MonsterBag comes out of left field from Chilean developer Iguanabee. I had little idea that the game even existed before it released on Vita for free with PlayStation Plus. Over the course of a few days, I trekked through the game with feelings of delight, warmth, disgust, and frustration. It was an overall positive experience, fully furnished with unexpected moments and sometimes clever puzzle solving. The game hinges on a patrol-guard type mechanic where you have to move your character – a monster-shaped book-bag with telekinetic powers – without being spotted. Click from one character to the next to slink from left to right (or vice versa), keeping an eye on the characters’ gazes and moving when they’re looking away. While there are slight variances to this model of progression, it remains relatively untouched throughout most of the game, an attribute that led to some of my later boredom with it.
The best way I can describe MonsterBag‘s genre is point-and-click adventure game, except using the Vita’s touchscreen instead of the typical cursor. It presents itself like a combination of Le Ballon Rouge, Adventure Time, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Sam and Max. The game takes place on a 2D plane with a gloriously colorful art style. The inhabitants of the game remind me of early Drinkbox Studios offerings, or perhaps characters from Frobisher Says. Overall, the art style does a splendid job setting the player up to be absolutely shocked once he makes it through a few screens.
This is a cartoony story of an eccentric girl and her (presumably) imaginary sentient bag. Your mission is to guide the bag back to the girl in order to comfort her and bring back some happiness to her life. In the process of getting to her, you cause a ton of wreckage and end more than a few lives. The first time I screwed up moving from one person to another, I smirked at the short death animation of a luchador elbow dropping my character to a blueish mush. The first time I telekinetically ripped a man’s arm off so that another character could reach an out-of-reach object, I was slightly off-put. The violence gets more intense later on in the story, to the point where I audibly uttered “wow” here and there. It’s an ironic effect not unlike the iconic scene in A Clockwork Orange (leaving the link to this one out for NSFW purposes) where the protagonist violently attacks an unsuspecting couple while singing “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Overall, I enjoyed my time with MonsterBag. The main story will probably take 3-6 hours to complete, depending on your puzzle fluency. I played through a bit of the new game +, so to speak (it’s actually named OBLAINS), but it seemed simply harder than the first playthrough. Knowing the order of operations for each screen, I zoomed through a few chapters in a matter of minutes. The music and art are excellent. The blood is a range of non-red neon colors, but the violence isn’t abstracted enough to render it unaffecting. The most interesting parts of the game come near the end, when an underlying narrative gets fleshed out a bit. Nia, the girl in the story, was put up for adoption by her parents due to an extremely expensive heart condition. She spent time in orphanages before a family finally adopts her. Nia’s MonsterBag is her safety blanket; the item she can play with when the rest of the world feels dark and gloomy. I’m not 100% sure on the story, as it’s not explicitly told, but I enjoyed trying to unearth it through the gameplay. If you’re itching for an abstractly touching adventure game, spring for MonsterBag. There aren’t many other options for this genre on the Vita.
A copy of this game was purchased (for free) for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Implicit storytelling
- Wacky art style
- Gameplay variances here and there
What I Dislike:
- Patrol mechanic grows stale over time