Cassette Beasts the latest contender for the monster-collecting crown, can it be the very best? like no one… oh wait. Let’s go on an adventure!
Game Name: Cassette Beasts Platform(s): PC (Reviewed via Steam Deck), Xbox, Switch Publisher(s): Raw Fury
Developer(s): Bytten Studio
Release Date: April 26th, 2023 for PC (also on PC GamePass), May 25th for Xbox (GamePass Day One) & Switch
Cassette Beasts begins with you washing up in a mysterious place with no clue where you are or how you got there. You quickly encounter a resident of this new land named Kayleigh, who explains to you that this place, New Wirral, is full of monsters and bestows upon you a cassette player which allows you to turn into a monster yourself! That’s right, in this game, you are the monster and the master.
After a tutorial battle, Kayleigh will take you to Harbour Town. It is here that you quickly come to learn, the resident all arrived the same way you did and no one knows how to get home. That is where the adventure truly begins, well, shortly after, at least! While out investigating some rumbling noises, you will encounter an archangel, a mysterious being that may hold the key to returning you home.
So your ultimate goal is to find a way home, nothing groundbreaking or new about it. What I did find refreshing, though, is Cassette Beasts putting a focus on the story, with the backdrop of a genuinely intriguing mystery that I wanted to figure out. Along with being a Ranger, and wanting to catch…I mean, record them all!
Adjacent to your main objective, you’ll encounter side quests full of interesting characters and meaningful rewards.
The core of gameplay is made up of battling monsters, leveling up your tapes through exploration, with some puzzles thrown in for good measure. So let’s talk about the battling system. It is turn-based just as with Pokémon, and even has chemistry types, similar to the different types of Pokémon. Sounds pretty unoriginal right!? Well, the chemistry system has more depth; using the wrong type of monster on your opponent can actually benefit them. From offering healing to contact damage buffs, there is more to this system than X being stronger than Y. Take the time to learn and experiment with it. There are fourteen different chemistry types of monsters, and some that can even change types depending on what they get hit by.
On top of that, Cassette Beasts has a few tricks in its tape deck. Firstly you have a companion always with you, which can be crucial due to the fusion mechanic, which allows you to combine the two beasts currently in use by your party into one super beast. The stronger your relationship with your companion, the easier it is to do this and the more effective it can be. Secondly, the game, including all battles, can be played in local co-op, adding even more strategy to the battles.
Of course, monsters are key, but be aware that you can also receive damage if you’re not in monster form, either when trying to record a new monster or when your monster is defeated before you switch to a new one. As you progress, you will gain more health to make this somewhat less concerning.
Progress in Cassette Beasts is pretty much leveling up your current beasts and recording new ones. There are over one hundred beasts in the game, most of which can be remastered (aka evolved). This is done by using a monster in battles; each battle earns them XP as well as yourself as they level they earn stars, get five stars, and they can be remastered into a more powerful form.
As for recording new monsters, this can be done when you have blank cassette tapes by pressing the record button during a battle. Your likelihood of success depends on their level and the amount of damage you’ve done. Thankfully, different types of tapes can increase the chance of success.
Cassette Beasts has a really interesting world to explore. As expected some parts of the map are gated off until certain goals are reached, but there is plenty to do. They even use the fast-travel train stations as ‘dungeons’, holding cool rewards and monsters to collect. Along your travels, you will encounter many switches which can be used to unlock treasure, shortcuts, and more. These switches often require you to place something on top of them to stay activated, but not always. Early on, you may even see switches you can’t get to. Not to worry, you will unlock different skills to help you eventually, such as gliding or climbing. Even the dash that you have immediate access to can be used to get to more places than you think!
Traveling through this world is fun, encountering new beasts with each new area explored and backtracking like a Metroidvania to get to things I couldn’t reach before.
Cassette Beasts’ visuals use colourful pixel art, which is absolutely delightful to look at. From backgrounds to characters to monster designs, everything looks fantastic. Old school but newer and shinier — when combined with the audio throughout the entire game, it becomes mesmerizing!
Speaking of audio the standout, the soundtrack Joel Baylis and Shelby Harvey knock it out of the park with several fantastic songs. Wherever We Are Now is my personal favourite, I found it somewhat meditative in the best way, any time it played I stopped, listened and just took in the visuals. The rest of the audio is good, from attack sounds to the short lines of dialogue.
The dialogue is somewhat frustrating though, as its use is limited to a few words here and there, with the rest being texted-based. Don’t get me wrong, anytime the characters speak a few words, it’s great, each character feels unique, and the limited VO helps give them more personality. It just makes me wish the whole thing had a voice-over, because the limited use of it really adds to the experience and is great.
So accessibility is probably the most unfortunate thing here. In some ways, the game is very accessible, with its turn-based gameplay meaning that for a majority of the game (the battles), you require the use of two buttons and the left stick when using a controller. Which, granted, for most players is fantastic. The problems, however, arise if you need any additional support not offered by the core design.
There is no dedicated accessibility menu. I couldn’t even find an option to customise subtitles in any way. It’s a shame that such a heavily text-based game wouldn’t have at least an option to adjust the size. It’s not the first text-based game to lack this option, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.
Not much to say on the technical front, I played the game on Steam deck, where it ran perfectly on default settings without a single frame dropped.
The Very Best
Cassette Beasts is a fantastic monster collecting game, one that is clearly inspired by old school Pokémon but betters it in every aspect. This is the game I wish Pokémon was; for me, it’s the new master of the monster-collecting genre.
It’s only let down by the fact that more people can’t play it due to a lack of accessibility options. I wish more people could play this game, because it really is the very best!
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Cassette Beasts is a fantastic monster collecting game, one that is clearly inspired by old-school Pokémon but betters it in every aspect. This is the game I wish Pokémon was; for me, it’s the new master of the monster-collecting genre.