Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure was one of the surprise hits from last year. On the surface, it sounded like a strange hodgepodge of different genres, mixing classic 2D platforming with Tetris Attack-style puzzling-solving. But it somehow worked beautifully, seamlessly blending these two wildly different game types into a cohesive and, most importantly, fun adventure. A year later, the team is back with another combination. Monster Tale retains the 2D platforming that was the core of Hatsworth but throws in a bit of virtual pet raising. It once again sounds like something that couldn't possibly work in tandem, but after Hatsworth shocked us last year, we're ready to believe anything.
Monster Tale is not a sequel to Hatsworth, so fans of the spry old man should shed their tears now to get the sadness out of their system. Instead of a focus on what the elderly can accomplish when given the opportunity, Monster Tale is about what sort of trouble kids can get into when given too much power. The story is about a group of bratty kids who find a portal into a monster world. Instead of using these mythical creatures to help the world, they harness their destructive powers, destroying everything in their wake. You play as Ellie, the last child to enter this world. She partners with Chomp, a young monster, and the two of you team up to strike down the evil kids ruining everyone's fun.
Just like in Henry Hatsworth, the two screens contain two different gameplay types. The top screen has Ellie in a traditional 2D platformer. The emphasis is on combat rather than navigation, though, letting you show off both your melee and shooting abilities against the evil creatures that inhabit this world. Your monster pal Chomp is on the bottom screen and is so named because he chows down on everything that comes near his gaping maw.
Defeated enemies on the top screen drop power-ups that can be sent down to Chomp on the lower screen. These items level up his abilities, making him stronger with everything he digests. There are 30 different physical transformations, so even though Chomp starts out as just the runt of the monster litter, he grows up into a sizable beast. You can also level up specific attributes. If you want a terrifying monster of death, you can jack up his attack abilities, or if you want him to just stay alive, you can give him more health. Unlike in Hatsworth, you don't actually switch screens. Instead, you summon Chomp to the top screen to have him help you fight. He has a limited time he can spend in your world, though, so you have to use him wisely.
The biggest problem with Hatsworth was that it got maddeningly, some would say impossibly, difficult late in the game. We were assured that Monster Tale would not suffer the same fate. Keep your eyes on GameSpot to see how this monster-raising adventure pans out.