Finding a truly new angle within a well established genre is a tall order, especially for small studios with limited budget and resources. Far too often a game will be content with bring a few small new ideas to a tried-and-true formula, resulting in just enough of a breath of fresh air to distract how safe the rest of the game is by comparison.

MonsterBag, the first console outing by Chilean developers IguanaBee, sets out to combine the vibrant presentation of 90’s cartoons with adventure and puzzle game concepts to create a pretty unique gameplay experience that draws heavily from the studio’s experience developing PC and mobile games.

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The game places you in control of the titular creature, a little blue square thing named V who ventures out into a wild and crazy 2D world in search of its owner Nia, navigating colorful  worlds filled with quirky people and places. Being an anthropomorphic satchel, V must hide behind conga lines of people or objects to avoid being seen (a mistake that proves fatal every time) hopping from cover to cover to try and reach its destination, all the while trying to avoid detection. Moving left and right, players must watch for behavioural tells in the environment for an opportunity for advancement, avoiding eye contact with humans or monsters, or waiting for the right moment for other pieces of cover to move into reach.

While V is limited in where it can go and when, thankfully it’s gifted with telekinetic powers to allow further interaction with the environment. Using these abilities becomes crucial to progress through the later stages of the game, where players tap furiously on the screen in various places to discover what can be moved and to where. Solutions to obstacles can be as simple as throwing a rock at a security guard, or flipping on a laser beam to destroy nearby debris, and escalates to intense Rube Goldbergian chain reactions of events.

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The one major source of frustration comes in the form of how frequently the fail state is encountered, followed by the tedium of animations you must watch every time until the game loads back into the (thankfully very generous) checkpoints. It is ultimately manageable, but definitely makes getting caught feel way more frustrating than it needs to be simply because of the time wasted waiting for the game to load back in for another try.

In terms of presentation, MonsterBag is a glorious barrage of fluid hand drawn animation, filled with expressive creatures, puffs of rolling smoke, and fast-paced action scenes of manic dark humor. The studio’s background in animation shines through in every moment of the game, and results in a game with a lot of personality and a ton of heart. Everything from the at times morbid sense of humor to the whimsical orchestral score create an experience that is very reminiscent of Danny Elfman film scores like Beetlejuice or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

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MonsterBag is a game that feels completely at home on the PlayStation Vita, utilizing direct controls and touch interface in very smart and intuitive ways, and brings a lot of clever ideas to puzzle adventure games. Difficulty spikes and an at times frustrating respawn time do not take away from how fun it is to see the weird and adorable places V finds itself in on its journey to find and save its little friend.

About The Author

Former Senior Editor

Former Senior Editor/Community Manager, Games Retail Veteran, Host of Dead Pixels and The Hitbox Podcasts

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