I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit skeptical towards Gurumin. I’d seen videos of the game prior to purchasing it and assumed that it was broken in gameplay and relied too heavily on its cutesy presentation; I also thought the game would be an instant bore and wouldn’t be able to bring me the satisfaction of enjoying a handheld game. As with most assumptions about games you’d never see yourself giving the time of day, I was proved wrong in my thinking and instead found myself enjoying this little piece of action RPG goodness. Though short in totality, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure brings a lot to the table and offers a lot more behind its short length.
The game begins with the heroine of the story, Parin, moving to the mining town of Tiese to live with her grandfather, the mayor of Tiese, due to both her parents going away to explore some ancient ruins. Parin feels bored and alone because she’s the only child in town; but once she sees a dog barking and planning to attack a little girl, Parin comes to the rescue and does her super awesome tornado kick (I kid you not that’s how she promotes her tornado kick) to save the day. Parin and Pino begin talking when an adult comes by and notices that Parin is talking to her imaginary friend; Pino explains that adult humans can’t see monsters. Parin is then invited by Pino and Piku, Pino’s brother, to visit Monster Town, where lots of fun, humor, and the story begin to take off.
Despite its childish presentation and cutesy characters with humor so good you’ll find yourself having a good laugh every now and then, Gurumin’s real depth lies in its gameplay. Parin’s main weapon is a legendary drill that she pulls from the ground in Monster Village’s square a la Sword in the Stone, which obviously means Parin was destined to pull the drill from the ground and save Monster Village from its impending doom and invasion by Phantoms. Parin has plenty of moves at her disposal such as her basic combo attack with the drill and a guard dash which helps Parin avoid projectiles with ease. Parin can also charge her drill up; and depending on when you release the button and where in the 3 breaks the gauge stops, Parin can unleash an attack that can not only take lots of damage but also destroy objects that basic attacks can’t such as rocks, cracked walls, and even a shield from a foe.
Parin can also jump and attack an enemy in mid-air and continue to attack other enemies in mid-air assuming they are within her range, and this helps out when getting to hard to reach areas. Furthermore, Parin can also learn new skills (like the Ice Tornado shown in the pic below) and attach parts to her drill for some nifty environmental effects. Whenever Parin equips items that she purchases from the store, the items equipped are actually shown on Parin when equipped like the goggles given to her at the beginning by the store’s owner. Healing items like herbs and antidotes can be used by accessing the menu.
Another cool thing about Gurumin is the abundance of mini-games and challenges that await. Once you’ve finished the game completely, three new difficulties are unlocked that warrant a replay simply because of the challenge they bring and the things unlocked upon completion; things like new costumes for Parin and medals for completing everything in the stage. There are a few mini-games that test your skill and accuracy; and depending on how fast you complete them or if you beat your old record, you’ll always be rewarded with something nifty and usable. As far as the game’s voice acting goes, it has its moments of being great, being decent, or being forced; but its nothing that’ll deter you from enjoying humorous exchanges of dialogue between Parin and the abundance of characters in the game. Even the Prince of Phantoms has a sarcastic sense of humor.
Of course with such a nice presentation of quirky and humorous characters and in-depth gameplay, Gurumin does suffer from some problems that may seem archaic and even unnecessary in the eyes of many. For example, there’s the never-ending process of constant backtracking that may seem tedious and a bit unnecessary; and while such an aspect may cool and not annoying, it does get to you after a while especially when you have to backtrack quite a few times in the game. Furthermore, every single place you visit has a loading time; and depending what area you’re entering and how big/small it is, load times can take anywhere between 5-15 seconds before you’re finally able to enter the area and fight some baddies. Even entering any home or store takes a load time; and if you’re in a hurry to quickly go back to where you previously were, this can get annoying. I wouldn’t consider button mashing a problem since its omnipresent in almost every game; and the in-game camera suffers from providing you with bad angles especially if you’re trying to do a succession attack (the attacks where you continuously attack monsters in mid-air); and even though you can press the triangle button to angle the camera in the direction Parin is facing, sometimes the camera will end up focusing behind a wall or object that deters your direction.
Overall, though, Gurumin is a game that warrants a purchase if you’re looking for a game that’ll tide you over until the next best game comes along assuming you’re waiting for one. With a good musical score typical of Nihon Falcom games and deep gameplay complemented by humor and cool characters, Gurumin is just one of those games that may be considered a jewel in the rough of the PSP’s drought of games. Even if Gurumin is a PC port, it manages to transfer to PSP pretty good; and this is highly evidenced by the lighting of the game’s environments.