Sunday, October 1, 2023

Review: Cassette Beasts for the Nintendo Switch Carves Out Its Place in a Crowded Genre

Cassette Beasts is a game that combines classic Pokémon-like gameplay with a unique twist. Developed by Bytten Studio — an indie team based out of the U.K. — this pixel art style game offers an interesting take on the creature collector RPG genre. While it brings a fresh approach to the table, it does have some flaws that detract from the overall experience.

Before we get started, I want to say thanks to the publisher for providing a code for review.

One of the most noticeable issues with Cassette Beasts is the frequent frame rate drops. Initially, I thought it might be intentional, designed to give the game an old-school aesthetic. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a technical flaw rather than a deliberate stylistic choice. I’m not a huge stickler for framerates, but this game’s inconsistent frame rate is hard to ignore. It’s distracting and takes away from the immersion of the game.

But despite the technical shortcomings, Cassette Beasts has its charms. The game allows you to create your own character with a wide range of customization options, from hairstyles to clothing. This level of personalization adds a nice touch and makes your character feel unique.

The gameplay in Cassette Beasts follows a familiar formula, reminiscent of classic Pokémon games. With a top-down perspective and turn-based battles, players will feel right at home. However, the game introduces an intriguing twist: you can actually transform into the creatures you capture and battle as them. This adds a refreshing dynamic to the gameplay and adds an extra layer of strategy to the otherwise basic battle system.

Battles in Cassette Beasts incorporate an AP (Action Points) meter, which determines the moves you can make on each turn. Basic melee moves don’t consume AP and allow you to build it up, while stronger melee and special moves require two, three, or even four action points. This system adds depth and strategy to the battles, but unfortunately, the battles tend to move at a slow pace, even in easy encounters early on. This sluggishness can be frustrating, especially when you’re several levels above your opponents.

One standout feature of Cassette Beasts is the ability to see enemies on the world map, eliminating random encounters. This adds a level of transparency and allows players to plan their encounters strategically. The game wastes no time getting players into the action, providing minimal world-building in the first few minutes. While this might be a downside for those seeking a more immersive narrative, it caters to players eager to jump into battling and collecting as quickly as possible.

The leveling system in Cassette Beasts is a little surprising. Instead of individual monsters gaining experience, it is the player character who levels up. When you capture a new tape, it automatically adjusts to your level. This approach deviates from the traditional creature collector RPG formula and brings a fresh perspective to character growth.

Exploring the game’s overworld is governed by a stamina wheel, similar to Breath of the Wild. Running, gliding, and performing various moves consume stamina, which depletes over time. As you progress through the story, you can upgrade your stamina wheel, granting you more freedom of movement.

As the game unfolds, players unlock the fusion technique, allowing them to combine two monsters into one temporarily, unleashing powerful attacks. The fusion mechanic adds complexity to battles and introduces strategic decision-making.

Cassette Beasts incorporates a rock-paper-scissors system for battles, with different monster types interacting uniquely. For instance, a wind-type move is potent against a plant-type monster, as it uproots them. This system adds an extra layer of depth to combat encounters, but I found it hard to keep up with all the different combinations.

The game’s music is a standout feature, with catchy tunes that deviate from the expected chiptune style. The soundtrack complements the gameplay and enhances the overall experience.

Building relationships with your partners is a significant aspect of Cassette Beasts. By completing quests and battling alongside them, you can grow closer to your allies. The relationship levels are upgraded at campfires or in cafes, providing a sense of progression and camaraderie.

Cassette Beasts offers a decent variety of monster designs, striking a balance between diversity and overwhelming numbers. This allows players to explore various creatures without feeling inundated.

Customization is another notable feature, as players can teach their tapes different moves by using stickers on their cassettes. Stickers can be reused on different tapes, allowing for mixing and matching of favorite techniques and tapes.

The game introduces an evolve mechanic called “remastering.” Once a tape reaches five stars, players can remaster it into a more powerful form, which boosts its stats and unlocks new moves. This mechanic adds depth to the creature progression and incentivizes players to seek out stronger forms.

Despite its positive aspects, Cassette Beasts has its fair share of flaws. The loading screens are lengthy and can be frustrating, particularly when entering and exiting dungeons. The story, while intriguing in concept, lacks depth and fails to provide a compelling narrative arc. The game’s environmental puzzles and platforming sections are challenging due to awkward camera movement and controls, leading to some frustrating moments.

So what’s the bottom line? Cassette Beasts brings a fresh twist to the creature collector RPG genre with its unique transformation mechanic and customization options. The rock-paper-scissors battle system, diverse monster designs, and catchy music enhance the overall experience. However, technical issues like frame rate drops and slow battles, as well as long loading times, detract from the game’s potential. I hope these issues can eventually be patched out.

While it falls short in some areas, Cassette Beasts manages to carve out its own style and offers an enjoyable adventure for fans of the genre.

Overall, I give Cassette Beasts a 7/10.

Cassette Beasts is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and Game Pass.

Justin McGee
Lifelong Nintendo fan. Follow me on Twitter @PuffyRedShirt

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