Review: Pippi has nothing on Parin
Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure is the biggest little-known adventure game on the PSP. This unexpected surprise isn't an established series full of familiar faces or a continuing storyline like the really monstrous Zelda franchise. Instead, it borrows the tried-and-true foundation of the adventure genre for gameplay we've played before, but with a plot and charming characters we've yet to see. While its cute and colorful graphics may turn off some mature gamers, Gurumin is still an entertaining ten-hour 3D journey for both young kids and adventurous adults alike.
The Pippi Longstocking-like Parin is the game's redheaded female star who befriends monsters in a town where no children live. Her new friends, however, don't have a place to live for long as Phantoms destroy their monster village adjacent to the town. The spunky heroine takes up a drill as her weapon and sets out to rescue her friends and their belongings in order to restore the monster village. Granted, the rescue plot and the unconventional weapon idea aren't new and they've been done even before Kingdom Hearts. However, Parin's un-Disney sarcastic wit and the exaggerated monster personalities drive your desire to see this game to its end, just as much as the drive of the fun drill gameplay mechanics.
This Monstrous Adventure is full of monstrous enemies, more so than puzzles, which is directly opposite of the Zelda games it mimics. There are a variety of ways to dispose of the many Phantoms, which partly makes up for the fact that the 3D levels are linear in design and bear little in detail. The non-stop fighting action with the drill has typical attack and power-up attack moves in the beginning like Zelda. It even has a shard shooting effect if the drill meter is full, just like Link's sword shooting trick if all of his hearts are all filled. But, that's just the beginning. As players progress in their quest, drill upgrades can be bought for special attack moves. The controls for these specials are quite unique in sequence in that they combine face button pressing with analog stick rotating. The result is easy to pull off, yet elaborately presented combat.
The camera becomes an issue every now and again whenever it focuses too closely on Parin and allows enemies to creep up on her. Edges of cliffs also seem to come out of nowhere. It's a minor inconvenience that the developer did its best to overcome, using either the triangle button to center the camera angle behind Parin or the two shoulder buttons simultaneously to shift to a locked-on enemy.
The costumes and collectables are just as elaborate as these gameplay techniques. Parin must wear goggles to swim in water or switch them for a gas mask to confront poisonous plant enemies, for example. Such wearable costumes can be enhanced by stripping items from Phantoms that use armor or weapons. Their dropped junk can be collected and turned in to a local shop to be used as costume upgrades like extra damage protection. Pockles are another useful collectable because they are the main currency used in town. They can be picked up from defeated enemies or destroyed parts of a level, and then exchanged for life healing pastries or drill-energy-filling oil. The fact that Parin's health and the power of the drill operate on separate meters is quite a unique twist on the mostly familiar adventure gameplay foundation.
The music goes along with the game's charming presentation, mostly consisting of light-hearted tunes as well as a few menacing melodies for darker levels. The entire audio/visual package is pleasing, even for adults who enjoy general audience games like those in the Super Mario series. It could've used a few more challenging puzzles, but its emphasis on action is suffice, especially since the game encourages you to replay the entire adventure on harder difficulties. Relying too much on puzzles like so many other adventure titles would've made getting through a second time a synch and therefore boring. So, the heavy amount of action is a nice switch.