One of the first things a NPC Rick will say to the “real” Rick is, “I want to be the very best. Like no one ever was.” It’s not the first reference to Pokemon in Pocket Mortys, Adult Swim’s latest Rick and Morty-inspired game, but it’s the one of the ones that really drives it home.
Everything about Pocket Mortys reminds people of how great Pokemon is. Partially because the formula is exactly the same. Rick and Morty find out there are people out there separating Mortys from their Ricks, then using them to battle. Rick’s forced into the ring to get his Portal Gun back from the Council of Ricks. To challenge them, he has to visit various dimensions, defeating their head trainers to get a certain number of badges. Once he has enough, he gets to face another Rick from the Council.
Aside from clever quips that reference Pokemon, there are plenty of other nods to the series. In the first moments of the game, Rick’s Morty is referred to as a potential Legendary. Some Mortys have types assigned to them, though they’re the simplified rock, paper, and scissors. Each one can only have four attacks, just like Pokemon. There are Healing and Day Care Centers. Defeated Mortys are dazed, until revived. The landscape in each dimension looks similar, right down to the bushes. Of course, one of the best Easter eggs is having the Mortys trail along behind Rick. It’s a wonderful nod to Pokemon Yellow, and how Pikachu would constantly trail behind the trainer.
I think perhaps the best indication that this is an homage to Pokemon is that Pocket Mortys isn’t forceful when it comes to in-app purchases. People can choose to spend real cash on the Blips and Chitz, but they don’t have to. Especially since coupons can, occasionally, be earned in-game. Once spent, it gives you some random items and a Morty at about the same level as your current Mortys. When I used the coupon earned from beating one of the Ricks on the Council, I received items that could have been found or purchased in-game, as well as a Morty that could have been recruited under normal circumstances.
Pocket Mortys even gets you thinking. Each Morty is a human being. From the very beginning, Morty says he doesn’t think all of the battling is a good idea. When Rick captures another Morty, Rick questions using him to battle, instead of immediately returning him to his own Rick. After some battles, Morty talks about how exhausted he is. It gets you thinking about Pokemon. People can fuse Mortys at Daycare to create new ones. It makes you question their worth and, in doing so, the worth of the Pokemon you might casually use, then toss aside.
At the same time, this is definitely a Rick and Morty game. The characterizations are spot on. There’s dark humor, such as Rick using mind control chips to get other Mortys to follow him. The behavior of the Healing Center Rick is rather questionable. Rick and Morty both randomly spout off quotes as they walk and battle. The character descriptions highlight Morty’s position as a frequent test subject for Rick’s inventions. Not to mention, Morty can craft items at designated stations with items collected around the world. Even though it absolutely feels like a Pokemon game, Pocket Mortys stays true to itself.
Pocket Mortys is immediately available for Apple iOS and Android devices. It’s free-to-play, though people can spend real cash to get coupons for Blips and Chitz gacha machines.