It's Pokémon for mobile devices! Ok, not quite, but the latest release from Game Dev Story and Kairobotica developer Kairosoft has certainly been looking at the monster training RPG for inspiration. Beastie Bay takes the familiar Kairosoft set-up and leans it more towards role playing territory, confining simulation elements to a smaller portion of the game while exploration, turn-based battling, and monster management take center stage.
It looks like you've washed up on an uncharted island, and the only thing that's going to keep you company is your pet pal chosen before the game begins. After constructing a house for yourself and a pasture dwelling for your friend, you see a section of unexplored terrain nearby, a treasure chest taunting you from amidst its blue borders. With a simple tap you'll head out on your quest, a small bar at the bottom of the screen showing your progress as well as any events that lay in wait.
When you encounter an enemy during these outings, Beastie Bay game switches to battle mode where you'll choose attack options from a menu. The usual battery of skills, offensive moves, and item uses are available, all depending on which pets you brought with you, and fights feel very much like a round of Pokémon. Once the enemies are cleared and you reach the end of your journey, you gain a new chunk of land to colonize along with any treasures you picked up along the way.
Here's the twist: you're not just battling creatures, you're also capturing them. By tossing out a hunk of monster bait to a weakened enemy, you can often tame them and allow them to join your party. This ties directly into the non-battle portion of the game, as each new companion needs a place to live, so you have to find a suitable spot and settle them in as soon as possible. Pastures and houses eventually go towards gathering resources and attracting tourists, at which point the simulation part of the game kicks in, keeping you enamored until your phone's battery goes flat.
Analysis: For those of you who have been following Kairosoft's games over the last few years, you've probably noticed a trend in the gameplay style each successive release has adopted. In short, newer Kairosoft games are overall less simulation and more role playing. That trend comes to fruition in Beastie Bay, and where previous games might be described as sims with RPG elements, this one is quite the reverse.
The menu system from every other Kairosoft game is still present in Beastie Bay, and it's still the tiniest bit cumbersome to use with touch screen devices. Small text choices to select, menus to navigate, and overall cluttered screens to touch your way through make you long for physical buttons from mobile phone days of yore. But, with a few minutes of practice, you'll get the hang of it. And with all the monster capturing going on, you honestly won't care if you had to use toothpicks and a bellows to control the game.
Kairosoft seems to be experimenting with a new payment strategy with Beastie Bay. Instead of separate versions for the demo and full releases, you get the game for free and can unlock the ad-free version via an in-app purchase. This removes a great barrier of entry for a lot of players, as the traditional Kairosoft price tag is a bit higher than your average mobile game. This way, you get to try things out before taking the big dive.
It might be centered around turn-based battles and monster training, but Beastie Bay is a Kairosoft game through and through. It doesn't feel quite as polished as previous games, most likely due to the team's attempt at Pokémon-style battles, but once again, this is a game that will tempt you to pull out your phone at every chance you get.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the HTC Incredible. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.