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Working off the success of 2009′s sleeper hit Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, a Mario-meets-Bejeweled platformer, newly formed DreamRift has released another Nintendo DS title under the radar called Monster Tale. Much like their previous title meshed two otherwise unrelated genres, this one meshes Castlevania style sidescrolling action with a virtual pet simulator reminiscent of Digimon. Check after the jump to see just how this game blends them together.
It’s hard to say what caused the recent surge of ‘Metroidvania’ titles over the past couple of years. It could be a new revitalization of the sidescrolling genre and honestly, I’m happy for it. When I was browsing a local game store, this title seemed to pop out at me. At first glance it looked just like a normal sidescroller. Little did I know that once I actually got to playing it, I discovered a hidden gem in the DS library.
Overall, there’s nothing inferior or rushed about the graphics whatsoever. With so much development in the DS’ life cycle, it was only a matter of time before we saw games with perfectly fluid animations and Monster Tale is no exception. Every object and character has been given so much detail, it’s easily one of the prettiest titles on the system. Not only that, but every screen is just packed with imaginative locations and vibrant color. Even Henry Hatsworth, a graphical powerhouse in its own right, doesn’t quite compare to the graphical prowess of this game. With how much variety they had with the limited number of enemies you encounter, it’s a bit sad that they still threw in palette swapped monsters to help fill the roster. At least they all move differently and have different attacks but still..
The sound is another high point of Monster Tale, once again showing off just how much detail one small company can throw into a handheld title. Each of the main characters is voiced in a number of conversations of the game and each one is voiced by a different voice actor from FUNimation. If I recall, all of the voice actors worked on either BECK or the recent Evangelion movies. While there isn’t a lot of voice work, it’s refreshing to hear some experienced voices instead of the half-assed work done in some other games (I’m looking at you, Chaos Wars!). As for the music, each level has its own theme but there isn’t anything memorable enough to whistle along to. For the most part, the game features some fairly relaxed music that won’t drive you mad as it loops again and again.
This one is quite a mixed bag. One the top screen, you have an amazingly well done sidescrolling adventure game and on the bottom, there is a virtual pet simulator. While the latter concept sounds interesting, there isn’t much substance to it. While your monster is on the top screen, his life continually goes down until he returns to his home on the bottom. From there, he can either rest or automatically use one of the numerous collectables one finds off of defeated foes or purchased from a shop. Many of those items actually affect the action on the top screen. A soccer ball will bounce around from corner to corner while a catapult will launch a constant barrage of rocks on a particular part of the screen. These items are particularly handy for dealing a little extra damage to enemies or bosses, but there’s no way to tell your monster not to use any of the items while on the bottom screen. Aside from a place to store your items and keep your monster when he’s out of stamina, the bottom screen doesn’t quite to a whole lot.
True to the Metroidvania formula, Monster Tale features an upgraded assortment of abilities and exploration. While there isn’t much to be had in terms of the latter, the former certainly help expand the length of the game. And boy does it. It’s a bummer that so much of the game’s length can be attributed to simple backtracking. Far too often, the player will be stuck at a dead end and be forced to return to a previous area to acquire one item in a room that opened up only to get past that one door and find another blockade. Luckily the games designers thought ahead and put in a waypoint on your map, always showing you exactly where to go for the next objective. While I’m not a fan of hand holding in modern games, it’s nice having a reference I can flip to in case I get stuck.
Unlike other games in the genre, Monster Tale’s surprisingly short. With a campaign (including 100% completion) clocking in at around six hours, it stands as one of the shorter titles. While there are thirty different forms to unlock for your monster, you’ll find yourself acquiring most of them with minimal effort throughout the game. There are a few surprise ones for the ones that put forth the effort to unlock them, but by the time you’re that far in the game, the final boss doesn’t hold too much of a challenge. With no form of extra game or unlockables, there stands little reason to replay the game other for than to just have fun with it all over again.
While not a lengthy game by any means or as serious of a ‘virtual pet simulator’ as the developers claim, Monster Tale certainly offers an enjoyable experience that fits perfectly in anyone’s DS library. Whether you’re a fan of the exploration adventure genre or just want something cute for the kids, Monster Tale is one title that I can wholly recommend. Although you may find the game to be over far too soon, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.
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