Monster Harvest Review
While Monster Harvest doesn’t break ground with anything it’s trying to do in regards to blending genres, it does prove itself as an enticing homage to its influences. The visual style might look a touch cruder than that of Stardew Valley, but the vibrant color palette makes up for it. Its turn-based, Pokemon-esque battle system does nothing to surprise a veteran of Nintendo’s creature-catching franchise, yet, it still manages to feel exciting. Then there’s the music, which evokes every bit of that lazy, relaxing, seaside vibe that so many games of this nature strive to emulate. And though a good chunk of your time spent with Monster Harvest may be scaling a mountain of technical issues, it doesn’t really stop being fun.
I don’t think Monster Harvest’s story could be any more unoriginal. You’re dropped onto a farm and are immediately tasked with growing crops to flip for profit. I know; you’ve been here a million times before. But these games are always more about the journey than telling a riveting tale, and I’m fine with that. Where Monster Harvest falters first, however, is in its utter lack of direction. Maybe the developer, Maple Powered Games, just assumes you’ll have the knowledge necessary to get going. Either way, inevitably, my first few hours were mired in lingering anxiety caused by not knowing whether I should be spending my days farming, or fighting, or building relationships, and so on.
Eventually, things started to click, and progress became more and more rewarding. Much of this satisfaction comes from Monster Harvest’s interesting “animal planting” mechanic. Whereas the likes of Pokemon has the player venture out and capture their companions, Monster Harvest expects you to grow your own. And it may sound complicated, but it’s only a matter of planting your favorite vegetable and then dousing it with one of several colored “slimes” that provide different bonuses. Red slime will grow your monsters, green slime will quickly have your garden flourishing, and blue slime will provide you with farm animals. Of course, there are plenty of variations to discover, but the heart of your experience will revolve around what you do with your slime.
The Right Herbs
Once you’ve built a team of allies to watch your back, it’ll be your moment to venture off into the caves. Buried within, you’ll find rare items and events only obtainable in this part of the map. It’s certainly worth your while to explore these caverns, but given that Monster Harvest doesn’t allow you to revive your Planimals (yes, that’s their official title), you’ll need to ensure that you have a firm understanding of its mechanics. I can’t tell you the number of buddies I’ve had to bury at my farm, and it never gets easy to lose a character you’ve sunk genuine effort into. But that true risk-and-reward system is what keeps things engaging.
Though, for every bit as addicting as the planting/harvesting/selling cycles, or the turn-based combat system, or even simply meandering through the vivid town is, Monster Harvest suffers deeply from technical issues. So much so that I may jump at the first opportunity to hop over to the PC version. On the Nintendo Switch, the game is plagued with shortcomings both large and small that slowly but surely, chipped away at my overall enjoyment.
Hardest to ignore of all its problems, Monster Harvest just isn’t a game meant for the Switch hardware. It’s clearly designed to be played with a keyboard and mouse, routinely making me double (and sometimes even triple) click a selection to actually register the input. In addition, navigating the menus is an absolute chore, thanks to a cursor that seemingly has a mind of its own. For example, I’ll try to move one space up, and it’ll shoot three spaces past where I wanted to go. Regardless of how much I was enjoying myself, it wasn’t ever long before I was reminded that I should probably be playing this elsewhere.
I do think that Maple Powered Games is on to something here with Monster Harvest. Its mishmash of systems accomplishes, for the most part, what they were trying to do – this is undeniable. Just be forewarned that under nearly every rock, and within the leaves of all those trees, there will sit a bug waiting to suck the entertainment out of it. And what you get out of Monster Harvest will vary depending on how willing you are to put up with that. Still, there’s a lot to enjoy here, and if you’re a fan of Stardew Valley or Pokemon, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
Poorly optimized for Switch
Bugs, bugs, bugs
Can feel directionless