Monster Tale is a new DS game released in March of this year. Created by new developers DreamRift and published by Majesco, Monster Tale is a game in two parts. The top screen of the DS is home to a Metroidvania-style platform adventure following Ellie, a young girl imbued with a magical armband and trapped in an alternate universe she's trying to find her way home from. The bottom screen is a pet-raising sim where Ellie's monster companion, Chomp, can use items to grow and evolve into new forms.
Monster Tale got fairly high ratings from most review sites, and it's not difficult to see why. It's a good game that works fairly well and shows some promise. If this is the sort of thing DreamRift delivers on their debut game, then I look forward to seeing what they can produce in the future. But does this game hold up on its own merits? Sadly, not entirely.
The adventure side of the game is short and aside from a few frustrating parts is never really a challenge. None of the abilities Ellie will recieve are very imaginative, every one of them (aside from the roll) is only a new type of armband shot or a new melee attack. The story shows the potential for being interesting but is desperately in need of a few more rewrites, and the characters are bland and one-dimensional.
The monster-raising sim on the bottom screen is remarkably shallow considering the amount of thought that seems to have been put into it. Items will drop from enemies and can be picked up and sent to the bottom screen. Your monster can use these items to gain experience and stats, and to evolve into new forms. If you give your monster items it likes it'll evolve faster, but that's about the extent of that.
None of the forms have a particularly interesting appearance either. Really, they're all just slight variations on the base form, adding claws, horns, wings, scales, etc. Each form has one usable power and one trait which, once mastered, can be used on other forms. None of the abilities or traits are particularly interesting either. As for your monster himself, he's slow to attack and never deals much damage. You'll probably use him for healing if you use him at all, but given how easy the game is don't expect to need health often.
KR Rating: GOOD
Overall, Monster Tale is a decent game that shows the potential for a great game. I'll certainly be watching DreamRift in the future, but sadly Monster Tale is not the contender I was promised. It's too short and too shallow. It borrows too heavily from games like Metroid and Castlevania, while not being much better.
If you want to play an imaginative platform adventure with interesting abilities, pick up Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for the DS, Drill Dozer for the GBA, or Shaman King: Master of Spirits for the GBA. If you want a game that successfully combines pet-raising with action and adventure try the PS2's Castlevania: Harmony of Darkness, or better yet just play one of the Pokemon or Shin Megami Tensei games. As for Monster Tale? It's definitely worth a try, but don't expect anything ground-breaking.
Annotation From The Future:
When I said that I was expecting good things from DreamRift I wasn't lying. Monster Tale wasn't a great game, but it did show potential. If the game had been given more polish it could have been the classic that was promised to us.
Sadly, DreamRift hasn't delivered much on that promise of potential. They developed exactly one other game, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (which did receive good reviews at least), before disappearing. Fortunately, while DreamRift has been quiet they're not quite dead. The company began a new, unannounced and as yet unnamed, project in 2012. Going by statements made by the company's heads, this game might be Monster Tale 2. If it is then you can bet you'll be seeing a review of it here.
If not, well, DreamRift wouldn't be the first video game company to have "died before their time" as its epitaph.