Each month I have grown accustomed to receiving great games from the PlayStation Plus service. Seldom is there a game not worth downloading or adding to your library to play on a rainy day. I was looking forward to downloading Monster Bag for my PS Vita, but sadly this was one game that just did not quite hit the mark.
The concept of the game is to help a little blue monster sneak past different individuals in each round. It is easy to go unnoticed through the first few, but the game adds many different variables to hinder you from reaching the end of the rounds. Some people will be keeping an eye out for your little blue protagonist, while others will require you to interact with items in the level to help you get past them.
The problem with the gameplay design is twofold. For one, making sure people or things do not see you ultimately comes down to timing. While your gut reaction tells you to jump to the next person with a hurry, doing so will lead to you getting attacked and starting the round over again. This mechanic can become very irritating when the objective seems so simple. It leaves the game feeling very shallow and irritating during the more time-sensitive parts.
The second problem I encountered about the gameplay was not being able to understand what the round wanted you to interact with. Some people will not let you pass unless you accomplish a task within the round. Some of the rounds are very fun, requiring you to sacrifice other people in order to keep moving. Others however, leave you guessing and trying out anything in order to make the people in the round interact with each other. You will go through several attempts of frustratingly throwing a bat, chair or whatever the round gives you until you land on the right sequence that lets you past. Coupling this trial and error mechanic with the timing objective, the game becomes a frustrating experience.
Where the gameplay fails, story and art design prevails. Your character is a little blue monster and you are trying to reach a little girl who you are very fond of. Through your sneaking and jumping each round, your character gets closer to his friend. The rounds all end with a short video clip of your character getting so close to his companion, only for some wild scenario to unfold. The beginning rounds you will tackle average citizens, while later rounds see you sneaking past some unique characters. I will not ruin the story, only because it is the only reason to give this game a try.
The visuals of the game are by far my favorite part. The game looks like the Adventure Time or Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends cartoons. Each person you sneak past feels unique and each has a quirky thing about them. Likewise, each person has a custom fatality that they attack you with if you are unfortunate enough to get caught in their eyesight. Restarting the round each time might be frustrating, but at least they tried to make the fatalities fresh each time. Some of the killing moves and story ends up on the border of strange and gory. Like some cartoons on Adult Swim, this game pushes the envelope on how weird a cartoon can be.
At the end of the day, Monster Bag falls into the category of games that rely too much on narrative and art design. I do like what the game was trying to do. Later rounds actually involve puzzle solving with switches in order to progress through the level, rather than throwing objects. However, the frustrating timing mechanic and overall lack of direction weigh the game down. I would have much rather watched a Monster Bag cartoon, than play this game. I look forward to seeing if the developers can improve on their original vision. As it stands, Monster Bag is an amazing cartoon if you can painstakingly make your way through the lesser parts.