Review: Monster Tale (Nintendo DS)

Monster Tale
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Developer: Dreamrift
Genre: Platform Adventure and Pet Sim
Release Date: 3/15/2011

I’ve been reviewing things here at DHGF since its inception, or re-inception, if you will. For the most part, the games I have reviewed have been ranked on a scale of “The Worst Thing Ever “to “I guess that didn’t suck too hard.”

This is why Monster Tale completely baffles me.

It is fantastic.

1. Story
Monster Tale centers around a young girl named Ellie. She falls into another world, discovers a boon of power and a mysterious egg. From the egg hatches a baby monster, so Ellie decides to help it find its mother. She names the monster Chomp.

From there we are introduced to a whole monster world, populated by colorful creatures who have been enslaved by a group of children who had previously fallen into the this world. The monsters believe these kids to be gods, and as such the kids have set themselves up as absolute rulers of the land.

Their reign could not only spell the downfall of the monster world, but also Ellie’s home world. Thus, Ellie takes up arms against these kings and queens, fighting hordes and hordes of various creatures. Along the way, Chomp evolves into any number of different forms depending on his diet, exercise, education, and leisure time activities.

The story here is really cute and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It is appropriate for kids, and they’ll like it because all the characters are children and monsters. More “hardcore” gamers will appreciate quite a few subtleties to the game’s dialog and story, as well as the fact that the main villain bears more that a passing resemblance to Princess Peach.

2. Graphics
Monster Tale is not the sort of game that is going to have photo-realistic graphics and cinematic cut-scenes.

I am very thankful for this thing.

The graphics here are pitch perfect for the game’s style and story. The designs are just spot on. The kids and monsters are instantly distinguishable, the levels are distinct from one another and carry through a consistent theme. Ellie is cute without being obnoxious and, despite having around 30 different forms, Chomp is recognizable and adorable in each.

Differing elements come into play, i.e. Earth, Fire, and Water, as Chomp can evolve back and forth between these elements. The other monsters can have such alignments as well. Monsters of the same family can be aligned with different elements. Rather than just pallet swapping green for red, each class of these creatures differs slightly in appearance. It”Ëœs evocative of Eternal Darkness“Ëœs Sanity, Strength and Magic system and carries the same Rock, Paper, Scissors effect on gameplay.

3. Sound
The score to this game is reminiscent of a classic Genesis RPG. While it hasn’t had an earworm effect on me (yet), if I hear a few notes I can instantly say “that’s Monster Tale“.

Given a bit more time, I should be able to listen to the game and say, “that’s Monster Tale, the wicked treehouse screen”.

There are a few voice clips in the game, but for the most part the dialog is text-based. Text that makes that satisfying old school “ddddd” noice when it whirrs across the screen.

What can I say? Monster Tale knows what I like.

4. Control and Gameplay
This thing controls like butter. The button layout is intuitive and everything works like it should. This is 2D platforming, action adventure exploration at its finest.

You ever play Super Metroid? Controlling Ellie is a lot like that. Ellie has a bracelet that shoots in lieu of a cannon arm, but the effect is the same. She even upgrades it with more powerful shots, including a charged one. She even learns the ability to roll as though she were a morph ball and learns to wall jump. Acquiring these new skills open up new areas of previously explored levels.

In a word, Moster Tale is Metroidvania. To complete this feeling, Ellie’s close range attack is using her satchel as a whip.

If you hate backtracking in games, you might find Monster Tale irritating. Then again, you would hate most Metroidvania style games. Thankfully, though, this game is so much fun to play, that traversing previously traversed areas never feels like a chore. A lot of that is due to the addition of Chomp.

I’ve always found Metroidvania games uniquely addictive, but Monster Tale has managed to take things to a whole new level by what basically amounts to giving Samus a Pokemon buddy. Chomp evolves, learns new tricks, earns new traits, and is generally fun to hang around. Can’t quite hit that monster with your satchel or bracelet gun? Don’t worry, Chomp will smack him in the back of the head, or you can command him to charge like a torpedo, or pound the ground like Donkey Kong, or turn into a giant bomb to explode that fool, or shoot fireballs, or any number of different thing.

And all this is only the top screen.

You can also send Chomp to the bottom screen. While there, he will recover health, attack the occasional monster or flip a switch now and then. For the most part, however, the bottom screen treats Chomp like a virtual pet. You can buy Chomp everything from turkey legs to soap, from boxing gloves to video games, from ancient scrolls to toy cars. These will increase his stats and unlock new forms into which Chomp can evolve.

Dear God, they’ve managed to cross-breed virtual pets and Metroidvania. That is bloody brilliant.

5. Replayability
A lot of the replayability comes from Chomp. There are so many forms to unlock, traits to unlock, attacks to unlock, that Monster Tale should keep you busy for a long time.

Without taking those thing into consideration, it still got a fair amount of replay value. My daughter started playing the second save slot, and I find a tremendous amount of fun in beating monsters and levels I had beaten just hours previously.

6. Balance
At first, this game might seem too easy. There are save slots all over the place, each of which fills up Ellie’s health, Chomp’s health, Ellie’s shooting ability and so on. The game’s map also show exactly where to go next. While that may sound like cheating to some, it completely removes the tedium of backtracking to folks with no sense of direction (i.e. yours truly).

But this is all a trick. I went from hardly ever taking damage to taking a little damage to taking a lot of damage to fighting my way to save points. The game slowly but surely gets progressively harder. It is as smooth a learning curve as I’ve ever encountered.

There are some options to grind. Shops sell upgrades to Ellie’s weapon’s and abilities, as well as the various toys, food and accoutrements for Chomp. You can focus all your attention on one or the other, and the game’s balance will adjust accordingly.

7. Originality
This game reminds me of classic Genesis games, NES games, SuperNintendo games, virtual pets, Pokemon, Eternal Darkness, and more.

It may seem like it is made from parts of other games, but they all combine to form something new. It is almost like a Tarantino film wherein homages and tropes come together to create an original experience.

8. Addictiveness
My seven year old daughter and I have been taking turns prying this game from the other’s hands. It is incredibly addictive. I have not been this addicted to a video game since Shining Force.

It is one of those “turn around and somehow it is three hours later and I am surrounded by empty Diet Pepsi cans” games.

“I’ll play till the next save point. No wait, that save point was too close. I’ll play some more.”

My daughter was getting frustrated at one point in the game and set the DS down to regroup. I said, “maybe you should take a little break. . .”

She snapped back, “No, I just need to finish this one part!”

9. Appeal Factor
If this game doesn’t appeal to you, I don’t know if I want to be your friend. On the surface it may appear girly or kiddie, but don’t let that fool you. It plays like a lost 16 bit classic.

It’s got monsters, shooting, and a pet sim. What more could anybody want?

10. Miscellaneous
This game features a Monster Night Club. Therefore, it is rad.

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Great
Sound: Great
Control and Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Good
Balance: Great
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Amazing
Appeal Factor: Incredible
Miscellaneous: Great
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary:
Monster Tale has reminded me that video games can be fun and might be the best game I’ve played for the Nintendo DS. I am stupid in love with this game.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply to shamika baptiste Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *