It’s sometimes hard to imagine the PSP as anything more than a portable PS2 port machine. With the exception of a few games the system’s library consists of mostly downsized versions of its big brother’s titles. Lately though developers have begun to see the potential of this portable powerhouse and started creating games that take advantage of the system’s strengths. Gurumin is the latest game to apply this trend. Developed by Nihon Falcom and published by Mastiff Games this PSP action title packs a large drill and a meaty adventure that should satisfy even the most skeptical gamer.
The story revolves around a twelve year old girl named Parin that is sent to live with her grandfather in the town of Tiese. She was sent there by her archaeological parents so they would be able to continue excavating their current ruin. This is where Parin runs into her monstrous friend Pino who leads her to a small hole in the wall, Alice in Wonderland style, which leads to the Monster Village where our journey begins.
Now wouldn’t you know it that the day Pino invites her newfound friend over for introductions that her entire world would be invaded by a group of not-so-friendly monsters known as the Phantoms. In the process they kidnap some of the residents and destroy a large part of Monster Village and leave the rest covered in darkness making it difficult to navigate. Thankfully our heroine is here to save the day as she plunges into battle using the sacred artifact found in the center of Monster Village: a legendary drill once used by humans to protect the monsters from a giant dragon.
What this amounts to is a fast-paced action romp that is actually fairly lengthy. As Parin you will progress through the Monster Kingdom traversing dungeons and rescuing various monsters along the way. You will also be collecting furniture throughout the game that will in turn be used to rebuild Monster Village. From the outset Parin will have a core move set that can be upgraded throughout the game by learning new skills. You can also obtain new drill parts to upgrade your weapon that utilize environmental effects.
There are also a range of attacks that the drill can provide by charging up. For instance you can perform a corkscrew attack and even certain stabbing motions by simply allowing the drill time to charge. With each successful attack you increase your drill gauge, which is sort of like building a special meter in Street Fighter. This meter can be charged up to three times with each one increasing your attack power. However if you take a hit your gauge will decrease slightly. Charging this meter is imperative in some battles and definitely adds a nice layer of strategy to the repetitive combat.
The best part about Gurumin though is simply just how much there is to see and do here. The developers have crammed so much into this UMD that those with enough patience are certain to get much more than their money’s worth. For instance there are five difficulties packed in here, each with a set of rewards and medals that you can obtain. Throughout the game you can also collect different items such as brand new costumes, which seem to be quickly becoming cliché in games starring female characters, including holiday attire to parade the main character around in. There are also an abundance of mini-games to play around with in case you grow tired of plodding through the main quest at any time.
No game is without problems however and Gurumin is certainly not innocent of this crime. The first is more the system’s fault as opposed to the game, but just like many other PSP titles the load times are obnoxious at times. While it certainly isn’t as bad as past titles which had to load after every line of dialogue, it does detract from the game when the action is broken up by frequent 15 second stops to load the next area. There is also a lot of mindless backtracking throughout the adventure. This seems to pad playtime more than anything else. I am all for games lasting longer, but I despise developers simply making you go back to the beginning of a level just to add an extra twenty minutes into the overall length.
The visuals in the game will either please you or piss you off. They are heavily inspired by the anime genre with character sporting large eyes to convey their range of emotions. The levels are gorgeous for a PSP title and the monsters range from impressive to downright amazing. While the camera can be more of a challenge than a help sometimes it does manage to get the job done, and with minimal slowdown the game is one of the better looking PSP titles to date.
One of the advantages of putting games on the PSP is the sound design. The UMD format allows devs to throw in actual voice actors and stereo quality music, which is always a nice touch. Gurumin delivers on this with established voice-over vets such as Tara Strong, Quinton Flynn, and Amber Hood. Their performances inject a great sense of emotion and humor into the game and make it a much more enjoyable experience. The sound effects are top notch, especially the drill sounds, and the music while sparse is very well executed.
Gurumin is a game that will surprise anyone who gives it a chance. With a library of quick ports and old collections Gurumin is a breath of fresh air to the PSP family. The unfortunate truth is that most PSP owners are either not interested in a game of this type or will simply dismiss it based on the childlike visual style. However anyone who gives it a shot will find one of the most feature-rich experiences currently available on Sony’s portable powerhouse. I strongly recommend giving this game a whirl; I guarantee you will find something to love here.