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

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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 makes. 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 combat. There are a lot of ways to handle the 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 reorganized 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

Game Quicky: TuboCity (Android) ~ Rolling Through Tubes

TuboCityIconOfficial website

Today we are going to look at a recently released game for Android & iOS called TuboCity. No, that’s not a typo. The name of the game is TuboCity. It will all make sense when you see the screenshots. It’s not uncommon that the name is mistaken since the developer recently was at a convention where they had to put a post-it note on their sign telling people that’s it’s TuboCity. Ah well, funny anecdotes aside, we are here for a game review. In this game quicky, I’ll talk about what I like and didn’t like in this game. After that, I will wrap up my thoughts in a conclusion. So, ready… set.. HERE WE GO! As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article.

The game

In this game, you fly with your ship through space. Your goal is to reach the end if there is an end. So, you are flying through a tube in space. See, I told you it would make sense why the game is called TuboCity.

The bad

I think that there could be some improvements made with the tutorial. Usually, when I TuboCity1play these style of games, I love to test out the tutorial. Is it going to make me repeat the tutorial when I don’t finish the objective? That’s the question I ask myself.

And the tutorial does continue. I died at the last ring in the second tutorial, and it let me continue to the jumping bit. I died at the second ring, and the tutorial lets me continue.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always had a hard time doing the jumps. I never knew when to time it right. Maybe I should replay the tutorial a bit, to train for the jumps. Sometimes I got lucky and made a few, but I died more at the jumps then I passed them.

But, then I found something out. You can also double tap or tap with two fingers to make your ship jump.

Also, there is an option to change the way how you want the jumping to work. You have swipe, double tap, and two finger tap. I prefer double tap the most, to be honest.

You could just make a screen where you put the controls on for players to refresh their memory if they haven’t played your game for a while. I missed that.

I also think that the difficulty curve is a bit too steep. It’s great fun that the game puts you through a randomized tunnel, but I think that the first 10-15 hoops should be easy to do ones. In various runs, I encountered very difficult obstacles that I had a hard time avoiding. Also, I think that the rings are too close to each other. This is a big problem when you timed your jump just a bit too late, you land right when you need to make that vital turn to avoid the next ring.

The good

TuboCity2This game looks visually amazing. The effects and the presentation are all amazing. The visual tube effect is pleasing to the eye. The colors also complement each other and the different ships look great.

Also, I love how they used another color for the rings that you need to jump over. They make them easier to see and give the player a fighting chance.

While this game has ads, they are placed at good spots. They are placed right at the top of your screen. I don’t mind those ads in the games I play. Since they don’t force you to watch them or they aren’t in cheap places that your finger touches them easily.

While this game has just released, I see a lot of potential for future game modes. Like a bonus stage where you must jump through 5 rings in a row for some bonus points.

The music in this game is good. It’s very enjoyable in my opinion. I loved listing to it while I was playing the game.

The controls were responsive. If I went to the right, my ship went to the right. If I went to the left, my ship went to the left. If you don’t enjoy that style of gameplay, there is also an option to invert your playstyle.

I think it’s a great touch to add the contact info of the developers in the app. This way people can easily find your social media to follow the development of your game and contact the developer when needed.

There are microtransactions in the game for new ships, but they are crazy cheap. Thumbs up for that. Seriously, no ridiculous overpriced microtransactions here. And here is the best part of it all, they are optional! You don’t have to pay for them to win the game or to get a high score, it’s just a way to support the developers for their free game.

Yes, did I mention that this game was free? This blows my mind since if they would ask 2,5€ for this game, I would say that you get your money’s worth.

Conclusion

This game is a lot of fun to play. But, due to the tricky jumping, I didn’t enjoy my time with the game. If they made the game a bit beginner friendly and polished the jumping mechanic, I think I would have more fun with the game.

It’s a shame since there are three things I didn’t like about the game. The tutorial needs some work; the difficulty curve makes the game uninviting and the jumping is a bit too tricky. All the other things like the presentation, music, controls, UI… It’s all so well put together.

Maybe the developer will fix this with an update, and then my complaints in this article will be invalid. I wrote this review for version 1.08.

