As grandmama always says, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Finding inspiration in your favorite creative works when making your own is not only common but encouraged. The team at Maple Powered Games certainly kept gran's lessons in mind when they developed Monster Harvest, part Harvest Moon-like farming simulator and part Pokemon-inspired monster battler.
NPCs have two functions in Monster Harvest: providing generic one-liners or becoming shopkeepers. I haven’t experienced any side- or even fetch-quests that expand more about someone’s backstory. This is a world that has a lot of different bodies moving around but very little substance.
The social aspect of this genre has been totally botched in Monster Harvest. The farming is exactly what you would expect it to be, though. You have various weather types and seasons that you grow crops in, and crops die if not planted in the correct season. The only notably odd aspect is that months only have twenty-one days to a season rather than thirty.
Monster Harvest isn't shy about its influences right from the start. Like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley before it, your character leaves an unfulfilling life in the city to inherit the overrun farm your scientist uncle neglected. Your uncle has been too busy with his latest breakthrough: Planimals. They're plant-animal hybrids that the townspeople have fallen head over heels for, using them for companionship and competition. There's a shady corporation in town, SlimeCo, and a dungeon full of creepy crawlies to contend with.
The freedom to play the game how you want, whether it’s as an explorer or a rancher or both, means a lot in the way of accessibility and player choice. Most smaller titles have a focused expression of the player agency, so seeing that Monster Harvest granted that volition to the players is fantastic.
This lack of care about the creatures makes any action I perform feel useless. I don’t care about the evil company invading the town. I don’t care about the town or the inhabitants of it. I especially don’t care about the planimals I painstakingly grew. So, in the end, is there anything left here actually to care about?
Graphically, there is some charm in the game's simplistic pixel art, reminiscent of the beta art that Eric Barone made himself for Stardew Valley back in the day, but it's nothing to write home about. Audio is a problem though, with the same few loops of music playing throughout almost the entire game. Again, when it comes to the artistic side, it's a lot easier to excuse a little messiness for such a small team. But taking the game's entirety into consideration, it's just another disappointment alongside a laundry list of disappointments.
The sound design is great. All of the sounds match their actions, which is important! The soundtrack is heavily inspired by other farming titles, but the large number of melodies and wind instruments helps to give the game a fuller sound. You’re not wandering around to a small piano track, these are full tunes. Plus, the bird noises sound delightful in the middle of the woods.
Monster Harvest feels like it wants to set itself apart from its counterparts in the genre, and there is undeniable potential here. However, I felt like I was playing an early access game despite being fully released. So much of the world feels like fundamental revision and polish are missing, and I can’t see myself revisiting Planimal Point anytime soon.
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