This review was originally posted on Guerilla Geek. This is the same thing as the post over there, except now it’s also on my own blog.
A young blue-haired girl named Ellie finds a mysterious bracelet, befriends a new-born monster, and sets off on an adventure in a world filled with monsters. Her goal? To find her way back home. The name? Monster Tale.
With the developers first major title on the DS, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, they created a unique game world while offering some refreshingly fun and challenging gameplay. With Monster Tale they’ve replaced our beloved British stereotype with a young girl and her monster. That’s not the only difference either, where Hatsworth starred in an action-packed platformer with a dash of Puzzle League, Monster Tale plays out as a Metroidvania with a hint of Tamagotchi. Once again proving that they’re masters of taking two genres that shouldn’t mix.
On the top screen we take control of Ellie as she runs, jumps, and beats her way through the game. On the lower screen we have the home world of her pet monster, his items scattered across the screen. As he uses them, he gains stats and abilities that can come in handy on the top screen.
If you’ve played Henry Hatsworth’s title, you’ll feel right at home with Monster Tale. The basic gameplay is nearly identical to his title. From to the moves that Ellie uses to beat down on her enemies, right down to the way you earn money and buy upgrades at the shops. This isn’t necessarily a bit thing either, seeing as the controls are smooth and intuitive. That being said, the combat is one of the finest elements in the game. With Ellie’s smooth controls and your monsters special abilities, combat always stays fresh and fun.
Graphically, Monster Tale is pure bliss. The game looks and feels like one of the more polished 2D titles on the system. The characters and monsters really come alive in the game and the different areas each have their own distinct charm. Yes, the game looks very cartoony, but it does so in such a charming way it doesn’t really matter.
The game isn’t without flaws however. For a game playing into the Metroidvania genre the exploration elements feel a bit weak. The game is very straightforward and there isn’t much to find in terms of secrets or bonusses. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game wasn’t an exercise in backtracking most of the time. You’ll constantly be forced to walk through old areas to get to that one new room leading to a switch so you can go back to where you left off. It feels like gameplay padding, and after playing Hatsworth, a game made by te same people, it’s almost baffling that game isn’t packed with secrets and bonusses.
Mixing the Metroidvania gameplay up with a monster pet to take care of as a tamagotchi was a brilliant touch. While it might seem like something tacked on at the start, it actually turns into one of the more fun aspects of the game. As your monster goes up in levels, he gains new abilities, ranging from attacks to manouvers that help Ellie move around the levels. Once your monster has been raised enough, he’s allowed to evolve into a different form. Each form has its own abilities and elemental strengths and weaknesses. You can always go back to older forms and switch around between them whenever you feel like though, so evolution isn’t of a permanent variety like pokemon. It does feel grating how each time your monster levels up the game pauses momentarily to tell you about it. It’s especially annoying if you let him change to a new form near the end of the game and every item or enemy defeated pauses the game because of a level up.
Despite the major flaws in terms of variety and backtracking, Monster Tale manages to stay away from feeling repetitive. With the hint of a sequel at the end, and the developers having moved away from EA to setup their own company, I’m looking forward to seeing more adventures of theirs on handhelds.