As a guy, I rarely play cute video games, and I steer clear of anything on the extremely cutesy side. In most cases, I prefer to play games featuring blood and gore, contact sports, or sexy women. Any title with characters resembling the Powerpuff Girls doesn't even register on my radar, but to my surprise, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure has completely changed my outlook on cute games.
I've played — and thoroughly enjoyed — other games developed by Nihon Falcom, who is best known for the Ys series, so when I found out they were working on Gurumin, I instantly knew that I had to give it a spin. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gurumin delivers a fun, extremely cute game with a very enjoyable story.
You play as Parin, an adventurous 12-year-old girl who has just moved to Tiese, a sleepy mining town to live with her grandfather, Hyperbolic, while her parents excavate an ancient ruin. Upon arrival, she is disappointed to hear that she's the only child in town. As she begins to explore her new home, she encounters a dog barking at a little girl. Shooing away the dog, Parin discovers that her new little friend, Pino, is quite literally a monster. Pino thanks Parin for saving her life and takes Parin to meet the other monsters in Monster Village, who eventually become Parin's only friends in town. They play together night and day until the phantoms come and kidnap some of Parin's friends. She wants to save her kidnapped friends, so Parin pulls out the legendary drill from its stone (it's a mining town — what do you expect?), and uses it to defeat the phantoms. So begins her grand adventure.
With a drill as Parin's weapon, Gurumin takes fighting and adventuring in a whole new direction by adding new obstacles that can be destroyed with the drills, such as rocks and caves. Unlike other games where obstacles are broken with one hit, mining through these obstacles is no easy task and requires a charged attack. To execute such an attack, the player is required to hit the X button for a given amount of time. If done correctly, Parin will execute a forward thrust attack, matched with the spinning drill to give the attack a realistic mining feel.
Parin has changeable outfits that are not just adorable, but also quite functional. Some of the items in her wardrobe are: cat ears (detects treasure chests and jars in the area), monkey hat (increases money drops), night cap (attack and critical damage modifier), hair buns (immune to water, gas, and traps), vampire kit (critical hits restore health), goggles (immune to water), gas mask (immune to gas), ribbon (immune to traps), helmet (damage reduced), headband (attack damage modifier), magic hood (elemental damage modifier), headdress (rest regenerates drill power), and maid hat (rest regenerates HP).
Boss battles are the hardest to crack. These battles are usually one-on-one, and until you uncover the solution, these battles can last forever. With some practice, preparation, and a few tries, finding these solutions should become quite easy. Preparing oils and pastries are essential to making these battles a cinch.
Parin can heal herself using heal points, but pastries are the only healing items that she can buy from Fan, the local baker. The bakery provides cookies, chocolate, and strawberry shortcakes, with cookies healing the least and shortcakes healing the most. Pastries can also be located in treasure chests throughout the world. You're limited to carrying three of each pastry at a time, and the same limit is placed on the oils, which are used to power the drill (energy oil) or improve the drill power lost during battle (power oil).
Drill power is lost during battle when the enemy lands a hit on Parin and she's not using energy oil. In order to revive this lost drill power, she needs to use power oil, which revives one health bar or mines rocks/digs up dirt patches (which also slowly revives drill power). Reviving this drill power is essential to defeating enemies because if the drill power is low, it'll take longer to destroy enemy phantoms. At the outset, Parin has a drill power of three, and the maximum is four, when you find all 11 platinum medals. When the drill power is at only one bar, the power of her attacks drastically decreases, thus making regular enemy fights extremely time-consuming and boss battles insanely difficult.
Even though drill power is one important factor in making battles easy, it is not the only one. The drill also has accessories that can be equipped to make it more powerful. As in the Ys games, these attributes would be fire, ice and lighting. Not only does this add attack power to Parin's attacks, but it also adds puzzle sections, which require Parin to equip the correct drill accessories. As an example, Parin is required to light some lamps using the lightning attribute, put out the fire using ice, or light up the torch using fire. Though these attributes add new puzzles to the game, it is more important to use the correct element while fighting enemies.
Puzzles often require Parin to wear matching attire, have a specific amount of money, or enter the correct password. Sometimes the correct camera angle is required in order to see exactly what you're looking for. Gurumin utilizes a free camera, with the L and R buttons rotating the view.
Gurumin has only a handful of enemies, so learning their weaknesses makes battles go by rather quickly. The game employs a low number of foes, but to make up for this, the developers differentiated them by having some don armor so the enemies aren't exactly the same. For the base characters, you only have to button-mash them to death, but with the armored enemies, you have to break off their armor with a charged attack before they can be defeated. If the enemy is wearing several layers of armor, multiple charged attacks are required. The broken armor pieces become junk that Parin can collect and bring to a local shop to upgrade her hats, which will yield extra stats such as immunity to water, gas, or traps, and reducing damage 25% or 50%.
Tiese is the only location where Parin can upgrade her hats, buy pastries and drill parts, replace gold medals for accessories, and exchange mystery bags for items. Gold medals are achieved by beating the levels with an S ranking or higher. To get such a rating, Parin must defeat all enemies on the stage as well as find all treasure chests and jars — easily done if you have the cat ears equipped. Mystery bags can contain new accessories or regular pastries, and the only way to find out what's inside the bags is to give them to Pamela, who will give you the item if your inventory isn't full. If it is full, she buys the item from you.
Money is quite important in Gurumin, and it's the only way to purchase accessories from the local shop and get the maid outfit, which costs 65,500. Money is essential at the beginning of the game, but once you get near the end and have already purchased all of the accessories, it becomes useless. At that point, junk becomes the biggest factor, and you need 999 pieces of junk in order to level the accessories to the final level. This is no easy task, but it's not as hard as getting the final level drill part, which requires the player to find all 11 platinum medals, which takes a good amount of searching. (If you need help finding the platinum medals, they are located on the stages that have skulls, which ask Parin riddles before she can enter.)
Even though Gurumin implements a very easy control system, with Square to guard dash, X to attack, and Circle to jump, the game doesn't get repetitive after a few levels. It manages to shine and become much more interactive and a ton of fun to play. With every play, there is always something new unlocked, and for those insane fans who love long games, Gurumin can be as long or short as you want. The game is beatable in 10 hours, but that is without completing all levels with an "S" and finding all platinum medals. For those who want the best experience, I strongly suggest finishing the game with all items, which gives an alternate ending, a new difficulty level, new sub-missions, and the Boss Attack mode.
Even after one playthrough, I can't wait to sit down and go through the game again for the wonderful gameplay mechanics, graphics, and audio. Gurumin is one of the few games for which I'd say the picture quality matches the environment perfectly, and the sound provides the perfect melody for these levels. The game has the perfect "cutesy" feel, and a great job is done by the voice actors to seal the deal.
With an all-star voice cast and an overall wonderful gameplay experience, I heartily recommend Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure to anyone looking for a game for their kids or looking for a good action-RPG for the PSP. The game is fun and great on the road, allowing the user to save at any point of the map. You'll need to replay that level from the beginning, although you can keep the money and junk you've acquired from the previous run — this is where the "hold" function comes in handy. Gurumin is perfect for all ages, and I'd strongly suggest taking a look at this fun and entertaining title.
More articles about Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure