- Unique dual gameplay design
- Frequent checkpoints
- Water jetpack
- Level replayability
- Simplistic challenges
- Finicky touch-screen MonoMaker
- Minor game freeze
GenreAction, Adventure, Music, Platform
File Size (Minimum)1.4 GB
Release Date (NA)Oct 21, 2021
Let’s set the stage for Monomals. There is a big contest happening between the best DJs in the world. They’re utilizing a fishing rod and a plug to fish the deep ocean waters, catching all the Monomals (strange-looking aquatic creatures) and creating the best music possible, in search of the special song. Without a doubt, it’s a far out concept, but Monomals is a unique title, offering dual gameplay that incorporates both action platforming and music creation. Originally released for Apple Arcade, the game was adapted for the Nintendo Switch by its indie developer, Picomy, with the help of its publisher, Rogue Games. Spanning 28 scenic ocean landscapes, the game is full of challenges. Players fish for Monomals in action sequences, and compose songs with the Monomals they caught. They can also compete against others online in weekly contests to see whose song ranks above the rest in weekly contests. Your time is now, so get ready to dive in!
While fishing is highlighted during the game, the character being controlled is the plug on the fishing line that the DJs use to catch the Monomals. The fishing plug can move freely while under the sea. However, it becomes like a fish out of water on land (i.e., it’s only able to flop around and jump away from a surface). The plug is able to burst for a limited time to go faster (an indicator appears), as well as jump and double jump out of the water to reach other areas. One of the neat aspects is when the plug joins with a water jetpack to fly out of the water, which lasts until the fishing plug hits the water again.
Under the water, there are hazards such as spikes, one-directional currents, and monsters. There is a strong Sonic-the-Hedgehog-esque feel to these action-platforming parts, even down to the coin collection and trampoline-like platforms. For example in one section, the plug has to be guided through a speedy current section while avoiding monsters, spiked objects, and a gelatin substance that slows the plug down (limiting players’ mobility, and making them vulnerable to objects coming towards them). It can be tricky sometimes but never annoying.
After taking enough damage, the plug has to reset to the last known checkpoint location. Fortunately, the game features a high number of checkpoints, which keeps the gameplay fun and the stress levels low. At the end of each stage, there is a Monomal challenge to catch that level’s particular Monomal that includes a series of short puzzles to complete, such as collecting all the coins or defeating all the enemies. These final challenges are pretty simple compared to the ones faced earlier in the level. Of note, one of the final Monomal challenges caused the game to freeze upon completion. Thankfully, that was only a minor blip, since it was not too difficult to repeat the stage (and no issues were encountered upon repeating). As with many games today, there tends to be a high number of patches after launch, so that could be fixed in the future.
Tokens to Tunes
A variety of currency can be collected during the platformer portion, such as coins and tokens. Coins can be used to buy special music effects, such as reverb, which help with making unique tunes. Tokens can be cashed in for special cosmetics items to decorate the DJ’s boat, such as a light or keyboard décor. Each level has up to 4-5 of these tokens available to collect in locations ranging from obvious places along the main path to hidden areas. Levels are broken down by DJ zones, such as DJ Rabbit or DJ Funky Frog. Upon entering a new zone, there is a different boat displayed, so one can earn different cosmetics for each of the DJ’s boats.
These incentives can provide motivation to repeat levels to collect coins and find all the hidden tokens for each level. In addition to the currency, the game features a time trial challenge to complete the level as fast as possible. These challenges are quite difficult to complete in time, even when one is familiar with the mechanics and the level layout. These time trials will likely take some practice to get as efficient as possible with each level.
Dropping the Beats
The action-platforming part can be enjoyed on its own, but that’s not all the game has to offer. The standalone music creation portion, aka MonoMaker, showcases unlimited opportunities for those with musical minds. Songs are crafted by layering a drum beat, a lead instrument, and bass lines. As Monomals are unlocked, each instrument line gains access to various sounds for those instruments, such as an organ sound versus a trumpet-like one for the lead instrument line. MonoMaker is fairly straightforward and user friendly, hosting a copy/paste function to repeat beats through the track. While the basic concept is easy to use, the music creation has quite a bit of depth to it as more complicated tracks can be created (as evident by the online community). In general, the music creation favors utilizing the touch screen and may feel a little clunky for those with larger fingers. Sometimes, due to sizing, touching the screen may generate a new note versus selecting and moving to a different pitch.
For those less musical minds, don’t fret—the game comes with several, default, funky fresh instrumental songs to accompany the journey. In addition, songs created by other users can be downloaded and used, too, and are searchable by ranking (a popularity contest). These DJ contests involve online game players who submit their work each week, and the contests use a popularity voting system based upon the number of users liking the tracks. The game even features an offline Hot 99 chart, which utilizes tokens to pick a song from several options that gets ranked on the chart (a great option for those not wanting to participate in the online functionality).
Finding Your Beat
Overall, Monomals took an impressive risk in blending two different genres, but the result is a masterpiece. The gameplay feels smooth between both styles and provides a quite enjoyable, low-stress experience for a wide audience. Those wanting either a Sonic-esque action-platformer or a music creation game will be satisfied, but it’s worth it trying out all the game has to offer. Hop on the boat to fish for your own beat!
A Nintendo Switch code was provided for this review.