Monster Tale review
Well this is interesting. It’s a game that was barely reviewed at all, only being reviewed by a few less mainstream video game blog/news sites, and Nintendo Power. While it was barely reviewed anywhere, the places that DID review it were very positive about it.
It’s made by a completely new development company called DreamRift. But they’re not exactly newbs in the industry, what with the founders working on various games on various system, most notably the fairly popular Henry Hatsworth, also on the Nintendo DS.
Let’s see how this new company is starting out, and if their first game is any good!
(Note: I’m not doing the Save Factor thing anymore… sorry, it just annoys me)
Publisher: Majesco Games
Date of Release: March 16th 2011
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Genre: Side-scrolling platformer/brawler/RPG
Rated E for everyone
What’s good about the game
Metroid mixed with Pokemon mixed with Double Dragon!
The basic gameplay is pretty strange. You’re placed in a Metroid-style map, which you can explore as much as you want. Like in Metroid, you platform your way through the world, finding upgrades that will enable you to reach new areas and continue through the game. This element is well done, and you do feel like you’re constantly getting stronger as you progress through the game. Also, by fighting enemies, you can gain money, which you can use to buy upgrades for your character, making her stronger if you want.
Speaking of fighting, this is where the “Double Dragon” part comes in. Rather than being stuck with just a beam, you also have melee attacks. You do have a beam (which starts being super short-range, and it upgrades to a longer range later on, AND it eventually charges too, which made me laugh a bit), but it has limited energy, and you regain that energy by attacking enemies in close-range. The close-range attacks are fairly fast and, if you kill an enemy with him, you can try to let the enemy in the air while constantly hitting it while it’s airborne to score a longer combo, which increases the possibility of the monsters dropping money and items.
The Pokemon aspect? Well, that’s the really interesting element of the game. Early on you find a monster egg, and it hatches to be a small flying monster which your character names “Chomp”. If you just leave him alone, he will float up to enemies and attack them directly, though that’s rarely really strong. Enemies drop items (or you can buy them in the store), which fall to the bottom screen. You can send Chomp to the bottom screen, where he’ll use the items, gaining experience points and stat points. As he levels up, he’ll gain traits, which give stat or element boosts, and skills, which you can assign to the L and R buttons to help you out in the game (it can be melee attacks or projectiles, and there’s even some support skills). And he can also “master” those skills and traits.
As he levels, Chomp will gain new forms to evolve to. Each form has its own experience levels, strengths, weaknesses, skills he learns and traits he gains. Each form can be either Earth, Fire or Water, each dealing extra damage to an element and being weak to another (you can tell a monster’s element by its color, for example red enemies are fire). As he gains new forms, you can equip them with traits or skills that you have mastered with other of Chomp’s forms. Also, each form has items it prefers, which give him extra boosts when you give them to him.
Another quirk of the dual-screen nature of the game is that some puzzles require Chomp hitting things in the bottom screen, or in the top screen, or switching between both. Or enemies can send things to the bottom screen that will cause damage to you on the top screen, so you have to send Chomp down to stop them, which is really interesting.
The gameplay here is, overall, top-notch, with a very nice mix of gameplay elements.
Fairly good presentation
The graphics are bright and colorful. It’s always very easy to see what’s going on, you’ll never confuse the background foreground elements. The enemies are sometimes a bit cliché, but they look nice. It’s easy to see which enemies are which element, and their attacks are telegraphed well enough so that, if you get hit, it’s your own fault. The music is a bit of a letdown. There’s only 1 or 2 tracks that I really enjoyed listening to, the rest of the time it was very substandard. Not that they were bad, just not very interesting beyond being fitting for the area.
Overall it’s a nice game to look at, not much to complain about here.
What’s bad about the game
It’s SO easy
Well if you’re looking for a game to kick your ass, look elsewhere. Here, well… to say it plainly, I beat the final boss by standing in one spot and spamming Ellie’s beam and one of Chomps early-learned projectile attacks (Artype). Some parts are a bit more challenging, there’s a few marathons of enemies that come against you in the final moments of the game which can be pretty tough, but overall it’s never really challenging. The difficulty curve is so low it may as well not be there whatsoever.
So much backtracking
That’s a small problem. You’re basically always going deep through one segment of the map, then find something you can’t go through, then backtrack to an older area where you’ll be able to find a new upgrade, then you’ll walk back ALL the way where you were before. You basically repeat that 3-4 times before each boss battle, it can get kinda grating. And, since the map screen always tells you where to go next, there’s very little exploration involved.
DreamRift are a very surprising new company. They might have little experience before this, but wow, they impress quite a bit with Monster Tale. They mix gameplay styles you wouldn’t expect to mix well together, making for some really fun and UNIQUE gameplay, something that happens rather rarely in modern gaming. The mix of Metroid and Pokemon, with some classic beat ‘em up style applied to that makes for something you’ve never seen before.
There’s a few things that need fleshing out here, like a bit more difficulty and less backtracking, but that doesn’t make the gameplay any less fun and unique.
I have high hopes for DreamRift, frankly I’m quite hyped for… whatever they come up with next. It’s clear that they are very solid developers. While this won’t end up becoming a really popular game, and it won’t ever be considered a classic, it’s a very solid game deserving of any praise it might have gotten (despite it being almost completely ignored by the mainstream gaming media…. which might be a good thing) and I hope it sells enough to enable DreamRift to make more games.
Pros and Cons
- Great gameplay
- Unique mix of genres
- Nice presentation
- The story is fine… no need to really mention it, but it does the job well enough
- Easy (Map always tells you where to go, enemies generally too easy)
- Too much backtracking
- Rather short
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