Monster Tale Review

While spending the $20 that was somehow cut off of Reckoning’s price tag, I ended up purchasing Monster Tale, a game that I entered with the notion that it was a SNES-like, Metroidvania title, made by the same team that created Henry Hatsworth, while all of these are true, that doesn’t answer whether or not it is worth the $11 I spent on it.

Monster Tale Review
Release Date: 22/3/2011
Platform: DS
Price I Paid: ~$11

The game opens up with some insanely depressing music that feels extremely off.  This is a light hearted platformer, where you raise a monster by having it eat cookies, read books, fiddle with boxing gloves, or transform into a drill to turn enemies into coins.  Why would you begin the into with a melody that only deepened the nook of depression that I inadvertently dug myself prior to playing it? 

But if you get past the story, which basically boils down to kids enter the monster world, you are the only one nice to their monster, and one kid wants to take over the world with their monster partner.  It is fairly reminiscent of Pokemon due to the morals, and Digimon due to the premise, but is fairly forgettable and is devoid of any real adversary other than an obnoxious Princess.  It is presented well, but the characters suffer from a lack of complexity and development, the other children are your rivals for a bit, but are basically never heard from again.  It just lack charm, or memorable stupidity, and instead aims to be the kind of story that you almost completely forget less than a month after hearing.

But onto the actual gameplay.  You traverse a surprisingly linear world made up of a few areas that I can hardly recall despite the amount of backtracking that is done to advance the plot.  There are secret littered around, but they are few and far between.  There are no secret passages and abilities are mostly used to progress, such as one of the countless variations on shooting, which I barely used outside of boss battles that went on for way too long, namely all five of them.  Or abilities like dash, which requires you to double tap the D-Pad, which can only be comfortably done while you are not fighting enemies.  The game lacks the sense of growth found in every 2D Castlevania title since Symphony of the Night, nearly every Metroid game, Shadow Complex, Megaman X And every game that does a good job at conveying the sense of evolving.  It may seem harsh to compare the quality of the game’s design when the budgets are so different, but I have every right to complain about growth in a game where you are raising and evolving a technicolored monster.  

Speaking of which, said monster, Who is referred to as Chomp, has a very poorly optimised leveling system that requires you to constantly switch between forms in hopes to level them up and find enemies that drop the items needed to unlock more forms and minor stat bonuses.  And to make it worse, there are about 10-12 forms in 3 trees, but the variations are minor at best. With the 3 trees signifying the base model that is used for every form, and the only major visual difference is the colors.  Chomp can be either red, blue, green, which signifies which element it is strong and weak to, which anyone who ever played Pokemon will pick up in 5 seconds.  The individual forms also lack any sense of identity, you will most likely raise them up to level 10 and then forget about them, since every form has a unique ability that is made available to everyone once that form reaches level 10.  But the abilities don’t matter much, since you only need Drill ‘Em Mister, Healing, Mega Bomb, and a decent grass ability, if there is one in this game.  

I suppose that the visuals are this game’s finest point, which look cleaner than Henry Hatsworth, but also a bit blander as a result.  It may just be due to the fact that I have been spoiled by some great sprite animations since early 2010, but there just is not a lot that is particularly appealing to look at.  Not to say that the game looks bad, it looks like a polished GBA title, but nothing stands out and there are an abundance of recolors. 

There are also other problems that I cannot ignore, like how a single heart takes two hearts to fill up, since they’re the only thing that will restore your health other than save rooms.  The four or so instances where you need to fight through half a dozen or so enemies who keep sending in their mates after you whacked them off the with the main character’s handbag.  Or how the purchasable upgrades for the main character are over priced and amount to what feels like nothing.

Even with fairly broken mechanics, a game comes down to two points:  Did I have fun, and was said fund worth X(in this case 11) dollars?  And the answer to both of those is a pronounced definitely.  Maybe it’s because I’m the kind of social reject who enjoys a bit of grinding in my games, but I had fun unlocking new forms and abilities, and the sound effects and animations made fighting the regular enemies satisfying throughout the 11 hours I spent on this title.  I genuinely believe the majority of this game’s problems are due to its overly complex nature.  You do not need to add enough stats to support an RPG into your SNES thrown-back of a DS game.

All in all, I would say that Monster Tale is just an fairly fun title that is worth playing if you want a mix of Pokemon and more linear GBA Metroidvania game.  But it is hampered by a useless set of upgrades, an overly complex evolution system that can often take you hours if you want to unlock a specific form.  The gameplay is pretty standard, despite the ability to summon a colorful monster to do one of two set attacks, most of which as useless.  The visuals are that of a very polished GBA title, but it seems a tad bland.  The plot is forgettable, as is  the majority of the experience.  It’s a decent romp that does try to do something new, but everything just feels  above average, only sometimes being what I would call good, but very rarely bad.

Above Average
There is promise in the title, but the execution is lacking in nearly every way.  The premise may be generic, or aspects unbalanced in quality, it is not bad, but is not going to win any awards anytime soon.

//Not much to comment about this game, in fact, I completely forgot it existed unless I was being reminded of the studio’s new Epic Mickey 2 Spin-Off, which looks good, but I do not wish to play sub-series’ new installments before going through the previous titles.

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