The Munchables is an undeniably cute action-platformer with a charming exterior, focusing on simplistic mechanics and a fun premise that encourages you to stuff your face full of piratical produce. Though many will find its brevity, shallowness, and low difficulty underwhelming, it should still enchant the younger crowd.
The game opens on planet Star Ving, where the adorably gluttonous munchables--odd little ball-shaped creatures that put professional eaters to shame--frolic and feast under the watchful gaze of an all-knowing onion. When they're not too busy eating, the munchables are protective of legendary orbs, which are vaguely important ice-cream swirls that evil space pirates like to nab. Confused yet? You will be. When the vegetable- and fruit-based pirates fuse with the orbs, they become delectable monster treats that the munchables can devour in a quest for freedom. Clearly, the plot is a disjointed, confusing mess, but its zany style and intermittent insanity hold a certain appeal.
In your role as a munchable, the bulk of the action is fun and extremely straightforward, and takes place in moderately expansive 3D environments with potential for exploration. Brief platforming segments are successfully paired with comfortable controls and a decent camera, though you can't maneuver it, which is occasionally frustrating. A functional, if sparse, combat system revolves around gobbling up monsters and filling your iron stomach with potent pirate mojo that increases your size as you gain levels. Growing enables you to reach new areas (including secrets) and to tackle large enemies with a basic rolling attack, reducing them to cuter, edible versions. The truly fiendish should enjoy ingesting multiple pirate lackeys simultaneously for combo points and bragging rights, while dining on local village housing and occupied UFOs provides additional chuckles.
Item collectors should appreciate the cleverly hidden acorns scattered throughout each stage. Acquiring all of a stage's acorns, or even feasting on enough pirates, unlocks goofy accessories that you can decorate your munchable crew with. These include wizard hats, fish scales, and flashy Native American headdresses for a little variety. Accessorizing adds a touch of fun customization, which might motivate the obsessive types to repeat a few stages.
Though the gameplay's stark simplicity is an attractive aspect, it also poses few challenges and becomes highly repetitive. An almost complete lack of combat and character progression is disheartening; new abilities are greatly needed to spruce up the bare-bones combat system and lessen the monotony, since you'll experience almost everything Munchables has to offer in your first five minutes. There are a few bonus items you can use against enemies, such as a vacuum that conveniently sucks up and demolishes foes, but while they provide brief bits of variety, they're rarely integrated into the gameplay, making them unnecessary trinkets that soon lose their charm.
Those who appreciate at least some level of difficulty will be disappointed, because the game is ridiculously easy. It advises you on everything from a stage's immediate goal--which is unnecessary because the point is to eat everything--to boss fight tactics. Unfortunately all bosses require the same key strategy to defeat, which effectively replaces all strategizing and skill-based play with sheer redundancy. Enemy AI leaves much to be desired: most enemies either run screaming from you or politely take their thrashings without counterattacking. On the rare occasion that an enemy actually damages you, you're given plenty of time to recover by shaking the Wii Remote; this practically eliminates your chances of dying. A difficulty setting is another sorely missing element, because it would have provided much-needed challenge and would have greatly increased replayability. The puzzle-platforming segments are also incredibly easy to figure out despite an occasionally fickle camera, further limiting the game's appeal.
Though there are 24 stages to complete, The Munchables still comes up short. Almost all stages can be whisked through given the obscenely low difficulty; however, you can unlock a mirror mode option that presents exploration stages in reverse as well as the rare time-attack challenge, which provides at least a little variety. There are also bosses to repeat, though at this point you'll probably have had your fill of giant attacking chocolate bars and deadly mushroom-men, considering their obvious tactics. A cooperative mode allows a friend to back you up by zapping enemies while you go on a feeding frenzy, but the gameplay is so easy anyway that the option is moot.
The bold, brightly colored, comedic presentation is visually charismatic, from the swirling psychedelic ranking screen and weird enemy design to the munchables' never-ending attempts to devour their onion master. Vivid 3D environments are cluttered with intricately detailed objects, including furniture and natural decor such as pretty coral reefs. The music is surprisingly energetic at first, but it dulls once it mellows out halfway through.
The Munchables provides a unique and wacky adventure that's fun for a few hours. Ultimately though, its repetitive gameplay and lack of challenge make it feel more like a slightly disappointing appetizer than a satisfying main course.