Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure Hands-On
Monkey hats, magical drills, and friendly monsters; we check them all out in our look at this kid-friendly adventure game for the PSP.
Give a spirited little girl a magical drill, and there's no telling what kind of adventures she'll get into along the way. This is the premise behind Gurumin: A Mounstrous Adventure, a role-playing adventure game being released later this year for the PlayStation Portable. We had a chance to play the game for ourselves today and were charmed by its plucky heroine and attractive visuals.
Gurumin follows the adventures of Parin, who has been dropped off in the town of Tiese by her archaeologist parents. The town mayor is Hyperbolic, who also happens to be Parin's absentminded grandfather. Upon moving in, Parin discovers the friendly monsters that live in the village right next to Tiese. Before long, a group of evil monsters known as phantoms begin kidnapping the inhabitants of Monster Village. Worse yet, they also steal the monsters' furniture. It's up to Parin to reclaim the lost furniture and save the kidnapped monsters, returning peace to the town of Tiese. In doing so, she'll also explore the larger world of Gurumin.
The game features five main areas; each area has a number of dungeons to explore and clear as you go. The gameplay in each dungeon features a mix of combat against a host of different enemies, puzzles to solve, and items galore to collect. From the areas we saw in the demo, there seems to be a pretty equal mix of solving puzzles and fighting enemies. As you find out in the game, practically every problem Parin runs into can be solved with the help of her trusty magical drill.
It's the drill that makes Parin such a formidable opponent. Not only is it a fine melee weapon, thanks to a number of different combo moves that Parin can use on foes, its various elemental abilities help her solve any number of puzzles found in the game. Enchantments, such as fire, ice, or lighting, will be crucial to Parin's progress through many of the dungeons. For example, if faced with a huge body of water to cross, Parin can equip the ice enchantment and freeze the water, letting her quickly run across the ice instead of swimming in the enemy-infested waters. In another dungeon, Parin has to light a number of torches using her fire-enchanted drill in order to gain access to a new room.
Another big part of Parin's phantom-fighting prowess comes through the various items and armor she can equip. Forget iron pauldrons or steel vambraces; Parin wouldn't be caught dead in that kind of thing. Instead, she'll be wearing magical ribbons, gas masks, and goggles. Each item has its specific use; the gas mask is best when battling against noxious plants and the goggles are used when Parin has to go underwater. There is even a monkey cap that Parin can don, which will boost the amount of gold she earns for defeating enemies.
Clearing different areas of a dungeon will earn you a medal, and the quicker you clear the dungeon (including finding the various hidden items and treasure found), the better the medals you will earn. Turn the medals in to your grandfather, and you'll earn new equipment which, along with the items you buy in town, can be upgraded to new levels of effectiveness. You upgrade your equipment by spending "junk," a form of currency separate from the actual cash you use to buy items. Junk is gathered from defeated enemies and the higher the level you wish to upgrade your weapon to, the more junk it's going to cost you. However, it's worth your while because the upgrades will greatly improve Parin's powers as you progress through the game.
Beyond exploring dungeons and fighting monsters, the game also has a number of minigames to play when you're looking for a change of pace. One game we tried out had Parin visiting the laboratory of a scientist who provides her with new items she can use on her adventures. The minigame had Parin stand on a grid while intersecting lasers traveled across the floor. The idea is to jump over as many lasers as you can. It starts simply with just one laser coming at a time but, after a while, beams are coming from multiple directions, and you're hopping all over the grid trying to keep the streak going. Another minigame is a monster-themed variation on the old whack-a-mole game.
One of the best parts of Gurumin is its charming look. All of the characters we saw in the demo had bright, expressive eyes that would be welcome in a Saturday morning kids show, and the game has a lighthearted approach to the role-playing genre. Parin is a fun heroine--not only can she get down to business with her magical drill--she's also a big fan of chocolates and candy that restore her health points as she goes about her adventures. Even the enemies in the game aren't that menacing. We saw tiny little cube-shaped enemies, as well as big blue blobs that were wearing armor equipped with wheels, which allowed them to quickly move around Parin's attacks.
The game's soundtrack is also fun. The musical score is decidedly old school in its instrumentation, with synthy-sounding leads and dramatic compositions. There's a good deal of voice acting in the game as well, performed by well-known voice actors such as Tara Strong (known for her work in Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops, among others). Parin will also change the sounds of her attacks depending on the outfit she's currently wearing. For example, if she's decked out in her full monkey costume and cap, she'll yell like a chimp each time she lays a beatdown on the phantoms in her way.
With 10 to 12 hours of gameplay, Gurumin looks to be a decent value for role-playing fans who want something a bit lighter on the PSP. Kids and kids-at-heart might get a kick out of following Parin's adventures as she explores the world, battles phantoms, and looks to restore peace to the world of humans and monsters. The game is due in early February, and we'll have a review of the game at that time.
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