Is This Nintendo Knock-Off The Worst iPhone App Ever?

Its full title is Super Monster Bros By Adventure Time Pocket Free Games, and it just may be the worst iPhone app ever. Dug up by an excellent IGN series '"iPhone Garbage," the free app is a side-scrolling game that not only blatantly rips off Nintendo with slightly altered Pokémon character designs, but it also employs an aggressive in-app purchase system that spams users constantly with offers at prices up to $100! It's a iPhone rip-off tactic only marginally less offensiver than the ever-popular screenshot scam.

For instance, if you want to use a character other than the default, which is basically a duplicate of Charmander from the original Pokémon games, you need to cough up anywhere from $4.99 for the caveman to a whopping $99.99 for the Charizard look-alike. Then when you're actually playing the game, you're bombarded with offers for other purchases, like $1 to buy more firepower for your character or 20 extra lives for $10. Then there are the full-screen ads for other apps that randomly pop up on-screen in the middle of the game. 

Not surprisingly, the gameplay is beyond terrible. There doesn't seem to be any point outside of scamming people into paying for ridiculous add-ons. The biggest mystery is how this travesty got through Apple's App Store approval process despite apparently infringing on copyrighted Nintendo material and an all-around exploitive design. The games are also available on Google's less-restrictive Google Play market for Android. 

What To Watch Out For

Reviews are certainly a great way to keep others from downloading a terrible app; the first three reviews that show up are titled, respectively, "This should be criminal..," "This app is offensive," and "This should be illegal."  So you may wonder who gets fooled by this nonsense, but how about those unlucky parents with kids who know their Apple ID passwords. All it takes is clicking the Buy button and entering your password, and this game could end up costing some family hundreds of dollars.

In fact, the Top 10 in-app purchases list in the App Store indicates that the number-one item purchased by players is the "Role NO.1 and Unlock All" feature - for an absurd $99.99. 

So who is the mastermind behind this ingenious money-making machine? That would be a developer by the name of Mario Casas, designer of such other gems as Adventure Games Super Monster Bros Plus and Super Squirrel Bros by Mario Casas Games. They all share similar designs and the same in-app purchasing system.  

How To Report Bad Apps to Apple

The App Store has long wrestled with a proliferation of scam apps. IGN's iPhone Garbage series exposes a dark corner of the App Store where games like Krazy Kong (a Donkey Kong rip-off) and Legend of Zenda (a Zelda rip-off) somehow found a home. Apple seems to take an after-the-fact approach to rooting them out, as outlined here by iMore's Rene Ritchie:

Apple's approach seems to be that of YouTube - approve any app that meets technical criteria and then respond to publicity or legal takedown demands from copyright holders when and if they come in. It's one of the smartest, safest approaches, legally, for Apple. They certainly don't want to take on the responsibility of pre-emptively moderating intellectual property, and then have their necks on the lawsuit line when something slips through and the rights holders sue both the offending party and Apple.

So how do you report a bad app like Super Monster Bros By Adventure Time Pocket Free Games?  If you dropped a bundle on this game's purchases, Apple devotes a Web page to reporting issues with purchases. If you managed to hold on to your cash but still want to report the app, the best way is to go through iTunes Support. Be warned, though, Apple hasn't shown much inclination to substantially overhaul its review process to catch these specific types of tricks. So as long as these kinds of exploitive apps can make their creators easy money, they'll keep showing up.  

Update: The game, as well as all other titles from the same developer, are no longer available in the U.S. App Store. It's not clear whether or not they are still available in other countries, but we will update with that information as soon as we can.