|Monster Tale In-Depth Review|
Monster Tale is the second DS game from developer Dreamrift, and like their previous title, Henry Hatsworth in The Puzzling Adventure, it combines two different genres into one experience. As the box art declares, there’s “Action Adventure on Top Screen. Deep Pet Raising Sim on Bottom Screen.” And while only one of these sentences is really accurate, this is still a great game for even mildly interested DS players. This sidescrolling game is filled with exciting combat, great graphics and well, a crapton of monsters. Read on for the full review.
|The story is okay, but nothing special.|
The “monster tale” of the game goes that one day a human child will travel from the human world to the monster world and bring peace, harmony and other crap. So of course in the opening cutscene a young girl named Ellie is transported to this monster world. There she meets a monster and instant friend Chomp, along with some spoiled “Kid Kings” who already rule parts of the monster world by enslaving the creatures there. She goes off to save the world and… blah blah blah. When I heard of the premise it seemed like it could be an interesting all-ages story, like Pixar crafts. But unfortunately it’s mostly throw-away text, and doesn’t add much to the game.
The gameplay however, is much better. It’s Metriodvania in that you traverse a big map, platforming, fighting and gaining new abilities like a blaster or rapid-fire along the way to get to more of the world. There isn’t much off-the-path exploration to do, so fans of maze-like environments may be disappointed. I was worried I would get lost a lot because of it being one big map (I’m the kind of gamer who gets lost in a corridor shooter). But the map system was good enough that I only got lost near the endgame when maps become pretty much useless. The level design is well thought out and provides a decent challenge, though it’s on the easy side. Save rooms mostly are placed well, but sometimes you’ll die and have to redo 15+ minutes of gameplay because there wasn’t a save point near.
|Don't worry, I'm sure violently killing these helpless enslaved monsters is totally morally okay.|
At the end of each zone of the map is a boss battle with a “Kid King.” These are much harder than the normal gameplay, and are good, thanks to the great combat system, if not spectacular. The combat is probably the best part of the game. Combining Chomp’s many different attacks with your blaster and melee moves to kill enemies is extremely satisfying. You jump from one enemy to the next, blasting, throwing Chomp at them, and building up your combo meter to get more items and money. It’s smooth and exciting, and the different enemies keep you on your toes. Though there is fairly regular backtracking, killing baddies is still fun for the whole game, which surprised me. Even grinding enemies to level up Chomp and get extra items is engaging, though you don’t have to grind if you don’t want.
So, this sounds like Castlevania: Cute Version, right? What keeps this from being a total clone of Metroid is Chomp; along the journey you can level him up into thirty different forms, each with a unique and interesting attack, by giving him items like cookies or videogames in the bottom screen. This is where the “Deep Pet Raising Sim” part comes in, but it’s not that deep at all. All you do is tap an item on the touch screen and Chomp will go down and consume it. To unlock other forms you have to give him certain items… and that’s about it. He doesn’t have need-meters like food, water, play or exercise, and you can’t really interact with him directly. Nintendogs this ain’t.
Chomp is more like a companion character then a Pokémon, and I never felt much attached to him. [Even though he is pretty cute.] The whole sim aspect feels too cumbersome, yet too simple. There’s no way to tell Chomp to stop eating things, Chomp’s stats don’t really change the combat, and when he’s on the bottom screen you can’t use any of his attacks, which makes combat far less interesting. Oh, and Pro-Tip: Chomp has to be in the form adjacent to the one you want to unlock to unlock it (this took me awhile to figure out, and the game doesn’t tell you this). While it’s fun to unlock new forms and attacks, this part of the game could have used some of the polish the rest of the game has.
Polish. Speaking of the polish, this game is polished! The sprite work is some of the best on DS with vibrant, interesting and detailed characters and epic, screen-filling, boss battles. The soundtrack is also quite good, giving mood to your journey. Too bad the sound effects get grinding after a short while. Still, you can tell a lot of love went into making this game. All of Chomp’s attacks are a little different from the last, some items turn into weapons when consumed, and the pace is spot on. The developers even reference one of their past games during a piece of dialogue! Very cool.
The game will take you around seven to fifteen hours to beat, and longer if you want to unlock all the forms and get 100% completion. There’s nothing else to do once you beat the single-player, so full price may be a bit too much to pay for this. But don’t let this title pass you by. It’s one of the last great DS games, and worth every minute you put into it. Once I started playing, I couldn’t stop till I beat it. Though it’s not the next epic or innovative masterpiece, Monster Tale is charming, engaging and well worth experiencing.
+ Engaging combat, interesting attacks, great pacing, stellar graphics and music
- Not much to do after the main quest, difficulty spikes, passable story