to collect, trainers to fight and a boss at the end of each zone to test your skills. Battles are similarly turn based and Mortys learn 4 skills a piece with a limited amount of uses each. Where the game adds to the experience is in its approach to these clichés, bolting on systems to make the experience more friendly. You can summon the games shop at any point outside of battle and purchase items you might not have in supply for example, or put money into the bank to double in real-time, allowing the game to build a nest egg while you sleep. Mortys not in your party can be send to boot camp past level 10 to grind experience, keeping them relevant to the experience, and there’s a wide variety to capture. When wild Mortys see you on the map they’ll panic, scarper and tire themselves out to comical effect, making catching them easier. A simple crafting process is also included, as are NPC mini-quests to provide them with an almost endless supply of old batteries, pieces of wire and circuit boards. There’s a savvy sense of humour in the game design at work too, with Mortys falling into literal Rock, Paper and Scissor types. Defeating a randomly generated dungeon will bring you back to the games hub, as well as netting you a badge. Enough badges allows you to challenge a member of the interdimensional high council, the elite of the Ricks, and get a step closer to completing the game.
Overall, it’s best to think of this as the ultimate answer to the quest for a ‘traditional’ Pokémon title on mobile, closer in tone and gameplay than ‘Tiny Titans’, but with every bit of the care and attention that title put into building a sense of that cartoon’s world and tone. It’s not necessarily for kids, because many of the in-jokes will fly over their heads (not because it’s overly crude, as the show can be at times) but kids will still be able to access the game from a basic level. Ultimately, it’s FREE and it plays extremely well. If you have even a passing interest in the show you should give this a try.