The Munchables

munchables
7.5 Overall Score

Creative character and level designs | Fun extras like collectible accessories, cooperative gameplay and the Tabemon Monster Encyclopedia | Catchy Loco-Roco-esque music

Low level of difficulty to open the game to a wider audience | Gameplay gets repetative in longer stretches | Bare bones plot

The Wii has become a dumping ground for shovelware, kiddy-friendly titles lacking any real substance or style – two things that are abundantly present in Namco Bandai’s trend bucking title, The Munchables. It’s like Bandai’s other smash series, Katamari, hooked up with Atari’s classic Pac-Man during one crazy night in Vegas, and nine months later out popped a bouncing baby Wii game. Before its release there was noise made over the fact that this title might be an attempt to encourage the wee ones to eat their fruits and vegetables, but this seemingly wholesome message in no way distracts from the game’s playability. After all, is speed gorging yourself to the bursting point really healthy? And does anapomorphic flan truly count as a vegetable?

The game plays out on Star-Ving, a planet inhabited by insatiably hungry creatures known as Munchables, who are ruled over by The Great Elder, a grey haired onion with a god complex.  You can play as a male Munchable named Chomper or a female Munchable named Munchy (to answer your unspoken question, we’re assuming gender based on color as these creatures have no reproductive parts of which to speak). A long standing grudge match between the benevolent Great Elder and the diabolical Don Onion leads to a hostile take-over by the latter’s interplanetary pirate army of Tabemon monsters – a nasty bunch of sentient fruits, vegetables, desserts, and robots gone all Island of Dr. Moreau.

 

Star Ving consists of eight islands connected to each other by rainbows. Each island has three stages – one complete-the-objective stage, one eat-the-leader-pirate stage, and one boss stage. The amount you eat is directly related to your final ranking for each round. The highest rank achievable is an “S” and will earn you an accessory for your Munchable. And, since The Great Elder has a thing for acorns, collect all of those in a round and you’ll get a second gift. But nothing is more rewarding than the joy of eat for the sake of eating, because the more you eat, the more orbs you get to poop onto The Great Elder at the end of each stage. For each boss you defeat, you’ll win back one of the stolen legendary orbs, which although colorful, look suspiciously like poop as well. A suspicion that is confirmed when you visit the The Great Elder’s House, a.k.a. main menu screen, which is home to a jewelry box that allows you to view your scores for cleared stages. The jewelry box is actually a toilet, complete with flushing sound. Nasty.

The Munchables is a rather easy game, meant to provide instant gratification rather than an immersive experience. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as sometimes you just don’t have the time to tackle a four-hour session of Gears of War II. It’s a rather Zen experience not having to strategize. The controls are intuitive – you use the nuchuck to move around and lock onto targets, and the wiimote to munch and masticate everything that moves, as well as slamming into larger opponents in order to break them into smaller, bite sized pieces. If an enemy larger than you attacks, you’ll lose meal points and temporarily decrease in size, a second hit in this vulnerable condition and it’s game over man, game over.  However, this is a rare situation indeed since every enemy can easily be defeated as long as you keep cannonballing into them until everything on screen is smaller than you and thus easily digestible. You can also shake the wiimote wildly in order to return to normal size faster. And you’ll never find yourself at a loss of what to do next because The Great Elder is a tireless micromanager, dispensing an endless bevy of advice and objectives at the bottom of the screen.

 

The art direction is consistent throughout the game, but varying level designs keep things interesting. You’ll have to eat weights to reach the bottom of the ocean floor in the Gulp Sea, search for hidden keys to unlock the doors of the Ghost Mansion, and fight your way to the top of a massive cake to reclaim the Dessert Factory. When playing for a long stretch of time, this candy colored universe can give you sugar shock. So, when the pirates pull dirty tricks, like replanting themselves to avoid consumption try toughing up the saccharine sweet nature of the game by shouting things like “You Gotta’ Come Up For Air Sometime!”… “Boo-Yah Cucumber” …and “Who’s Your Daddy Vitamin C”.

One of the biggest downsides of The Muchables is that the dialog is not as entertaining as that of Katamari. If you’re looking for a bright, colorful, pick-up-and-play game, then you’ll have a blast. But if you’re looking for something as out-there as its royalty peppered predecessor, prepare to be disappointed. The Great Elder is no King of the Cosmos. While the latter spouts random non-sequiturs and gives narcissistic, seemingly mescaline-fueled speeches that get weirder and weirder the further you progress, the former is repetitive and rather vanilla in comparison. The unfulfilled promise of ”sprouting a bud” in excitement is the highest form of validation you’re going to get out of him, coupled with constant nagging to “get bigger next time, keep eating more.”


The Munchables is silly, but so self-aware of it’s own silliness that you can’t help but love it, stuffing youself full of its sachrinne sweet hilarity long after your appetite for weirdness has been sated. And with a wallet-friendly price point of $30, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by picking up this colorful, creative and charming title. It might not be the longest or most challenging game available on the system, definitely skewing toward a younger audience, but it is an adorable adventure that will entertain and delight gamers of all ages with it’s addictive gameplay, quirky soundtrack and intuitive controls.

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Author: Lauren Spencer View all posts by

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