Nihon Falcom's two decades of role-player expertise comes to light as Mastiff presents the action adventure RPG, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure. Cute, inspiring and fun, we follow Parin down the rabbit hole for a wonderful tale of friendship and bravery in Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure.
If you’ve never heard of Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure don’t be surprised because I wasn’t aware of this little gem until I seen it set for release a few weeks ago. Gurumin the perfect game to represent the phrase "hidden gem", and the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a new PSP game. From role-playing veterans Nihon Falcom (Ys, Dragon Slayer), and Mastiff most famous for La Pucelle: Tactics and Gungrave: Overdose, Gurumin has all the requirements to provide a wonderful adventure game with all the toppings gamers have come to expect over the years. In this respect Gurumin doesn ’t disappoint and will please anyone who has enjoyed a 3D adventure game like Zelda in the past.
The tale of this Monstrous adventure begins with a young girl named Parin, who is sent to live in a small mining town where no other children live. Parin manages to discover a young girl who is actually a monster. As you would suspect this monster is a "friendly" monster that is invisible to adults. Parin soon finds her way into a Monster Village through a crack in the city walls and this is when her adventure begins. Monster Village, and monsters in general are in a dire time being threatened by evil creatures named Phantoms. The Phantoms have monster-napped all the inhabitants of the Village and the little girl, Parin steps into the role of the hero. Reminiscent of the story of the sword and the stone, Parin is the chosen one to free the Legendary Drill, the only weapon that will work against the Phantoms. This is when the real adventure starts, about a half hour to the game.
Gurumin's navigation is split up into a 3D world in towns and locations, and a Super-Mario esq. mini map where you slide over to your next destination. Like Mario certain paths are blocked which get unlocked at later times. A fog covers the hidden parts of the map and the clear sky brightens the areas you can explore. Once you arrive at your destination, Parin controls like Link from the Zelda franchise with a number of combos and attacks at her disposal. The difference being Parin’s skills and equipment can upgraded and changed, and the sword has been replaced with a drill. On a side note, the equipment that you can purchase or upgrade physically appears on the character which is a huge nod in Gurumins favor.
Combat in Gurumin isn’t that deep, but there are a number of combos you can pull off including in air combinations and more. The upgradable or add-on aspect for Parin’s equipment and drill also helps keep the gamer interesting in combat along with questing for new items, or the cash to purchase new items. It doesn’t take long to get used to the combat in Gurumin which is good for younger gamers. I did find a problem within Gurumin in regards to the camera. In game you can’t rotate the camera which isn’t as frustrating for basic navigation as the fighting. When fighting, enemies can easily be lost on the outskirts of the camera view meaning you’ll be swinging away hoping the enemies are still around. Concerning combat, the camera serves as the biggest complaint, otherwise the system works good enough.
Before I move on from the drill, it has a unique system built around it which I have only seen in Gurumin. When your character takes damage her drill meter will drop. This meter levels down the power of her drill cascading to her skills. You can regain your drills power by drilling into enemies or objects. The more you drill, the more powerful your drill becomes. It’s also to keep a keen eye out because the environments are littered with breakable objects that help you gain scrap pieces that intern can be used to upgrade your weapons and equipment. More importantly are the breakable walls that are hidden in with the environments. These walls are noticeable because they have a crack, or are slightly disfigured. Breaking down these walls leads to new areas, many that are a necessity and to treasure chests.
Gurumin is a fairly straightforward adventure with a few puzzles mixed into the action. There are a number of platforming sections and areas that coins and prizes are stashed so there is a small amount of exploration, but it’s limited. Levels take from ten to twenty minutes on average to complete. Once completed these can be revisited and replayed to earn high scores that intern give you medals that are used to purchase new items. I've almost finished my game on normal, and I would estimate a good ten to fifteen hours to complete one difficulty level in Gurumin. Gamers who want more can replay on harder difficulty levels to unlock new costumes and game modes, so Gurumin has the potential for substantial running life in your PSP.
If had to nitpick problems in Gurumin besides the camera it would be on the amount of traveling you have to between each segment. After each level of a mission is cleared you will have to run back to town, or monster village to trigger the next event. It’s typical to role playing games, but admittedly they could have cut down on the travel time. It’s a small nitpick that really doesn’t amount to much given the excellent quality of the entire game. Other than those two complaints, Gurumin is indeed a monstrous adventure that any role-playing, action platforming gamer should check out.
The presentation in Gurumin is excellent. The visual and sound quality is crisp and colourful with a delightful cartoon-ish polish. Running at a steady 30fps, the high level of production transfers from the character design, in-game graphics right over to the quailty voice talent and standard role-playing game soundtrack. Gurumin definitely has a unique look that’s slapped between cartoon, water based painting and a realistic look. The monster design is reminds me of Disney, with a slight creepier tone. Gurumin sticks to the wide lined graphic style which fits the subject matter perfectly and when you match it up with the musical score and cute overdubs you have a top notch production that can rival any other "A" rated PSP game.
Gurumin: A Monsterous Adventure will be a pleasant surprise for any gamer who stumbles across the colourful box art in a store. Besides having a typical storyline and a few camera issues, Gurumin is a solid action adventure game on par with the big leagues. If you’re looking for a solid cheerful adventure game, Gurumin should be moved to the top of your list. Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure is a delightful breath of fresh air for the PSP, and another outstanding adventure game from Nihon Falcom.
Gameplay: 8.5, Graphics/Sound: 9, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 9. Final: 8.5 / 10