IGN Review of Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure
Little kids have incredible imaginations. Give them an item, and they can mentally transform themselves into heroes saving the world with their trusty weapon. If they break something, their imaginary friend is the first one that gets the blame for the incident. But what if these figments weren't make-believe, but were real? That's the scenario behind Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure, the latest action title from Mastiff and Nihon Falcom.
Gurumin is the tale of Parin, a twelve year old girl who's sent to live with her grandfather in the slow mining town of Tiese by her parents, famous archeologists in the process of excavating ancient ruins. Unfortunately for Parin, there are no children in town, making it hard to friends to play with. Or so it initially seems. She manages to stumble across a dog barking at a little girl in the streets, but surprisingly, no one else in town can see the small child. It turns out that Parin's new friend, Pino, is a monster child from another dimension that's invisible to all adults. Pino takes Parin to a hole in the wall which leads back to Monster Village to introduce her to all of her friends and family.
Unfortunately for Pino, Parin and the inhabitants of Monster Village, this is the same day that cruel creatures known as Phantoms come and attack the peaceful monsters, kidnapping the inhabitants and destroying the village. Even worse, the Phantoms plunged the rest of the Monster World into cloudy darkness, making it impossible to navigate safely. To save her newfound friends and save the monster world from this hideous fate, Parin retrieves the village's sacred artifact from its resting place in the center of the town square: a legendary drill once used by a human to save the monsters from an attacking dragon.
What follows is a 10-15 hour adventure across the various lands that comprise the Monster Kingdom, entering various dungeons in search of captive monsters and their "furniture." Rescuing these items and monsters will be used to rebuild the Monster Village and unlock new areas to explore. It sounds cutesy and childlike, but Gurumin packs fast paced action into its friendly visuals. Parin starts out with a basic number of moves which she can supplement along the way with new skills and drill parts that provide environmental effects. She can use a guard dash to quickly avoid danger, and she can charge up her drill to perform different attacks, such as stabbing motions with the weapon or even corkscrew moves. Each time she successfully lands a strike, she builds up the drill gauge for her weapon, which can be powered up three times, but if she is hit, the gauge is decreased slightly. Building up your drill gauge is important because each level provides more damage for every blow, as well as new special attack moves for Parin to use. For instance, when the drill is fully charged, it projects laser beams that can be used to attack from a distance.
This can be tricky thanks to the multiple phantoms Parin will face at the same time, all of whom may fire projectiles or charge her where she stands. It can be extremely easy to get hit when four or more enemies are descending on you at once. Even worse, they may be protected by various bits of armor, which strengthen their defense while at the same time providing them with new attacks. Fortunately, Parin can drill off the equipment, removing these skills and leveling out the playing field. However, there's much more to this defensive tactic than simply making enemy elimination easier for you. Each item you drill off can potentially be picked up as junk, which can be redeemed (along with the coins you pick up from fallen enemies) for various items back in Tiese.
Chief amongst these items are accessories that Parin will be able to acquire from stores in town, which will give her supplementary abilities like immunity to gas attacks or larger numbers of coins released from fallen enemies.
What is surprising is the level of depth included in the game. Gurumin packs a ton of secrets into the UMD. While players can blow through the main quest quickly, not worrying about the number of medals they receive for successfully completing a stage, a player who has to collect everything will love the five difficulty levels that are included to test their skills(three of which are unlockable once you've beaten the game), as well as the various unlockable items that are scattered throughout the game. For instance, players can acquire new costumes for Parin to wear throughout the game, like holiday apparel.
There are even mini-games that will test your skills, such as leaping over lasers or playing Whack-A-Mole with a couple of your mole monster friends. Each time you beat the new record, you're rewarded. Clearly, there's a lot of play in a deceptively small package. Unfortunately, there are some little hitches here and there that hurt the overall gameplay. For one, the backtracking that occurs every now and then during the game is nonsensical and tedious at times. Instead of the discovery of monster items automatically unlocking new areas, you're forced to go back to town and deliver it manually. However, sometimes you have to fulfill certain elements of the plot before you can actually hand over this equipment, which drags part of the story down.
Another thing that hampers the story development are the repeated load times that crop up throughout the adventure. While it's not as bad as some of the other PSP titles that are notorious for loading after every event or line of dialogue, you will face up to 15 or 20 second loads depending on what area you bring Parin to, which can slow down play significantly. For example, the game loads when you're going to the Monster Village, then loads once again when you go back to the human town and loads for a third time when you go into a shop. By contrast, the loads aren't nearly as bad when you're fighting your way through some dungeons, although you will encounter some slowdown when you break your way through some walls or trigger powerful attacks.
As I said earlier, Gurumin is deceptively childlike, with a heavy anime feel. The character models are full of expressive, large eyed personalities that help convey the various cutscenes. What's more, the visual flair from the smallest phantom to the largest boss character is quite engaging. I just wish that the camera was a lot better than it actually is. It can be very difficult to see what is going on around you thanks to the tight zoom that hones in on Parin at most times, even with the additional camera controls provided to you. I don't even want to mention the mine cart section, which is easily motion-sickness inducing for those who are susceptible, but it's very easy to find your view obscured by environmental objects or angles that you just don't have control over.
Fortunately, the sound is excellent, thanks primarily to the voice acting present in the game. With a large stable of veteran voice actors like Tara Strong, Amber Hood and Dee Bradley Baker anchoring the characters, the personalities in Gurumin are vibrantly presented with a large amount of humor and style. This is bolstered with solid sound effects, and the drill, which is the primary generator of noise, makes pots, pillars and walls shatter with appropriate sounds. While there isn't a lot of music present within the game, the songs that are around are decent and enjoyable.
©2007, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved