Moshi Monsters has been a massive success story since Mind Candy unleashed the online social network for kids aged 7 -12. So much so, that it's almost bonkers to think it only launched for real in 2008.
There are now over 50 million worldwide users registered to the site, several hugely popular toy ranges, magazines, stickers, collectables and even a music label dedicated to the British trend. In fact, you can't move for its brightly coloured, cute and cuddly pull - on kids and their parents alike.
It's even safe to say that the craze is fast becoming the UK equivalent to Club Penguin or Pokémon (including aping their global reach) - which is no mean feat considering they are each supported by corporate giants Disney and Nintendo respectively. But, there's one thing that those two brands had that Moshi hadn't, something that helped them reach the next level of International fame... A videogame (or several).
Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo for the Nintendo DS is the first console game that features the characters that form the mainstay of the Moshi world. Or, at least, their pets. It's kind of a cross between Sim Pets and Pokémon, sporting a Tamigotchi hat. And Pocket-lint was invited along to Moshi HQ to have a play.
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The first thing that's worth pointing out is that Moshling Zoo comes across as very different to most DS kiddy games on the market. For starters, where some licensed games are as deep as the paddling pool in an outdoor swimming baths, this Moshi Monsters title has so much to do you can happily imagine a child playing the game well into next year. A pet's not just for Christmas, after all.
This is mainly down to the fact that, while cohesive, the title isn't really just one game or genre. There's puzzle/adventure elements, as you have to figure out what objects you need to capture your Moshlings. There's arcade sections, as there's a stack of mini-games to help you level up those wee creatures. And there's a micro management sim, as you populate your eponymous zoo and treat the inhabitants to bought items through customisation.
In addition, education plays a large part, with a trivia quiz as part of the experience. The questions are almost IQ test-like, but for 7 -12 year olds. And it's while having a demonstration of this particular section that we realised that Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo is an ideal game for adults and children to enjoy together.
That's not to say that you wouldn't let your kid play it on their own, of course you would. But, initially at least, you'll find that it will help to be on hand to aid and advise. It really depends on the age of the player, but it's nice to see a videogame that promotes quality parent/child time.
Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo is out now for the Nintendo DS (and works on the 3DS, without the 3D), priced at around £30. You have to be quick though, as it's already selling out sharpish, and has even made the number seven spot on the UK all-formats game chart, pipping Batman: Arkham City even though its only available for one console.