This adorable platformer successfully borrows elements of Pac-Man and Katamari Damacy while keeping a unique identity.
One genre that hasn't been well represented this generation on consoles is the platformer. Recently, there has been a platformer renaissance on the Wii with notable titles such as Super Mario Galaxy, LostWinds, de Blob, and Klonoa. The Munchables is the latest 3D platformer from Namco Bandai, and it borrows gameplay elements from two of Namco's beloved franchises, Pac-Man and Katamari Damacy.
In the game, you choose to play as either Chomper or Munchy to help the Great Elder save their home planet, Star Ving, from the evil Don Onion and his army of Tabemon space pirates, who resemble fruits and vegetables. To defeat the Tabemon, Munchy and Chomper simply eat them; luckily, both characters have a never-ending appetite. As both Munchy and Chomper eat their foes within a stage, they increase in size, which allows them to eat bigger Tabemon with ease.
To make it easier for the player, the game employs a leveling system. You will always see what level your character is, and occasionally the level of a Tabemon. If the Tabemon has a higher level than your character, your character will be repelled if you attempt to eat it.. In order to eat that enemy, you have to attack it to split it up into smaller versions of itself. If an enemy hits you, your character is in a temporarily vulnerable state in which your character will die if hit again; it takes a few seconds to recover from this state. Occasionally there are stationary items or switches that block your path. These obstacles always have a level displayed above them, and can only be eaten or activated if your character's level is equal to or greater than the level that is displayed above that obstacle.
There are eight different worlds in the game. Each world has a different theme. For example, one world has a haunted house theme and another world has an underwater theme. In each world there are two regular stages and a boss stage. In order to complete a stage, players must complete a specific objective (such as eating a specific pirate or object), which is prominently displayed on the lower left corner of the screen.
There are also acorns in each stage. If all of the acorns are collected in a stage, you will unlock an accessory to put on your character. The accessories themselves are purely cosmetic and offer no benefits. You can also unlock an accessory by earning an S ranking. At the end of each stage you will see a humorous scene in which your character expels orbs from its rear at the Great Elder, ultimately burying him under a massive pile of orbs. The number of orbs, which is dependent on how many enemies have been eaten, determines your rank.
Boss battles are very formulaic and easy, and it doesn't help that the Great Elder interrupts the battle to tell you specifically how to defeat the boss. Once the boss has been defeated, you will reclaim one of the Legendary Orbs (which oddly enough looks like colorful, coiled poo) that the evil space pirates have stolen.
The game is simple and enjoyable. I found myself addicted to looking for all the enemies in each stage and eating them before completing the final objective in the stage. The level designs in each stage are unique enough that the game never feels monotonous. The power-ups in the game are also humorous: your character can transform into a giant vacuum to suck up all the nearby smaller enemies, as well as a giant weight that slams down on the ground to stun them.
The game can be played with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, Classic Controller, or GameCube Controller. The controls schemes are almost identical. The only major difference is that if you play with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, motion controls make your character jump and to recover from an attack. If you play with the Classic Controller or GameCube controller, these moves are mapped to the X button. All the control styles are good, so it's ultimately a matter of preference.
Despite the game being a 3D platformer, there are no camera controls at all. While this may be worrisome to some gamers, the good news is that the in-game camera adjusts itself automatically without it being bothersome. There are rarely any camera issues.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from some technical issues. There are occasional framerate drops that occur seemingly at random and when there are a lot of enemies on screen. The most serious technical issue is that the game occasionally freezes and locks up your console. When this happens you are forced to unplug your Wii (holding down the power button on the Wii Remote or on the console won't work) and reboot the game.
While the game is short (it can be completed in roughly five or six hours), there are a lot of accessories to unlock and a time attack mode with mirrored levels to increase the longevity of the title. There is a co-operative mode; however, the second player can only point at enemies with the Wii Remote's pointer and shoot to stun them or break them apart.
The Munchables is an enjoyable, original game and has a lot of personality and charm. While the main game is short and has some minor issues, the game has a good amount of replay value and is always entertaining to play.