Drill, Baby, Drill.
For a system whose software sales are abysmal first party and third, you can imagine there's a lot of overlooked treasures on the system. That's pretty much because there are. The following is one of those games that if you can get past the too cutesy outer coating of paint is one that dungeon-crawlers should look into. It's Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure for the PSP.
You play as Parin, a little girl who just moved into a town where she's the only child around. The men of the village spend their days working at a nearby coal mine. One day, Parin encounters another girl in the town close to her age, perhaps even younger. It turns out only Parin can see her. It's revealed that the "another girl" isn't really a girl at all and is in actuality a monster from another realm. It seems only monsters can be seen by children and not adults. The monster invites Parin to her monster village. Unfortunately, the village is quickly attacked by a horde of evil monsters led by a prince. The prince has monster-napped four of the townspeople, and Parin takes it upon herself with a magical drill to save them. The game's story is told in real-time with various voiced characters giving off important dialogue. Everything else is written in text relegated to talking to lesser townspeople and shopkeepers.
The flow of Gurumin is that the world is covered in an impenetrable dark mist. Only certain areas are open to explore. As Parin enters various dungeons, passes through their trials and tribulations, and uncovers a seemingly useless piece of furniture at the dungeon's end, Parin can head back to the village and return the furniture to the monsters living in the village. Each time a monster gets one of their belongings back, their happiness opens up a new section of the game map to explore, often opening up new locales and dungeons to check out. The process continues with occasional boss battles, to keep things fresh, thrown in with the fate of a kidnapped monster on the line.
The main playing time with Parin is spent in numerous dungeons each which different themes: forest, ruins, mountaintop, temple, and so forth. Each area has simple puzzles to solve from lighting all the torches in a room to pushing blocks to use as platforms to reach higher areas. Parin's drill allows her to take down enemies and bust through cracked walls accessing hidden passages. There's also plenty of treasure inside each level from health-boosting cookies to drill-powering oil. Enemies in Gurumin usually have armor on, so Parin will need to power up her drill to smack into them and strip their defense from them. As Parin gets damaged, her HP goes down and her drill becomes weaker in power. Thankfully, there's enough items to help her out on her long, arduous journey.
Each dungeon lasts around ten to fifteen minutes in length your first time through. Your scored on how fast you get through the dungeon, how many treasures you find, pots and vases you smash, and enemies you defeat, so to get a great ranking it's imperative that you thoroughly explore a given room much more the whole dungeon. These rankings give you rare medals that can be traded in for money and new costumes. Costumes aren't just for fashion in Gurumin. Each one possesses a power such as deterring elemental attacks or earning Parin more money for each enemy defeated. There's a plethora of costumes to unlock, and the better ones are hard to find, need multiple playthroughs of the game to acquire, or just take a lot of work to grab.
Playing Gurumin is pretty simple with not much fuss. One button jumps, one charges and attacks with the drill, and one transports Parin close-by to another space. The shoulder buttons take care of camera control, and you can opt to use the directional pad or the analog nub for movement. Some special maneuvers require moving around the d-pad or nub, so it's easier to control the game with the nub in this regard.
Gurumin runs okay on Sony's PSP, but all isn't well. There's occasional slowdown when lots of movement and special effects are happening on screen at the same time. The voice acting is decent with familiar voices if you watch enough anime. However, the dialogue seems very forced and doesn't flow as elegantly as it could.
I think the main problem with Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure is that without the cute exterior lies an interior that's been there, done that. There's nothing extremely striking about this game other than its overly saccharine charm. The extensive dungeon exploring isn't all too captivating, and the story isn't very interesting either. All in all, however, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure stands as an above average dungeon-crawler that is perfect for all ages (given you can stand the cute and cuddly coating painted onto the game).
[SuperPhillip Says: 7.5/10]