Genre: Platformer, Action, Adventure, Music
System: Nintendo Switch (also Apple Arcade)
Developer|Publisher: Picomy B.V | Rogue Games
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: US $19.99 | UK £14.99 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: October 21st, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Zebra Partners.net
Mixing it Up
Monomals is a game that mixes two gameplay styles. It’s one part action-puzzle platformer and one part music creator. Always a risky move from a developer trying to mix two genres, much like attempting to mix musical styles like say classic and heavy metal. Sometimes it makes for something surprisingly brilliant… other times not so much. Does mixing these two gameplay styles make for a game that is top of the pops or a chart flopper? Put on your favourite gaming headphones and let’s find out.
Harness the Power of Music
The world’s best DJs are gathering together for a music contest to see who can compose the next chart-topping hit. But creating the next heart-pumping jam is done in a more obscure way in this animal world. DJs need to jump on a boat and go fishing for some music creatures called Momomals.
No, the DJs don’t eat these fish to harness their music powers. Instead of catching these, you use them in the games MonoMaker to compose a jam. It’s a silly but highly entertaining concept that is suitable for all audiences. The graphics are incredibly colourful and upbeat. Every DJ has an unnaturally large head but a big smile on their face. Even the lure you cast into the water will wink at you before diving into the depths. These high levels of positivity also extend into the level design with lots of bright colours and happy fishy enemies.
The fishing section of the game is not fishing in the usual video game form. When you select a level your DJ casts a line into the lake and you control the lure that resembles a microphone. From there you control the lure through the water avoiding hazards and attacking the odd fishy enemy. Controls are easy to pick up and play. Just move around through the water with the joystick and tap or hold a button to dash. Dashing has a small meter that will give you a boost of speed and will also attack enemies that get in your way. You can also discover some cool vehicles to ride, like a spider mech and bouncy. Yes, it is weird for a fishing lure to do this. Controlling in water is quite comfortable but sometimes you need to jump temporarily out of the water where gravity will play its part like a typical 2D platformer.
Accessible for all Audiences
If you take a hit you will notice a colourless stream from your cord which trails behind you as you traverse the level. After a short period of time, this recharges and you are able to take another hit. If you do get hit again you are bumped back to the nearest checkpoint. These are usually not too far away, making Monomals quite accessible for all audiences. When you reach the end of the level you finally find the big Monomal you have been hunting. You need to complete two trials before you are then given the opportunity to catch it. These trials might be solving a puzzle, defeating all the enemies or just surviving hazards until a timer expires. It’s an enjoyable way to conclude the level.
Throughout the level, you can also collect coins and tokens. The former is used to purchase more musical effects for the music makers. The tokens are used to buy cosmetics for your DJs boat. There are five tokens to collect per level and they are usually hidden in pretty tricky places, offering plenty of incentive for dedicated players to return and hunt everything down.
If you like things speedy, each level also offers a time trial challenge to complete the level as fast as possible. Sure, I said this game is accessible but these extra challenges are by no means easy and require plenty of practice to master.
Make Some Music
Once you have gathered enough Monomals it’s time to compose some music. The game gives you a short but helpful tutorial on how to get started with the basics. Simply select your Monomal and add them to the screen adjusting their length, pitch as well as multiple other musical effects. You can easily play your track back with the tap of a button to see things are coming together. It’s a mode that a player can easily get lost in for hours on end and no doubt there will be several players composing their favourite video game tunes with this. You can use this mode with analogue controls and buttons, or you can make use of the game’s touch controls. The latter I had a pretty hard time getting on with.
This may be another example of a touch control game that is just not compatible with my fat fingers as my wife seemed to have significantly more luck tapping notes on the screen than I did. It certainly feels ideal for touch controls; they just didn’t work for me. The controls have you use a cursor which also feels a bit fiddly in a different way, making the whole music creation exercise a weird hybrid mix of touch and analogue controls that could have been more polished.
The MonoMaker is fun to use but it may just not appeal to everyone. This is a much more methodical and slower experience than the action section of the game. You really need to be in the right creative mood to get the most out of this mode. The good news is composing music is totally optional; you can just enjoy the main mode only. But it does feel like you would miss out on the full experience by doing this.
Upload your Ultimate Jam
Once you have completed the ultimate jam you can upload the tune to the games offline charts and attempt to rank number one. If your song does well in the charts you can then use your own tune to play in the background on future levels you play through, which is a really cool feature you don’t see often in games these days. But if you’re totally talentless like me when it comes to making music you’ll be pleased to know Monomals default soundtrack is pretty solid anyway. A nice variation of upbeat electronic style tracks that almost demand to be enjoyed with the headphones.
If you do want to brave online you can upload your tracks to be rated by other users. You can also download other players’ tracks. One does wonder how long it takes before we see Mario and Zelda’s themes featured on this.
Conclusion – Top of the Pops
Monomals is a groovy blend of puzzle platformer mixed with music creator. For most gamers, this will be a chart-topping hit. A nice blend of action followed by a good sit down to compose an awesome musical piece. The touch screen controls appear to be hit and miss and didn’t work for me, making the music-making element a bit more fiddly than it maybe should have been. That being said, it helps that the game has an incredibly positive vibe to its design so if you just need a little cheer, be sure to give this a look. The developers tried something new and original with this concept and it ends up being a musical and action mash-up that works as much as make you smile.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot