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Review: Monster Tale (DS) ~ Are You Ready, Chomp?

ds_monster_tale-110214

Wikipedia entry

Last week when I was writing about Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, I wanted to reference Monster Tale. To my surprise, I haven’t written a review or talked about this game in full on my blog. So, that’s why I’m going to fix that right now. Let’s tell the tale on one of the best Nintendo DS games ever made. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game. For now, let’s ready, set, go!

Are you ready, Chomp?

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In this game, you take the role of Ellie. A young girl that gets dragged into a world filled with monsters. It doesn’t take long before she meets a monster that hatches right in front of her and follows her around as if she was the mother. She decides to name the monster Chomp.

Then, Jinx, a shopkeeper explains what the world is.  There are other humans in the Monster World and they are king of their own domain.

Now, Ellie and Chomp go on a quest to try and defeat these evil Kid-Kings and try to get them all home.

The reason I stay pretty vague about the story is simple. This game is a very nicely written plot and talking about it more would spoil it. The characters might be cliche here and there, but I really liked the chemistry between the characters. To this day, I still remember the characters and their role in the story by just looking at screenshots or hearing their theme.

The story is a blast to experience from start to finish. All 10 hours of it. Yes, all 10 hours of it. This game is criminally short. You can squeeze a few more hours out of the game when you want to fully complete it.

There is voice acting in this game, but no full lines are voice acted. Some of the major characters have some spoken phrases or noises but nothing really more. Which is a darn shame since the whole voice cast is extremely talented amine dub voice actors. On the other hand, it helps with the charm that this game has quite a lot.

I especially love the grunts of Ellie and the noises Chomp make. They are so adorable and made me fall in love with this game. It’s still a mystery how the adorable and cute game can tackle serious subject matter like what’s presented in this game. So, I hope that you are ready since you and Chomp are going on an adventure.

Metroidvania

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Back when I first played this game, I hadn’t really played a lot of Metroid or Castlevania games. I had heard about both series but I haven’t played them. That all changed when I started to play this game.

The gameplay is your typical Metroidvania game. You explore this world and fight monsters on your way. Don’t be fooled by the visuals, this game isn’t easy at all.

This game is unforgiving sometimes and you really have to learn how each move works and how to use the special items provided to you.

This game has a lot of depth as well. There are three enemy types; fire, water, and earth. These work on a rock, paper scissors theme. So, you will have to keep in mind which version of Chomp you level up and bring with you. Yes, you can level up Chomp. While it’s not 100% needed to unlock all versions of Chomp to defeat the final boss of the game, it’s highly recommended that you level up at least one form quite a lot.

During combat, enemies can drop various items like footballs, books, slingshots, ice cream, camera’s… to help Chomp level up. Some dropped items even have additional benefits, like the football bounces around on the top screen.

Now is a good time to address the top and bottom screen, since it’s used in this game to its full potential. On the top, you have the Monster World that Ellie is exploring. You can have Chomp with you for a limited amount of time. That’s what the yellow bar on the 2nd screen is for. This bar drains as soon as Chomp is in the Monster World.

You can let the bar recharge when Chomp is resting in his den, which is the bottom screen. Once there, the bar recharges and he can experiment and learn about the various items that enemies drop. There is also another catch, each version of Chomp has different attributes, abilities and special powers to play around with.

Now, I love the risk and reward system of the combat. There are a lot of ways to handle a situation. One possible option is to let Chomp handle the enemies. Another possible situation is to shoot the enemies down and another is to melee combat. Now, you would argue that the melee combat sounds useless. Well, I would agree with you there but there is a limit to your shooting ability. When the 2nd bar on the 2nd screen, the blue one, depletes; you can’t shoot anymore. You can recharge this bar at save points or by finding rare blue orbs in the world or as drops. But the easiest way is to melee defeat enemies.

Now, there is a lot more done with the mechanics of the two screens and I have to tell that I really liked it. The combat is extremely challenging to do but in a fun way. Also, no playthrough feels and plays the same since you have so many different ways to tackle the situation.

In addition to that, you never get lost on what to do next since the next spot you need to go to is always indicated on the map. I have no idea if there is an option to disable this, but I think it’s a very useful feature.

Gameplay-wise, this game is extremely addictive. There are a lot of power-ups for Ellie and various forms for Chomp. So, this game quickly becomes a balancing act on who to power up with your hard earned cash. Do invest in both, since otherwise, you will regret it later.

Control-wise, this game is solid. While in very few occasions, the ground pound move was a bit tricky to pull off, but that was a minor annoyance. Since, when you die in this game, you get quickly put back to the latest checkpoint. Now, if there is one thing I really disliked in this game is the lack of teleports.

There is a lot of backtracking in this game. That’s the biggest problem I have with this game. The Castlevania have teleport stones, but Monster Tale doesn’t have that. That’s the biggest flaw this game has. Besides being criminally short that is.

