Developed by Maple Powered Games and Published by Merge Games Ltd, Monster Harvest has tried to combine the likes of Farmville with Pokémon and the result may not be so pleasing to the palette. There is something to be said about games with cute retro-style graphics that have you doing repetitive tasks like farming and gathering resources. They have this allure of making your farm feel personal to you so you care more about and ignore the fact that some of the tasks are quite mundane. The music must have been the last consideration as I only noticed 3 tracks that just loop. One overly jaunty track the day, a ghostly creepy track at night and a quizzical track in the dungeon and you better get used to them as they never stop.
The story of this game seems simple enough; you have inherited a farm that you need to build up from very little into a thriving place. But there is an exciting development! There is magical slime found around your farm and town that when exposed to your crops have magical effects. The main effect being by applying a red slime your crop mutates into a loyal creature called a planimal – half plant, half animal. This Planimal can then be used to battle other folks with Planimal’s as well as protect you in troublesome dungeons. But an evil corporation called SlimeCo have come to town after hearing about the wonders of the slime and have begun harvesting slime themselves but they don’t know where to stop.
The controls have greatly improved from when I first started playing the game. Before the release date, MH was rife with bugs, but many of them have been patched a day after the game was released. The controls are simple enough to pick up as it runs like a simple farming sim. You toil the land, plant the seeds, water the seeds and eventually harvest your crops. Your farming is what allows you to earn money as you sell your harvest and other materials for money to spend on expanding the farm or upgrading your tools.
Your strange uncle, who also seems to be a slime scientist, mentions you should use slime on your crops as it provides exciting consequences. He isn’t wrong as there are 3 coloured slimes to discover which are red, blue and green. The red slime is the most important as applying this to your crops mutates them into a planimal. The blue slime mutates the crop into a livestock planimal which can be placed into a barn where they generate items you can use and sell. The green slime is an enhancement slime that makes the crops rapidly grow.
Once you have your planimal you can experience the other side of the game which is like a Pokémon-lite. Near the town is a dungeon which your uncle states that SlimeCo are abusing for their own purposes and he wants you to see what they are up to. This dungeon is a randomly generated area where certain materials, slimes and other Planimal’s can be found. It’s worthwhile taking an army of Planimal’s as they aren’t very strong to start with. The combat is turn-based and plays out like a very bad Pokémon rip off. You get a choice from up to 3 moves depending on the level of your Planimal. It is always one on one and you cannot switch a Planimal in combat if it’s losing, so you just have to let it die. Beating other Planimal’s allows you to collect loot from them usually in the form of seeds for farming or other materials. But if you lose a Planimal in battle they become a sort of fertiliser in the form of hearts. These hearts can be used on your farm to improve the soil which in turn increases the starting level of your Planimal’s.
Other than the farming and fighting in the dungeon the game lacks a lot of direction. It feels like it is missing something like side quests or main quests or any such direction of what you are supposed to do. You know that you have to improve your farm and you know SlimeCo are bad but that’s all I know. I briefly saw the SlimeCo baddie enter the cave and that was all I saw of them. I managed to improve my Planimal’s enough to complete the dungeon and all I discovered were that SlimeCo were doing evil things and I needed to stop them by beating the leader but I wasn’t given any direction on how to do that.
There is a lot of game that leaves me feeling that MH is unfinished, and even that is an improvement on the unplayable state I found it to be in when I first got access to it. The town feels very lifeless, the residents don’t have much to say and a lot of the houses you cannot visit. There is a general store to buy your seeds from, a special store to buy slimes and tool upgrades and the laboratory where your uncle hangs out where you can combine seeds into a hybrid seed. Once you earn enough money you can unlock 2 areas where there is a fishing shop and a furniture shop but they add very little to the content of the game. Things do get a little more interesting when as you level up you unlock items that you can craft like a scarecrow, a pickler, a jam-making machine and a way to convert stones to slime and slime to super slime. The super slime is where the real fun starts as the red super slime allows you to create super Planimal’s who are stronger than the standard animals. The blue super slime allows you to create a mount from a crop that you can ride around the farm much quicker. The green super slime allows you to mutate your crop into a super crop that sells for more money. But once you have done those things there doesn’t seem to be much else to do.
Unfortunately, there is a bug that remains and that is that my mounts keep disappearing which is quite annoying. They are useful to get about the area and it makes no sense why they disappear. Randomly they have popped back every now then on different parts of the map but there is no reason why this happens. The inventory management is still a bit jittery, especially when accessing your chest of items but it is a step up from the broken mess it was.
There are also two unforgivable choices the creators of done in this game. First is that you can only save the game when your character sleeps overnight. That means you could be playing for an hour or so and need to stop for whatever reason and to save you have to lose the rest of your day just to save your game. There is no need for that in this day and age as you should be able to save at any point and it’s irritating that you have to lose out on the day just to save your game before you finish your session. The second is that the same jittery movement on the inventory menu is also present on the start menu. But the only options on the start menu are resume and quit to the main menu. If you pressed the start menu instead of the back button it is way too easy for the selection to flick to quit to the main menu and if you accidentally catch it there is no warning it just resets to the main menu and all progress is lost from when you last slept.
Monster Harvest looks charming and it offers a lot of the things you want from a game like this. A story, a farming sim with some creative choices and an animal combat element. It could be described as a Farmville Pokémon hybrid but only very loosely. A lot of the game feels lifeless and countless bad decisions in this game will leave you bored. Also losing your progress will infuriate you more than the three looping songs this game has to offer.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.