Thank you WhitePot Studios for asking me to look at your game. It was great fun to do. I also must stress that this isn’t a sponsored article. The developer asked me to give my honest opinion on the game, so here it is.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Review #031: The Legend Of Zelda – Spirit Tracks (DS) ~ Trading The Boat For A Train

The_Legend_of_Zelda_-_Spirit_Tracks_(Europe)Official site

Warning: lengthy review. Because I wanted to write a long special review for the (3)DS month!

Honestly, I think Dark_Legend would slap me in the face if I would tell him that I did a (3)DS month and that I didn’t cover one of the Zelda games. I can choose out of several games. Phantom Hourglass, Four Swords Adventures 25 year anniversary edition, Ocarina Of Time 3D and A Link Between Worlds. But the 5th Zelda game that has been released on the (3)DS, we shall take a look at today. In my last music article, I talked about how this game has been a laughing stock for trolls. I had a hard time not starting to review the game in that article. So, I decided to give it a review here. This game has a lot of memories for me. I learned about this game through a magazine and after I saw some trailers, I was hyped. Big time. I couldn’t wait. I wanted to play it as soon as it came out. I even made it ship over from the USA so that I was able to play it two days in advance! Yeah. Anyways, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this article and or your opinion on this game. 

Doubtful at first

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Who wouldn’t be? The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass nailed the boat mechanic. The Zelda games appear to take place in the middle ages. Introducing trains sounds so out of place. I was doubtful at first, because you can’t explore the open world like in all previous handheld Zelda games.

Let us focus on that later, let’s talk about the story first. The story starts with a brief summary of the legend of the rail system. You play as Link, or however you name your character, who is about to do his exam to become a train driver. After you arrive at the castle, you get your license from Zelda and she wants to secretly meet you.

From there, the story takes a few twists and turns, but it keeps it safe. The story is not for the youngest children, as proven by the cover. But don’t expect an amazing tale that other Zelda games can provide. I know what you might be thinking now, is the story bad or not memorable? Honestly, not really.

The power in the story is how they used familiar characters from the Zelda series to forge a decent story. Seeing the old characters back will place a smile on every Zelda fan’s face. But there is more then only a few characters from the previous games that feels familiar. While I was playing, I often got the feeling that I was replaying a game. That got confirmed when I read an interview in that magazine. The game is created with veteran players in mind. So, in a way, this game is a sort of “best of” mix with trains.

Improving the game

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One major complaint I have with the first Zelda game on DS is that the central temple needs to be played through several times. Nintendo somewhat fixed this in this game. You can go up the central tower in order to get your next piece of the map.

While I think a sort of elevator would have been nicer, since you take some time to reach the highest floor, it’s a big improvement over the previous game. Now I don’t need to restart at floor one when I want to get the second piece of the map.

Earlier, I talked about that this game is influenced by the other Zelda games. While writing, I realized something. The main core of the game is the exact same as the first Zelda game on Nintendo DS. Just swap the boat for the train and there we go. I can safely say that if you enjoyed Phantom Hourglass, you will enjoy Spirit Tracks for sure!

The controls for this game aren’t very different from Phantom Hourglass but you can feel that there are improvements. This is something I can’t explain without me saying that you need to try it out for yourself. A lot of people find the control scheme a negative since you can’t control Link with the D-Pad. Honestly, I don’t think that should be an issue. Since you get more control over Link thanks to the control scheme.

One thing does bug me a bit, the sections with the microphone are a bit picky. It’s pretty irritating to blow into the DS mic and move the panflute at the same time. That might just be me, but it’s something that annoyed me.

Zelda, more Zelda!

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So, I want to talk about the multiplayer for a bit now. I honestly think that the multiplayer is just amazing. I was even able to convince MiseryLC to play a few games with me. He doesn’t even like handheld games one bit. At first glance, it looks pretty much the same then Phantom Hourglass. But in this battle mode you don’t control the spirits, you control Link.

Your goal is to collect as many triforce gems as possible before the time runs out. There are various power-ups that might help you on your quest. There are even power-ups to steal gems from the other players.

I have to say, that playing this is pretty tense. I played this game with my sister when the game was just released. The memories are just amazing. I think the multiplayer is a well made addition to the game.

So, is the gameplay of the main game actually any good? Actually, yes. It has a lot of fun moments that can pull you inside the game. While I was researching about this game, I read a lot of complaints about people that find that the game is too easy. I can agree there. Apart from some bosses, this game isn’t going to give you a challenge. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention. The best way to put it is that as soon as you know what you are doing, the game will be no big challenge.

