A Monsteca Corral: Monsters vs. Robots
WiiWare | Onteca | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local co-operative play) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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18th October 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
At its core, Monsteca Corral can be described as a game with an ambitious premise. It consists of twenty-plus levels spread out across multiple themed regions. Grasslands, forests, glaciers, and deserts - this is just a sample of the different environments you'll encounter. When you head to the Main Menu, you'll find that each level is presented as a bud along a tree branch. When you highlight an individual stage, a series of icons will appear, representing different objectives you can aim towards. As you complete these challenges in each level, the bud will develop more and more until it becomes a pretty-looking flower. Leave too many stages with only completing the bare minimum, and the large tree will begin to slant due to the extra weight imposed by these "dry buds". Additionally, new branches will get added to the growing tree, adding new gameplay elements for the player to consider. It's a cool setup to say the least.
Your main goal in each stage is to control creatures known as "Stompies" and find a way off the planet. But here's the clincher: you start off as an army of one. You'll need to enlist the help of snoozing Stompies scattered about in each area, so that you can become a powerful force to be reckoned with. But expanding your herd isn't the only thing on your priority list. The land is overrun with evil robot enemies who want to dominate and make themselves known as the superior race. To that end, they've begun to install a colony by means of various industrialized buildings. They've set up observatories, power plants, wind turbines, and even structures designed to contain captured Stompies. Needless to say, they exhibit a large threat to your survival. So much so, in fact, that just by their touch, they can knock you out instantly. So you'll need to worry about that as well.
The Stompies are on a mission, and they're not about to let these menacing robots distract them from the task at hand. It's up to you to guide them to their ticket to safety. The thing is, both their fuel source and means of transportation are hardly what you'd expect. As strange as this sounds, your goal is to feed bubbles to a glowing maggot. Crazy, huh? Continue to feed it what it wants, and you'll quickly discover how this 'Astromaggot' got its name. This small-sized creature quickly takes an enormous shape that will likely give you goosebumps the first time you catch sight of it. It certainly sent shivers down my spine, especially since I had a run-in with real-life maggots not long before I played this. But I digress.
Bubbles can be seen on the ground and falling from the sky in multiple sizes, both big and small. But you'd be wrong to jump to the conclusion that you can just gather resources without thinking. Just like with so many things in real life, there's a catch to this system. If a Stompie is carrying too many bubbles, it will begin to overpower their weight, allowing them to hover slightly above ground and water. Left unchecked, it can get to a point where they'll be stuck soaring higher and higher, straying away from the pack with no control over the situation. So you'll need to step in to save them! With a shake of the Wii Remote, you can release enough of the bubble gas to help them return to solid ground once again.
In an attempt to gather what could be considered as fuel for their means of transportation, you'll be controlling these lovable characters to scour the area for anything that will assist them in this endeavour. All you need to do is point your Wii Remote towards the screen, and use the on-screen flag cursor along with the B Button to direct Stompies near and far. You can either hold down the B Button to constantly have control over their actions, or you can place the flag somewhere for them to follow by releasing B. There are other means of guiding them, though.
When you reach a certain point in the game, you'll be able to use slug juice to draw a trail for the group to follow. You also have the ability to strategically split them up into clusters using the Plus Button in conjunction with your cursor. For example, you can have one group searching the area for bubbles, while another group goes off to recruit more Stompies nearby. Pressing Minus will select a different group, while two presses of the Plus Button serve as your "Select All" function, enabling you to regroup. This becomes very useful in later stages, and it's an excellent feature that carries a lot of validity.
You also have the ability to execute big jumps into the air with the shake of your Wii Remote. Whether you have one Stompie or a whole group, the direction they travel depends on the way you jerk the controller. But this requires some practice. Now initially, I thought the jumping was a tad inconsistent simply because they would never travel in the distance I wanted them to. But once you make the realization that your shakes should be controlled and not random waggles, you'll begin to use it more efficiently. More specifically, it comes down to quickly moving the cursor towards an edge of the screen.
When your cursor goes over a building or a robot, a number will be displayed telling you the minimum size your clan needs to be in order to destroy structures or stun enemies. Yes, that's right. Once your herd becomes a considerable size, you can fight back collectively with your own powers. Swarming an enemy in a clump will send enemies flying into the air. Mind you, there were some instances where I brought over a herd of 8 Stompies but the robot managed to knock out one of them. And of course I thought this was rather finicky. But for the most part, when you plan carefully, you shouldn't run into these silly problems. When done repeatedly, you can force enemies into a body of water, leaving them helpless with a sad face hovering over them. Take that you domineering robots!
Once you approach structures with the minimum number of Stompies, you can speed up the destruction process using your Wii Remote. Simply point the pointer back and forth along the structure to cause damage in increments. Just like with jumping, this requires a measure of control to get the effects you desire. Sometimes, there's a lot going on at once and if you're not careful, it's easy to get caught off guard. Some examples of enemies you'll encounter include radar-equipped walkers, helicopters designed to capture Stompies, and deadly Imposter Bots that can knock out your whole herd in one blow if they get too close. Overall, there's a good range of different creatures you'll have to contend with.
Now, going back to the Astromaggot for a moment, it's worth noting that your ace in the hole isn't always in a fixed position. In fact, every time you run over to it and feed it bubbles, it will soon burrow underground for more than 10 seconds and randomly find a different spot on the map to reside. Even when you do feed the Astromaggot enough bubbles, there's still a sense of surprise in not knowing exactly where your ticket home will turn up. And I thought this was a really neat feature for two reasons. One, the whole idea of using a maggot as a method of transportation is unheard of, and totally unique. Two, because it's always on the move, the player is forced to change their strategy somewhat regularly and plan accordingly. This is especially true when aiming for the Swift achievement where you may spend a good amount of time just looking for the big guy. And this is something that you'll need to account for.
When it comes to the matter of presentation, Monsteca Corral could sure use more than a few tips from developers like Shin'en Games. I'd argue that the visuals are the game's biggest flaw, because of how much they lack polish. For one, the levels are a tad rough-looking, and too, because I have a fascination with type design, I felt the typeface selected for this game was not well thought out at all. Also, the camera can get jerky in places, and make it uncomfortable for you to get around certain areas. The light-hearted music fits in well with the gameplay, and doesn't bore players with its subtleties. Unfortunately, it repeats often and you'll likely be longing for new audio before long. In its own strange way, though, Monsteca Corral is almost adorable. And if you can get over the less-than-desirable visuals like I did, and you'll find there's little stopping you from having a good time.
There's something quite amazing about this game that not many games can pull off, and it's the fact that even when you don't manage to succeed at a level, you still have a lot of fun trying. Mind you, just missing the Astromaggot as it leaves the atmosphere can be frustrating. But there is this strong sense of motivation that overshadows the moments of irritation that may arise. When you really get into it, it's quite addicting. Even when you don't score an achievement off your list, you're not overcome with unfulfillment, which is quite something.
The achievements system is an excellent addition to the game, and adds much replay value. Having multiple objectives to aim for in each level allows you to tailor your approach depending on your mood and what your goals are. You can try clearing a level in the fastest time possible, repelling and destroying 90% of the enemy forces and structures, or escaping without arousing too much attention. With over 20 stages to complete, lasting anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes each, there's definitely more than just a few hours to be had with this game. And that's not even bringing the co-operative multiplayer component into the picture which may add some additional life to the package.
Onteca may not have made a visually impressive game by any means, but what they've done here is present a totally unique game that offers players fun gameplay mechanics for such a reasonable cost. $5 is such an incredible bargain for the amount of content this game provides, making it one of the top cheap downloads available for the WiiWare service. I caution you not to get thrown off by the visuals. Underneath the rough exterior lies a very enjoyable game that's more than satisfying.
24/30 - Very Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Multiple ways of controlling the herd, menacing enemies, destructible structures, the whole Astromaggot-feeding concept is very unique
Presentation 6/10 - Rough visual focus, terrible typeface choice, finicky camera, suitable yet repetitive music
Enjoyment 5/5 - Incredibly addicting when you really get into it, lots of fun to gang up on enemies, Imposter Bot and CPU especially add challenge
Extra Content 5/5 - Multiple goals in each level force you to adopt different strategies each session, lots of stages, bargain for only $5
Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)