Testosterone-pumping meatheads shooting aliens? Check. Classic franchises with a facelift? You got it. New hardware announcements? Definitely.
The mainstays of the Electronic Entertainment Expo were present, as always, last week in Los Angeles. But right underneath everyone’s noses was a refreshing title from publisher Majesco and newborn developer DreamRift– Monster Tale.
The title stars a young girl named Ellie, who sports blue hair and has vivid, green eyes. She falls into the Monster World alone and happens upon a monster known as Chomp. From here, the unlikely duo explore the Monster World, a land filled with nonlinear paths and interconnected locales.
Many will attempt to fit this game into the Metroidvania genre, which while correct, may be doing a disservice to the game as well. The focus on teamwork and camaraderie between Ellie and Chomp creates an entirely distinct game, which utilizes the dual-screen setup of DS in clever ways.
Ellie remains in the top screen; she runs, guns, platforms and attacks enemies while exploring lushly detailed environments. Chomp, on the other hand, is free to fly between the upper and lower screen, the latter which is known as the Pet Sanctuary. Here, Chomp (completely controlled by AI) reads books, eats cookies and unleashes weapons that Ellie’s collected from monsters above.
Player’s choices open up vastly from here. You may want to upgrade Chomp’s fighting skills, and thus keep him up by Ellie to attack everything in site. Though, by doing so, Chomp will fail to improve its intellect and set free powerful weapons like a catapult used to destroy nearly all enemies.
Speaking of foes, Monster Tale appears to contain some spectacular and strategic boss battles. A double-headed dragon appears from behind the environment early on in the demo, staring outwardly at the screen, hovering over Ellie. The purple-scaled monster strikes ferociously at Ellie, but even when dodging, the beast seems impenetrable.
However, the dragon is susceptible to Chomp’s attacks. The dragon cleverly counters by moving between both screens, forcing you to juggle Chomp between the upper and lower display. This clever mechanic gives you a small taste of what is possibly in store for later confrontations with bosses, which is an exciting proposition.
Between these mammoth foes, though, are fantastical lands for Ellie to discover. Our young hero moves fluidly throughout the locales with superb sprite animation. Her handbag flies behind her while she runs, but effortlessly turns into a deadly weapon that swooshes across the screen with a mere button press. The love and care instilled in the character is truly second to none.
Ellie’s lovable friend, Chomp, receives just as much affection. The amount of customization to the creature opens up pathways and experiences that may be different for every gamer. Chomp, along with leveling up skills, earns new attributes and even can evolve. Changing the monster’s physical presence, though, comes with positives and negatives that a player must juggle. For example, the third form of beast, titled a Sentinel, boasts superior physical attacks but learns at a much slower pace.
The entire demo felt like an experience overflowing with love, sweat and superb game design. The 3DS and return of Link may have stolen the headlines last week, but gamers need to put Monster Tale on their must-play list this year.
Monster Tale ships in December for Nintendo DS.