Developer/Publisher: Iguana Bee
The most exotic surprises can come when you least expect them. Monsterbag is one of those surprises from Sony’s striking handheld.
Monsterbag’s virtues is its vibrant art style and wacky escalating story hiding a dark crafty sense of humor under its child friendly exterior. These delightful elements are brought down somewhat by rare events of frustrating game design. By observing the ups and down’s of Monsterbag, the real thrill of its idiosyncratic roller coaster ride will be revealed.
You are in the role of V, a monster who is Nia’s loyal friend. Nia heads off to the school bus, with V coming along for the ride hiding from a world scared of monsters. The story from this point onwards transforms into a ludicrous tale of discovering secret experiments and ending the apocalypse.
The heart of Monsterbag comes from the lunacy of the story that is loaded with humorous chaos. V’s passionate efforts of catching up to and protecting Nia is a sincere direction among the craziness unfolding. This compassion reaches its peak in the level “Love” that visually depicts Nia’s feelings of isolation in an orphanage because she was born fragile in health and her parents couldn’t financially provide her medical needs.
The somber solitude of Nia crying to then be comforted by V is an emotionally stirring scene in a mostly light hearted game.
Monsterbag is a casual journey through almost the entire play length. The mechanics of avoiding detection and using items with the touchscreen to find the solution makes for an enjoyable experience because of the short length of stages. The puzzling solving is challenging enough to nog the mind, but not overly complex that you will be tearing the hairs of your head.
Monsterbag’s biggest issue however, lies in instances of frustrating gameplay design, inherent from the mechanic of avoiding detection. In the level ‘Another World’ one puzzle phase requires the player to power 4 switches in a time limit, or they reset. Most of the puzzles up until this point let you leisurely figure out the solution while hiding from people’s sight. This design fault won’t tear open heads from frustration, but its primitive execution leaves a bitter taste that brings back painful memories of the worst in old school difficulty.
Minimalist, yet vibrant sums up Monsterbag’s art direction. The grey scale backgrounds contrasting with the bright colors of the characters on screen make every movement pop out and come alive. This friendly art however hides a gruesome dose of dark humor, with surprisingly unexpected gore from what appears to be harmless.
The most enjoyable experiences can sometimes come when you aren’t expecting them. Monsterbag is one of those rare gems, with mild challenge and a wonderfully outlandish story. It’s one of the best games you will ever play about a girl and her little monster.
Note: All images have been captured with the Vita’s Screenshot feature. (Start and PlayStation Button at the same time.)