A pretty solid tie-in game for once.
Mind Candy has teamed up with Activision to make another Moshi Monsters game, the third in the series based on the popular children’s website. Moshi Monsters: Katsuma Unleashed is the first for the 3DS and also the first to focus on a singular character from the franchise. Squarely aimed at a younger audience, this side scrolling platformer may not bring anything new to the table, but it’s a fun and cute game that has enough to keep players interested till the end.
Katsuma is an angry looking bunny/cat thing with fangs and a tail. I say bunny only because he has large rabbit ears, but he also inexplicably makes hilarious feline noises throughout the game. As it is obviously designed for a younger demographic, there are a lot of loud, silly, and colorful elements added in to the already zany game world. Defeated enemies satisfyingly explode into bolts and cogs, a superhero item comes with its own superhero theme song, and boss characters have extreme themes that don’t have any purpose but to be visually interesting (a candy-throne boss awaits you at the end of a picturesque forest).
The game is fairly straightforward: all of Katsuma’s friends have been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Strangeglove and Katsuma must find them while defeating enemies along the way. Traditional platformers like Mario come to mind as you proceed through the colorful levels (replace coins with gem-like Rox). Most enemies can be bounced on, some have helmets or other obstacles that require a different type of attack and multiple hits, and ledges and floating platforms appear often. It’s easy to control Katsuma as there are only three main options: jump, spin attack, or run.
As you progress through the game, special powers like distance attacks and flying can be unlocked. These are shown on the bottom screen on the console and can be activated by simply tapping on the picture you want. Secret areas and items are hidden throughout levels, which make for a good amount of replay, especially since some require abilities that are unlocked later in the game. Finding everything is key or else Elder Furi cannot be saved at the end of the game, and will send you back unless you’ve found all the pieces of the special coins and broken all the cages of the scattered Moshis.
Helpful items are scattered around levels. Katsuma’s three hearts can be replenished, or even have a fourth temporarily added on. Cake is used to fill up his power bar, which is depleted the longer you have a power activated. Signs are also put up so you don’t get lost, but sometimes ignoring these instructions can lead to rewards.
Boss levels are interesting, but not always challenging, as some of the levels leading up to them take more tries than the actual end battle. Each boss has their own weakness or flaw that can be exploited, and the game does a good job at mixing it up. However, the power ups unlocked by the end of the game can make Katsuma nearly invincible if timed right, which severely lowers the difficulty for clever players.
After each level is completed, Katsuma travels to the next area using a map, making it easy to see your progress and go back if need be. Extra bonus levels also appear on the map, but cost Rox to access. These levels require you to either reach the end or collect a certain amount of Rox within a time limit, without dying. The level always gives out way more Rox than you paid to access, making them worthwhile detours. It’s worth noting that Rox actually don’t unlock or buy anything in the game itself, but rather reveals special codes for the Moshi online game each time a certain amount has been collected.
Shortcuts on the map are unlocked as you finish the different worlds. Entering a shortcut leads to a different dimension of sorts that contain entrances to previously completed worlds, so it is easy to find early levels you want to replay. Also contained in this area are mini games featuring the main Moshi cast. Each focuses on their individual abilities (the same ones Katsuma channels for his powers) and have a special challenge that must be accomplished in addition to normally completing the mini game for it to be fully counted as completed.
Whenever a level or mini game is successfully completed, a special Moshi is unlocked in a Moshi encyclopedia. Players can view the Moshi’s picture and a short sentence about them. This is also where the special website codes and StreetPass unlockables will appear after they’ve been received.
The only really glaring problem is how the camera keeps up with Katsuma. In an effort to always keep him centered, the camera moves quickly to keep up, but never stops right when he does, leading to a bounce-like movement as it reverses its direction slightly after passing the center point. Katsuma can move quickly, jumping and changing directions in an instant, making the camera’s bouncy movement frustrating as you try to focus and jump on a small spring or enemy but can’t aim quite right. The use of 3D is fantastic in the game, but paired with the camera’s movement, it’s unfortunately better left off. It is possible to get accustomed to the odd movement but is rather annoying for a good chunk of the game.
Overall, Katsuma Unleashed is a good fit for most kids and is worth looking into if you’re an adult who is looking for a fun platformer. It’s definitely not going to offer a huge challenge, as even the unlockable hard mode didn’t change much, but the level designs are unique and clever and many contain different ways to complete them. The fun aesthetic and music, paired with simple gameplay, make for a game that is easy to pick up and play anytime.