By also offering powerful loot and in-game cash in exchange for real monies, it even rips out its own key purpose: the tale of your escalating statistics. Why plough through dungeon after dungeon in pursuit of gold and better equipment if you could just buy it? Why, then, are you playing it at all? Games can fall apart when they show their working like this. By putting a price on almost every facet of character advancement, Pocket Legends brazenly reveals that there's no more to it than watching a number get bigger. I almost pity it. It's so desperate to make money that it's forgotten to be a game.
The same mathematical thinking afflicts the dungeons themselves. In each, a small number appears at the bottom of the screen, revealing how many monsters are in it. You have to kill each and every one of them to complete the dungeon. Every single one. There is no end, no escape, no climactic boss (though there are bosses): there is carrying on until that number says 0. The same experience repeated ad infinitum, albeit in different-coloured environments.
Again, the form and function of the iPhone means squeezing a full-blown MMO into it is impractical in terms of hardware and the short-haul play intervals people want from it. But couldn't all those micro-payment dungeons at least try to be something other than more of the same? For a game that's so technically ambitious, it's depressingly without aspiration in every other way.
Let's go back to what it does get right, though. In seconds, you can be twatting monsters in the company of four or five other players from anywhere in the world, in a full 3D environment and with a selection of different combat abilities. That each dungeon is so short means you can sensibly play the game on the move, in short bursts here and there, rather than have to plug yourself in for hours for fear of missing something. Combat is relatively well-designed for a small touch-screen, your character orientating himself to a nearby element when you hit a combat button, and health or mana potions activated with a nearby tap. It's easy to play, and bar the occasional unheeded tap, the controls work pretty well.
Conversation doesn't fare as well: almost no-one chats, despite the game including some canned phrase macros. Partly this is because it's too fiddly to tap out a message while everyone's running up-screen to beat up 30 more identical skeletons, but partly it's because the game's so inherently anonymous in its limited character classes and the decoration thereof. It's hard to think of anyone as a person when everyone looks the same.
There's also no guild system at present, so you'll invariably be playing with random, silent pick-ups. You could, in theory, organise a specific game with hand-picked people by hanging around in the oddly static Towne area, but really this is just an oversized shop. Really, you'll just jump into a random dungeon from the server browser, ignore everyone else there and keep hitting things until you level up again.
That so much fits inside an iPhone, and that so much can be streamed over 3G and Edge, is unquestionably impressive. Pocket Legends is a multiplayer hackandslash RPG on a phone: that is pretty bloody cool. Unfortunately, it's revealed as just the dry-boned skeleton of an interesting game once you're past the initial wonder of how much is happening on your tiny screen. It's currently thinking about micro-payments first, meaningful content second. It needs to get the latter right to deserve the former.