In Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook, players face off against a roguelike dungeon-crawler with turn-based, strategic battles. However, there are no default characters. Like games like Etrian Odyssey, you’re customizing your own crew. What shocked me though, after sampling the Monster Menu demo, is how cute the character creator really is.
To start with, there are eight base “characters” to choose when you begin the Monster Menu demo and enter its character creator. However, you’re not really choosing a default avatar. What you’re really doing is picking their outfit. Once you pick one of the eight options, each one lets you completely customize all other elements of the character.
Some of these are pretty typical. You set the person’s name, then choose if their gender is male, female, or unknown. After that, you select their starting class. That influences initial equipment, skills, and stats. So your “healer” would be the Chef. If you want a challenge, you can go with a Jobless layabout with lower-than-usual stats. Typical options like Archer, Mage, Swordsman, and Thief appear as well.
But it’s after that when I found playing around with the Monster Menu demo character really ended up being fun. There aren’t a wide array of face, hair, and accessory options, for example. Like you may only get seven or eight possibilities. However, the bangs and back of a hairstyle are considered separate parts. You can adjust someone’s height. You can alter the color of the outfit, hairstyle, and both left and right eyes. In addition to normal skintones, there are otherworldly ones too. Selecting a personality type alters the automatically generated biography on their status screen. None of these are tied to any specific initial character style or gender as well, allowing for quite a few possibilities.
But the part I had the most fun with is the Edit Pose section. Instead of just showing default character portraits based on your chosen variations, you get to adjust them. I felt like it was a way to inject a little extra personality into a game where you’re creating self-inserted, blank slate characters. There are multiple poses, which change the character’s body position, different facial expressions, and options to make it look like your character is, say, blushing or half-dead. Once you get a look you like, you can use the Mini Stats option to decide on your character portrait, Menu Screen for a slightly larger photo, Cut-in to show what they look like for a team attack, and Line of Vision to just focus on their eyes or a brief line. It surprised me with how charming it is.
The character creator we get to mess around with in the Monster Menu demo is not as intricate as the one in the Street Fighter 6 one, to be sure. But I still feel like it’s a pleasant surprise when I hopped into it to check things out. There’s a sense of variety here that I didn’t expect, and it’s quite fun to play around with to see how an explorer could look.
Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook will come to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on May 23, 2023 in North America, May 26, 2023 in Europe, and June 2, 2023 in Australia, and a demo is available now.