Save often!

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So, this game doesn’t have an autosave. At certain locations, you come across a book where you can save. There, you can recharge every meter to it’s fullest potential. These rooms are highly needed since the lower your hearts, the more tricky this game can become.

Something I will never get tired of with this game is the presentation. This game looks amazing. It’s clear that a lot of love has been put in the creation of this game. The backgrounds of each zone look stunning, vibrant and have a lot of detail.

The colors pop and they build an amazing atmosphere. I especially love the beach zone since it has a lot of memories for me. As a kid, I took a lot of trips to the seaside with my family and I love to sit on the beach and watch the sea do its thing.

Besides that, the monster design is adorable. In some cases, I didn’t even want to hurt the enemies. They all have unique designs and patterns, it’s tricky to kill them. Both since they look so good and some have very unique killing patterns.

Now, the soundtrack of this game is good. While there are some tracks that I find mediocre, the overall package is a blast to listen to. It really pumps you up to continue. You won’t regret hearing these tunes during gameplay and even outside. I played the soundtrack in the background while I was writing this article and I actually heard the various enemy noises and the various other sounds in my head.

This proves that this game has an amazing audio design. To this day, I still remember sound effects and music from the game. And that’s what I mean with that this game will leave a visual impression on you. The game is not only pretty but also sounds pretty.

The animations are fluid and the game runs at a very stable frame rate. I actually don’t remember the game ever dropping frames. Also, I really like how there are two save slots. This way you have tried for two very different runs.

In terms of the UI, there is one minor thing I have to complain about. It’s actually extremely nitpicky but I really find the use of the start and select buttons to switch between the menu’s a bit too much. The start and select buttons on the DS Lite are extremely small. Besides, I wished they merged the map screen and the other menu into one option. Maybe an ability to select from the pause screen if you wanted to see the map screen or the evolution screen of Chomp.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I left a few things unexplained for when you are interested in giving this game a chance. You will be surprised. But, it’s time for the section of the review of the people who need a tl;dr. Time for the conclusion!

Conclusion

The bad:

-The pause menu could be reorganised a bit better.

-The harsh difficulty could be a turn off for some people.

-The game is really short.

-No teleporting in the game.

The good:

+ Amazing Metroidvania game.

+ Great story.

+ Amazing visual and sound presentation.

+ This game oozes charm.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you highly enjoy the 2D Castlevania games, the Metroid games or any other Metroidvania game and you are looking for something more light-hearted, then Monster Tale is your game. This game looks and sounds amazing.

Besides a few minor flaws, this game comes highly recommended. It’s a big shame that the remake for 3DS actually fell through and that the original developers of this game went bankrupt.

If you see this game for sale, pick it up and play it. It’s one of the best games on the DS. I wish more people knew about it so another developer could pick up the IP and make a sequel to it.

On the other hand, the ending wraps up things extremely nicely and makes for an amazing package. Due to the various possible playstyles, this game is highly replayable. But, it’s the complete experience that will stay with you. And that’s what makes this game so memorable and unique.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 99/100

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Ethan’s Mini Marathon: 16-hour challenge for SpecialEffect

Committed video-gamers Gamely Giving are continuing on their journey to raise £1,000 for people with disabilities.

This time they’re being led by ten-year-old Ethan in a 16-hour family-friendly marathon on 24 June 2017 in support of SpecialEffect, a charity that puts fun and inclusion back into the lives of those with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games.

Gamely Giving are a team of friends and bloggers from all over the south of the UK. Following on from their participation in GameBlast17, during which they played  for 72-hours straight and raised over £800, they’re asking people to help them reach their target by sponsoring via their online fundraising page.

“Gamers joined hands to raise as much as possible for SpecialEffect during GameBlast17 so they can continue their amazing work. Over £100,000 was donated in total and we’re extremely proud of doing our part for the organisation,” said Kevin, a member of Gamely Giving.

“We’re continuing our support by participating in further events such as Ethan’s Mini Marathon. It’s admirable to see such a sincere commitment to SpecialEffect from someone so young, and his example inspires us to keep going and create more opportunities to raise awareness of the charity through gaming.”

As an added bonus for viewers, for every £1 donated Ethan will place a block of TNT on a massive structure in his Minecraft world along with a sign showing the supporter’s name. He’ll then light it towards the end of the stream and see how much destruction it causes!

Anyone can sponsor the team online at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/GamelyGiving2017, and can watch the event at www.twitch.tv/GamelyGiving from 07:00 GMT on Saturday, 24 June 2017. For more information, please visit the website at www.GamelyGiving.com.

Review #029: Time Hollow (DS) ~ DAT Themesong.

Time_HollowWikipedia entry

Alright, in order to celebrate some milestones, it’s time to review a game that’s very special to me. I begged Konami to make a sequel of this game. But why? Is this game really so good that it deserves a sequel or am I just being hopeful because I love this game? Before writing this review I replayed the whole game. Just to be sure I wasn’t going to forget anything when I would review this game. I have beaten this game 3 times. I might have beaten it more then 3 times, I honestly don’t remember. This game is extremely memorable to me because I can relate with the main character. Not only that, the soundtrack just helps me write. And the main theme, yes, the main theme. I selected that once in an article about my favorite music tracks in games. So, I don’t have to explain myself there. So, before we continue, this game is a visual novel and adventure game. Like Ace Attorney or Professor Layton. So, because of that, this game falls into my favorite game genre ever. Because this game’s strongest point is the story, I decided to not have any spoilers here! YAY! Anyways, let’s get to reviewing this game. As always, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this article and or your opinion on the game. 

I open my eyes, to another day.

time-hollow-1In this game, you play as Ethan. His birthday is the next day. After you meet his family and the basic characters are set, the story flips the tables on you and takes you on quite a ride. Yes, his parents go missing. They aren’t kidnapped. Since Ethan had a nightmare. In that nightmare, he saw his parents fleeing a burning building through a portal.

That’s all I’ll tell you about the story. Apart from my views about it, of course. So, the story is amazingly written. The build up to the final part is thrilling. The story has several chapters. As the title suggests, you will have to mess with the time and past events. I’m just blown away by how the problems you have to solve can build up to the actual villain of the game.

But here we hit on of the biggest weak points of the game. The game is short. Not as short as Lili’s: Child Of Geos, but I was able to beat this game in a week. Maybe my experience with adventure games helped me, but still, comparing it to other adventure games on the Nintendo DS, this one is too short.

At the other hand, this isn’t such a bad point. The story doesn’t get messy with too many events which makes the story really memorable. The writers truly focused on the personality of the characters. You see them grow and change with each change you make. In the end, you will start to hate certain characters and get attached to others. Mostly due to the brilliant writing. The story never feels; how to say this? Made longer on purpose so you have a longer game to play. It truly benefits the game since you get to know the location better!

Taking back what was mine.

Ethan_Vin_Chronos_dialogueAlso, CAPCOM, take notes please. In this game they nailed the voice acting perfectly. They didn’t use voice acting outside the cutscenes. While using it outside the cutscenes was rather interesting, you can create awkward breaks in it. While there aren’t many cutscenes in this game, they did place them nicely. After solving a big problem, being rewarded with a cutscene is such a sweet feeling.

Sound design wise, they did an amazing job. The sound effects make the game feel truly alive. While I would have used a bit more sound effects if I made the game, I have nothing bad to say about them. Even the voice acting is way better compared to another Konami title I really love as well, Suikoden Tierkreis.

So, the gameplay of this game. Well, it’s pretty interesting. You are presented with a problem. It’s up to you to solve it using Ethan’s special powers. It has something to do with time. Yet, you still want to find out what happened to your parents. The game requires you going to certain places and talking to people.

It doesn’t sound like much, yet it’s strangely addicting. Mostly because the story is really well made, I wanted to continue to play!

In the end

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The difficulty in this game lies into if you are familiar with the style of gameplay or not. Like I said earlier, this game is rather at the short side for veteran adventure gamers. At the other hand, I do expect new players to the genre getting stuck at certain parts. To avoid that you get frustrated, there is a character that’s “training her psychic abilities”. She is basically giving you a clue what to do next or where to go next.

Visually, this game really shines. On this front, I honestly do disagree with the other reviewers. I have seen review where they give this game only a 5 or 6 on the visual aspect. And I don’t think that’s enough. Because most of this game is told through it’s presentation. This game is more like an interactive book. There isn’t a lot of animation to talk about, apart from the flashbacks and cutscenes. I honestly loved revisiting certain places just because of the visual polish this game got.

So, before we go to my conclusion, I do think I have to speak my mind about the replay value. This game has a small bit of replay value. Because there are two different endings. You can only unlock the 2nd ending once you finished the game. Also, the 2nd ending is more for… Whoops, I nearly spoiled a part of the game.

Yeah, because of the genre of this game, there isn’t any replay value besides the second ending. The only time you might replay it, is when you want to review it or just feel like replaying this game.

So, time to move on to the conclusion!

Conclusion

The bad:

– Way too short.

– Failed to bring innovation to the genre, where there was potential.

The good:

+ Amazing story.

+ Unique gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack

+ …

Final thoughts:

The biggest setback of this game is that’s it’s short. Way to short. Because of that, I see how a lot of people won’t really get into this game. Honestly, playing through the game for a couple of times, I wasn’t able to find any other negative besides just the length of the game.

I honestly get the feeling that this game is polished to perfection instead of made longer. I might just be blinded a bit because my love for this game. Who knows? I invite you to play this game and tell me what you think. If you liked games like Ace Attorney or Trace Memory on the DS, it would be a shame if you missed out on this one!

Score: 75/100