Is this game short? That’s another complaint I read a couple of times. My answer to that is, not completely. The full game will take you a few hours to complete. I think I was able to beat Spirit Tracks in a ~ 25 hours. So, it isn’t short. But since the game is a bit on the easy side, you can finish the dungeons rather quickly. This might leave you with the hunger for more. And that might be the cause of the dungeons being too short.

Travelling around

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A negative to me is that there aren’t as many tools to play around with, compared to your standard Zelda game. You can actually count the amount of items in your inventory on your two hands. That feels like the game is lacking in content. Also, one item is almost never used outside of the dungeons. That is the sand wand. At the other hand, the dungeons do use the items pretty well. Apart from the sand wand, I never got the feeling an item was under used.

There is one mechanic that this game has that I adore. In Phantom Hourglass, you always had ghosts that hunted after you. Well, in the central dungeon. Well, in this game, you will become able to control a spirit. How this exactly works, I will leave up to you to discover, but believe me, it’s such a blast to play.

The puzzles in this game are excellent. They won’t be too hard for veteran players to figure out. But they will challenge the target audience of this game, which are children between the age of 7 – 10.

So, this game has besides the usual dungeon exploring, also some quests. Before you can enter the dungeons you need to do a challenge. One of them is figuring out how a cursed woods works and another one is pairing up citizens for patrol duty.

They are a fun distraction from the dungeons and they are really fun to do. You will be able to make use of the feature that you can write on your map.

There is also a big side quest. While riding with your train, you might see bunnies hopping around. In this side quest, you will get a net to capture those bunnies. When you see them, you need to play a mini-game to capture them. After that, you can deliver them to RabbitLand. Believe me, it’s worth doing this side quest. Because the reward to capture all the bunnies is really worth it.

Review the rest?

the_legend_of_zelda_spirit_tracks_thumb30So, now that I have talked about the gameplay and the story, I have a few things left to talk about in this review. Let’s talk first about the replayability of this game. Because this is an adventure game, they replay value is rather low. I have replayed this game a few times since I actually enjoy playing this game.

Graphically this game looks stunning to be a DS title. Each area looks detailed and alive. The art style of this game has the potential to draw any Zelda fan in. I didn’t had any moment where I thought that the visuals weren’t good.

The animation of this game is really smooth and well done. Together with the pretty visuals, the game is eye-candy for the DS. What I mean here is that this is one of the best looking games on the Nintendo DS in it’s genre. I even dare say that visually, this game is better then Phantom Hourglass.

Last but not least, the music. When I heard the orchestrated version on the special music disc that I got with Skyword Sword… Well, it made me emotional. The soundtrack of this game is really amazing. I listen to it from time to time, remembering how much fun I had playing through this game. The soundtrack is one of the strongest points in this game. Together with the amazing sound design, I have nothing bad to say about it.

Well, I think I will leave it here for this review. I covered almost everything of what I wanted to cover. And don’t worry, I left something for you guys to discover when you play this game. For now, it’s time to move on to the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

– The microphone sections are a bit too picky in my taste.

– Too few items to play around with.

– I expected a bit more of the story.

– The game is a bit too much at the easy side.

The good:

+ Great length.

+ Amazing visuals.

+ A veteran will feel right at home.

+ Amazing music.

+ Interesting gameplay. Both in single and mutliplayer.

+ Great side quests.

Final thoughts:

So, another one of my longer reviews. I honestly think that this game is one of the best games in the Nintendo DS library. Too bad that so many companies dumped their “games” on the DS. For this reason, gems like this game get lost underneath the pile of shovelware.

This game is an excellent title for each DS or 3DS owner. It comes highly recommend. Even after 5 years, it’s still pretty great to play. So, I truly urge you to play this game. When you have played Phantom Hourglass, you will be really happy with the updates they did to this title.

If you would ask me what my favorite game is, Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks… Well, I can’t tell. I honestly enjoyed both games equally. And with that bit of knowledge about me, I want to say thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed read this as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to welcome you in another article in the future. If you want to be kept up-to-date with everything I do, I recommend that you follow me on Twitter. My username is @nekojonez. And when you don’t have a Twitter account, you can just bookmark my Twitter to see my latest updates!

Score: 80/100