I remember when there was a 3 way power struggle between Pokémon, Digimon, and Monster Rancher. They all had similar themes of using monsters to fight for you, and at the time each had their own dedicated followings. Since then, Pokémon obviously has become one of the most successful videogame franchises of all time. Digimon is still holding its own, and seems to be picking up a little lately. Sadly, the whole Monster Rancher franchise seems to have just dropped off the face of the earth, with me having never played a single one of the games.
I remember hearing about the Playstation version of Monster Rancher. Unlike Pokémon where you just find the monsters in the wild, I remember you were able to put in music cds and the game would search them for different monsters. I thought it was such a cool idea, and put a nice 4th dimension to the game. I wanted to play it, but for some reason I never got around to actually getting it. Obviously it left a lasting impression on me and I’ve always held at least some hope for the franchise. I’m not sure how such a mechanic would work on the Gameboy color. It would probably have to be left out entirely, but I’m still excited to finally play a Monster Rancher game.
Hold on a second. What’s going on? Where are the monsters? Where is the ranch? And who put a puzzle game in place of my RPG?! This isn’t the game I signed up for. After a bit of research, it would seem Monster Rancher Explorers isn’t actually a Monster Rancher game at all. It’s actually a remake of an older game named Solomon’s Key, just with a few Monster Rancher references scattered around to make it sell better.
Honestly, I’m a bit upset that I STILL won’t be able to play a Monster Rancher game, but I’m going to have to get over that for the moment and review this game for what it is, and not what it isn’t. What it is is a pretty solid puzzle game actually. You play as an explorer named Cox as you try to climb a puzzle filled tower to fight some legendary monster named Nada who resides at the top. The basic goal of each of the levels is to first collect the key and then head to the exit. You accomplish this by creating and destroying boxes for you to jump on.
You need to be careful because there are monsters roaming around too. On rare occasion you will be able to shoot them, but that’s very rare from what I’ve played. The other method I found is to remove the boxes from under them and watch them fall to their death.
There’s also a pink ghost girl that shows up occasionally. I’m not sure what triggers her, who she is, or what she does. But she seems to be a special collectable for the level.
Every 5 levels seem to have a brief scene to fill in the thin story, and level 10 even has a boss battle. I’m not used to having boss battles in the middle of my puzzle games. The blue crab monster Selketo is on the top level of an otherwise empty room. You have to build stairs to climb your way up to him and break the platform out from under him. He doesn’t make it easy though, as he rains what look like icicles down on you. Keep moving and keep building, and before you know it, he’ll fall to his doom.
Continuing up the tower, the levels progressively got harder. After level 15 someone said something about restoring saucer stone fragments into a saucer stone to seal monsters. Maybe there will be some actually monster ranching in this game after all. But my 30 minutes are up, so maybe I’ll have to check that out some other time.
It’s kind of deceiving to call this a Monster Rancher game when it’s not. It’s not even a spin off title, it’s just a shameless remake of a classic game. Looking past this however you’re left with pretty good puzzle game.
Price – $5.95
It’s actually a pretty fun game. If you’re a fan of puzzle games, this is a nice one that won’t break the bank.
Fun Rating – 8 / 10
Admittedly, I was a bit annoyed that this wasn’t a true Monster Rancher game. Thankfully I am also a fan of puzzle games, and this one was actually pretty good. What I played never felt too hard. And the puzzle itself has a good blend of timing and strategy. I actually really enjoyed myself with this game.
Play Again? – Probably
Even if it’s not really a Monster Rancher game, it’s still a pretty solid puzzle game. Plus right when I stopped it seemed like I might actually be able to collect monsters after all. I’m kind of curious to see where this game goes.
Total Deaths – 14 Deaths
In general none of the levels so far were very complicated. There’s a little bit of a learning curve at the beginning, and each level might take a try or two before you figure it out, but nothing drastic yet. You only get 3 lives to challenge the tower, but there is no game over. Instead you are sent out of the tower back to town. From there you can reenter the tower at the exact level you left off on making the lives system seem totally unnecessary.
Don’t stick your tongue out at me!
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