Review: Monster Tale for DS

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Monster Tale DS

Title: Monster Tale
Price: $29.99
System(s): DS
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Publisher (Developer): Majesco (DreamRift)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Mild Cartoon Violence
Pros: Bright, colorful and detailed graphics, cute premise, simple controls, Chomp has lots of evolved forms to reach, once an evolution has been unlocked you can swap to it at any time, Chomp is quite customizable, Ellie is formidable on her own even when Chomp is recovering, can purchase upgrades for Ellie or items for Chomp, Chomp’s mastered abilities can be used no matter what form he’s in, challenge gradually increases at an appropriate pace and monsters can have elements to make them weaker or stronger against one another. Also, you can see on your map where you need to go next.
Cons: No teleportation system so you have to do a lot of backtracking through levels and Chomp automatically starts interacting with items in his sanctuary when he’s down there.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 95/100, A, * * * * 1/2 out of 5

Monster Tale DSAfter spending two hours with Monster Tale, I began affectionately thinking of it as “My First Metroidvania.” DreamRift, creators of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, have crafted another delightful DS mash-up that blends a side-scrolling action game with a pet raising simulation. The result is an adventure that’s bright, colorful and surprisingly deep.

Saving innocent monsters from selfish kids.

Ellie is an ordinary girl, who just happened to find a rather pretty bracelet lying outside. When she put it on, she found herself in a world of monsters. After exploring some ruins, she learned the bracelet had extraordinary powers and found a newly hatched little monster she named Chomp. While finding a whole new world is rather exciting, she’d really like to return Chomp to his mother and find a way home again.

While exploring, she comes across a friendly, talking monster named Jinx. Jinx tells her that human children have somehow invaded the monster realms and the monsters immediately started bending over backwards and serving these selfish and insensitive kids, thinking one of them was a rumored legendary hero. Alas, those kids are just frauds. They’re also quite mean, as they’ve learned Ellie is there and want to beat her up so they can steal her bracelet and Chomp. So Ellie has to go through all of the various lands, teaching the other kids some humility, so she can save the monster’s world and return home.

Monster Tale DS

Running and gunning through areas while feeding and caring for Chomp

Monster Tale is, for the most part, a side-scrolling action game. Ellie runs around different areas of the monster world, using her bracelet to shoot energy attacks or delivering fierce melee attacks with her satchel and feet. Each area is detailed, bright and colorful, filled with unfriendly monsters and obstacles. To keep moving forward, you have to also visit ruins to unlock additional abilities. As she keeps going along, she’ll find the mean kids who are trying to lord over the monsters and rule this world. Thankfully, Ellie doesn’t have to do this all on her own. Chomp is there to help.

When Chomp is accompanying Ellie, he floats around behind her. He’ll randomly attack on his own or sometimes perform actions only he can do to allow Ellie to proceed. Chomp will also learn special skills as he levels up. These can be unleashed by pressing the L or R button they’ve been assigned to. If he levels up enough and masters these skills, you can use them even when he’s not in the form they’re tied to. He will gradually lose help as he’s summoned though, which means you have to press X to send him to the lower screen.

The bottom screen is Chomp’s domain. Here is where players take care of him, though don’t worry. Taking care of him is quite easy. As Ellie adventures, she may find items like books, cookies or soccer balls. Those immediately go to the bottom screen. Sending Chomp down there allows him to heal and play with these items. He automatically will start interacting with them, which isn’t always helpful, or can be directed to observe something by tapping it. These items give him experience, boost stats or allow him to attack from the bottom screen. They also influence his evolution. For example, if a Foundling form Chomp eats lots of sweets (cookies), he’ll gain a speedy Acrobat form.

The only thing that tarnishes the whole Monster Tale experience is the substantial amount of backtracking inflicted on players. While Monster Tale is clearly inspired by classic Castlevania and Metroid games, it lacks the teleportation feature both games possess. Ellie acquires additional abilities and keys throughout the game that unlock new lands or areas in existing lands, but to reach these places you have to run all the way back to them. While this does provide more opportunities to level Chomp up, find additional items for him and collect money, it also can be quite tedious. I’m surprised that DreamRift didn’t include teleportation rooms, perhaps one in each major location, to make the experience smoother.

Monster Tale DS

Monster Tale is a hidden treasure.

Monster Tale is a delightful surprise. The box and premise may lead people to think it’s some sort of kid’s game, which it technically is, but it’s more than that. It is also a full fledged adventure with lots of opportunities to explore and power up both the heroine Ellie and her monster friend Chomp. You could easily spend hours just trying to unlock all of Chomp’s evolutions, and enjoy every minute of it. It has the potential to appeal to a wide audience and it’s a shame that Majesco isn’t putting forth more effort to market it. If you can find a copy, then it’s definitely worth your time. Just make sure you don’t just focus on leveling up Chomp – make sure to buy upgrades for Ellie when you can so you have a balanced team!

Note: Gamertell was provided a review copy of Monster Tale for this review.

Site [Monster Tale]

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