I like the idea of PSP minis. Bite-sized games are the perfect fit for hand held machines like the PSP as you're less likely to be sat playing for long periods. £3.49 is pocket change really, smack bang in the impulse buy zone. Still, it did come as a surprise to me when I completed my first play-through of Monsters (probably) Stole My Princess within 30 minutes of downloading it from the store.
It came with some relief to find the story is just a fraction of Monsters, and lightweight as it is there's enough of a good sense of humour running through the whole thing to keep you amused. The Duke (who is totally not a Dracula-copywright-infringing character - honest!) is awoken from good days sleep by a loud crash. Rushing to the next room he finds his beloved princess has been kidnapped, which is totally unfair as he had kidnapped her first! Without even bothering to examine the evidence The Duke comes to the conclusion that monsters (probably) had off with her so he sets off to beat them up until they give the love of his life back.
With The Duke being so awesome and bloody minded it turns out the monsters fear him and will flee at first sight. It also seems they live in a rather vertical world as the only direction they chose to travel in is straight up. The Duke can fly but to give the monsters a fighting chance he instead just makes use of nearby handy platforms along with the odd wall jump. He's kind like that you see. Once he catches up to whichever monster he currently persecuting a double jump next to them is all it takes to hurt them. Three double jump hits later and The Duke will perform a finishing move to bring the monster crashing back down. Beat all six monsters and the princess returns to her rightful place in your castle. Whether she likes it or not.
Attack of the Score
But after beating the story it becomes clear the focus of the game is actually the score attack mode. In both story and score attack you score is increased by touching platforms. Build up combos by touching a different platform with each jump and The Duke will gather speed. Although larger combos are possible, hit 50 and he reaches his maximum level of awesome. Not only is speed affected but the length of the combo will dictate how spectacular the finishing move is. At the end of the level the maximum combo length achieved and type of finish go toward the majority of your final score. This means it's important to maintain your combo to the end as it's all very well and good having a max combo of 100 or so but if you lose it before the final blow The Duke will only do a weak suplex for low points rather than the third and most powerful planetary alignment powered laser beam which he gets at 50. Hit for Massive damage and a large chunk of points.
At the end of a level points mean medals, these come in the standard bronze, silver and gold flavours. In story mode obtaining gold on each level unlocks a secret monster to chase but in score attack the medals seem to just be for bragging rights. There are awards to unlock achievements style but these too serve no purpose beyond something to look at.
Speaking of something to look at, Monsters is a good looking game with an art style that looks like it comes straight from a kids cartoon. The fact they managed to even make the Cthulu-alike creature cute is impressive enough but it's the details that make the game for me, with the background giving clues as to what the monster was truly up to. Monster dolly tea party anyone?
The Duke himself is well realised as well, with the skin colour of Sesame Street's Count but with a cocksure presence. His movement is flowing and matches well with the easy to learn game play. Only when the monsters escape do you see any doubt or remorse. He thinks he's awesome and it shows.
The Man Who Laughs
The music consists of rocking remixes of classic music like The Hall Of The Mountain King. It fits nicely with The Duke's attitude and the horror theme at the same time. Sadly I found the sound effects are starting to grate on me. You'll generally just hear footsteps, the swoosh of his jump and then a laugh for every 10th combo point. It does get repetitive as you start and restart trying to earn those medals.
But that's just a small problem and along with the length of the game it's all I can really complain about. I love the humour of this game and how The Duke completely misses the irony of what he's doing. Short lived as it may be, Monsters is addictive enough and will probably hook you long enough to go for all gold. In the end what you're getting is a game that has the look, sound and feel of a good Flash game and as long as you're OK with that you won't regret spending your money on it.