Monster Monpiece: Maybe They're Learning - A Review
Monster Monpiece, the latest game from Compile Heart, is something of a departure for them. There's no obvious grind, no weirdly implemented combo system, and it feels significantly different from most of their other games. All in all, it's new territory, and at first, it felt like they'd learned something from the process. Maybe, I thought to myself, maybe I've just suffered burnout from too many samey anime-style JRPGs. Maybe this time I'm wrong.
And then the story started, conveyed through text boxes, voice overs, and static images whose mouths move. And then the onscreen manual popped up. And I remembered what kind of game I was playing here. But thankfully, there's an intuitive enough system, and the stripped-down (pun intended) approach that Compile Heart takes with their games works wonders here. The result is a fascinating card battler trapped within a game that doesn't quite do it justice.
To Monster Monpiece's credit, there's a lot of good here. The basic gameplay is a simple card-battler system where you play your cute-looking monstergirls against your opponent's cute-looking monstergirls on opposite sides of the field. Your objective is for your cute-looking monstergirls to make it all the way down the board and attack the opponent's castle. Once there, they attack the castle, shave off its HP, and are teleported off the field to go do it again. The battle system has four types of creatures: Melee, Ranged, Healers, and Support, with each having a role to play. The roles are clearly outlined, there's no confusing card text, and there's a very gentle learning curve to it all.
Even some of Compile Heart's usual tendencies are toned down. There's no real grinding, the usual hub level/world map is nonlinear and allows for a lot more movement, and even gives event spaces here and there where no battles occur. It's a much more satisfying experience than jumping a hundred times with each character to level up their stats in obtuse ways, too, putting it ahead of their more conventional JRPGs.
But there are still a host of problems. In spite of the relatively easy tactical battle system, it can be a grind to get your monstergirls down the field. Every battle turns into a war of attrition, with your advance halted every time your opponent decides to drop another monster to keep things just out of reach. Granted, you can do the same thing, so turnabout is fair play, but having to flood the field with monsters to win a battle of attrition is about as annoying as it is in those innumerable flash games where you summon units to march across a field. Exacerbating things is the busy design of the cards, which can make it difficult at first to figure out which cards do what and where.
It's also not really all that great a port. A lot of the guides for touch-input are still on the screen, as is the "First Crush Rub" system, where you rub the monstergirls' clothes off to get them better artwork and level them up. Which...is just creepy and a little tawdry, honestly. It also doesn't really have a place in a bright, cheery, cute card battler about three friends and their monster assistant trying to become the best battlers. It just seems out of place and overall wrong.
In the end, the trappings of the game aren't up to snuff. The creepy rub system, heavily padded story, and some of the grindier aspects of the system just drag a game that mostly has itself together down to the level of something that just isn't as good. as it should be. It's a game with a lot of potential, but not much substance in that. If you're going to give this one a go, at least find a way to try it first, or wait for a sale so that you're not spending full price on it. At the very least.
The Reviewer received an early access copy of this game for the purposes of review.