A Great Case of the Munchies
Earlier this month, Namco-Bandai released a superb remake of the original Klonoa for a budget price. This time the company is rolling out an entirely new property with the same budget price, The Munchables-- not to be confused with the brand of lunchtime meals. While The Munchables may seem to draw most of its inspiration from another one of Namco-Bandai's franchises, Katamari Damacy, in which you get your character bigger in order to access new areas, that's really where the similarities end. Is The Munchables a title you'll want to chow down on, or will this quirky action-adventure game leave a bad taste in your mouth?
The planet of Star Ving is where The Munchables mostly takes place, a peaceful planet home to the perpetually hungry and gluttonous Munchables. The planet is made up of various themed islands, each guarding powerful treasures known as the Legendary Orbs. Suddenly the skies rain down with evil space pirates known as the Tabemon monsters, and they swiftly snatched up all of the Legendary Orbs. Unfortunately for the Tabemon monsters, they look incredibly tasty to Chomper and Munchy, a pair of heroes with an incorrigible appetite. With guidance from the Great Elder, Chomper and Munchy travel to each island to grab back the Legendary Orbs, chow down on the space invaders, and put an end to the Tabemon monsters' leader's master plan. Of course, all the Munchables really care about is filling their bellies. Saving Star Ving is just gravy. There are a few animated cut-scenes to be found in the game, but most of The Munchables' story takes place in-game with the characters talking to one another on screen with the in-game view of the levels behind them as the background. The humor is very much here, and the game never takes itself overly serious. If you're in the mood for a light-hearted comedic tale, you're sure to enjoy what The Munchables has to offer story-wise. If you don't, there's always the ability to skip any scene you don't wish to watch.
Alluding once again to Katamari Damacy, the goal of each level isn't so much to become as big as possible. That's just the means to the end. The core gameplay of The Munchables is to gobble enemies. Each level, you start fresh. A predetermined size is given to you at the beginning of a level. Your size is indicated by a level number. You can easily gobble up smaller enemies, but if an enemy has a higher level than you, your Munchable won't be able to fit its jaws around it. In this case, you have to attack the enemy so it will divide itself into smaller, lower level enemies. For each enemy you digest, you earn a meal point. These are totaled up at the end of the level to reward you a letter ranking based on your performance, up to an "S" ranking. In order to maximize your meal counter, you'll want to go to town on several space pirates in a row. The more you eat in a continuous manner without stopping for too long, the higher the meal bonus you'll acquire. In The Munchables, there's no shame in eating and running. You can hold down the chow down button to charge at enemies with your mouth open, or you can lock onto baddies. The latter really doesn't have much of a use, and it's usually just a hindrance in most cases.
Of course, enemies won't just stand there and count the seconds until they're inside your Munchable's belly. Enemies will battle back, but you always get a warning for when they're about to unleash some fury; a red exclamation bubble appears briefly over the ready-to-strike baddie. If you take damage, you'll lose meal points as well as temporarily being pea-sized. Take a damage in this form, and it's game over. At no time through playing The Munchables to completion has this ever happened to me. Still, if you want a good ranking on a level, you'll want to avoid damage as much as possible.
There are eight worlds in the game spanning haunted houses, the ocean depths, a mountain with a split-personality, and many more. Each world has three levels, and there's a variety of goals in each level. Some will have you tracking down targets to chew up or locating keys to unlock doors while others will just have you finding a way to a goal. The length of each level varies, but the longest might take a little over ten minutes at the most. To advance in a level, you have to eat enough enemies in order for your food-craving creature to grow large enough. Buttons, blockades, and other obstacles can only be used or passed when your Munchable is at or higher than the required size. You have to respect a world where fat people are not discriminated against. See, internet? I'm thinking of you!
While the each world's second level goal is to swallow up the pirate leader in charge of that area, the third level always features the boss possessing that world's Legendary Orb. Boss battles have you taking on larger baddies with the objective of whittling down the size of the boss so your Munchable can eat them while simultaneously being victorious in battle. Each boss has a different way of completing this. An example is the second world's boss, Great Grapy, a hanging series of grapes. It'll shoot out several purple grapes at you, and the idea is to knock them back into it. Once it's been hit three times, it'll split up into multiple edible and oh-so-good grapes. Eating up the glowing grapes will damage it. Rinse and repeat until it's finished. That's just one of the enjoyable encounters The Munchables has to offer.
Once the game is completed which might take five or six hours your first time through, there's still plenty to do. You'll unlock a mirror mode, but it's not just playing through mirror versions of the same levels. Oh, no. This time you'll be racing against the clock to complete levels and boss battles as quickly as possible. Collectibles simply known as acorns are strewn about in each world's three levels. The first having ten, the second having twenty, and the third having five. Collecting all of the acorns in a given level will have the Great Elder reward you with an accessory. There's dozens to collect, and each one can be worn by either of your Munchable minions. Perhaps there's more Munchables to unlock, too... I don't know if you can see it, but I'm winking right now. Obtaining an "S" rank on every regular and mirror version of all the levels as well as eating up every variety of enemy in the game rewards you with content, too. You can hang back at the Great Elder's house and watch past cinematics, listen to the cheery almost Loco-roco like in parts music, view the enemy encyclopedia, or tinker around with the options. The options include the ability to make the game softer or sharper graphically for those fortunate souls with high-definition televisions. As for the promised two player as seen on the back of the game box, it's similar to Super Mario Galaxy. The primary player plays while the second player shoots meals at enemies to either split them up or stun them. Those expecting cooperative or competitive play will have to wait for a sequel pending there is one.
The Munchables can be played with either the classic controller or the Wii remote and nunchuk. Both options work extremely well, and everything feels tight and responsive. Some may not like flicking the Wii remote to jump or shaking the Wii remote to recuperate when damaged, but all motion control is responsive and painless to use. Regardless, the classic controller is always there. There's no need to worry about moving the camera around as the game does it for you. Levels are always from a certain perspective, so the camera never spins around with you. A lot of the levels are actually circular in design. The only problem with the camera this way is when you're chowing down on enemies, and the camera doesn't pan immediately to the left, right, or down (especially down) until it's too late. This causes your Munchable to swallow a damaging bomb which results in your Munchable thinking dinner was the bomb... which it was... unfortunately for them.
For a thirty dollar game, The Munchables has a belly full of fun, content, originality, personality, and replay value. Minor camera issues and occasional bits of frustration aside, Namco-Bandai has treated Wii owners with not one but two excellent efforts and end results. It's a game that you'll want to go back to just because it's so much fun. If you're interested in a quirky and off-beat action-adventure and don't mind the cute aesthetic, The Munchables may just be what you're craving. Did I mention it is only thirty dollars?
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]