What would happen if you took the concept of Pac Man and combined it with Katamari Damacy? Sounds like a pretty cool experience right; well Namco Bandai has actually pulled off something similar with The Munchables for the Nintendo Wii. I admit, when I first heard about this game I quickly assumed it was another licensed title based on some cartoon that I had never heard of, which also means my hopes for it actually being fun were slim. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised when my copy landed on my doorstep, and if you have little ones in your house, or simply love the concept of mindless consumption, than The Munchables will likely entertain.
The story behind this title is just as outlandish as the concept. You are a Munchable, basically a ball with a mouth that consumes mass quantities of food on a daily basis. Your home world of Star Ving is being threatened by pirates that just so happen to look like items of food; I am sure you can see where this is going. The pirates have come to steal your legendary orbs, which are actually ice cream, but resemble something you might find in Blue Dragon (you will have to ask someone about that one). When the pirates invade your leader, the all-knowing onion (why haven’t they eaten him yet?) decides it is up to you to save the day. Yeah the story is ridiculous, but that is part of its charm. It is impossible to take seriously if you are over the age of ten, but it will entertain if for nothing more than just how eccentric it really is.
The gameplay is about as simple as you can imagine. You move with the nunchuk, jump by pulling up on the Wii remote, and consume enemies by tapping the A button. You can also attack enemies with the B button when they are a higher level than you, but more on that in a bit. The controls are fairly simple, and it will only take you a couple minutes to be chomping away like a pro. You can also use the Z button to lock on to enemies, but I found it much more efficient to simply tap away at the A button. Locking on also gives you the chance to charge up your super chomp that hurls you towards enemies, allowing you to take down multiple foes with one swipe. Again I found it much easier to simply mash the A button and take my earnings.
Enemies all have levels assigned to them, and as long as you are a higher level you can gobble them right up. As you progress you will come across foes that are a bit larger and stronger than you, which requires you to either level up more, or attack them to break them into smaller portions (yes that is a food reference). The boss battles also use this tactic, forcing you to attack them to break down the threat level, which in turn exposes the biggest flaw with the game, and one that will turn a good time into a repetitive mess. There simply isn’t any way to advance your character in the game. You have one attack, and it is the only one you will ever get. Each level usually starts you over from scratch, and becomes a test of how fast you can eat everything in sight.
The comparisons to Katamari are inevitable, the more enemies you consume the larger you become. This also translates into the game world because the larger you are, the more access you have to secret areas and other goodies. There is of course a collection aspect involved. Each level has one secret item and a scattering of acorns that you can collect to unlock customizable options for your characters. None of these will change the gameplay overall, but they are fun to toy around with.
Overall the gameplay is simple and fun, but if you try to play it in extended sessions, you will find yourself growing bored of its repetition rather quickly. That brings me to the other issues with the game. For starters the game never really poses a challenge, and if you are somewhat familiar with games at all, you will rarely (if ever) die. There are no difficulty settings or a health bar. The system works so if you are hit by an enemy that has a higher level than you, you lose a few levels, and are running around vulnerable for a few seconds. Waving the remote back and forth speeds up the process, and if you manage to take a hit during this state you will die, but other than that you will rarely have anything to worry about.
There are a total of 24 stages to dig through, and even a mirror mode that allows you play the levels from another perspective. Time attack and boss modes round out the extras, but as a whole you will likely grow tired of taking down characters like Brocco Lee. Munchables has a suffice amount of content, just not enough diversity in the gameplay to keep you coming back again and again. There is also a two player mode stuffed into the game, but much like Monsters Vs. Aliens, it only involves the second player shooting enemies with a cursor. This makes playing the game with your kids fun as you can help them through the levels, but as a multiplayer experience, it kind of feels tacked on.
Visually the game looks decent enough, and even ran in full widescreen on my setup. The color palette looks great, and the graphics are about what you would expect for a lower-priced Wii title. Characters are definitely the highlight; there really is nothing better than seeing a dancing banana coming at you with a vengeance. The audio works for what it is, the poppy intro song is full of awesome, and the sound effects do their job. Most of the dialogue is done through text so no crazy voice acting was required, but the sound truly matches the quirky visuals and delivers a solid presentation package all around.
The Munchables was a surprise for me. The game looked like another cheap cartoon knock-off, and ended up being very entertaining. The only real downfalls are the lack of progression and upgrades, and perhaps the fact that it is extremely easy to complete. For thirty bucks this is definitely a game to pick up for your little ones, and I guarantee you will have just as much fun chomping on dancing bananas. Not quite what I expected, but turned out to be a pleasant surprise.