Cute, sweet, and to-the-point, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure is a brand-new franchise from the minds behind such old-school classics as Ys, Popful Mail and Brandish. Falcom clearly still has what it takes-I'd even say that their latest is my favorite Falcom effort ever, and easily one of the best PSP games available, bar none.
The thing about Gurumin is that although no one aspect of it is incredibly unique; every element is completely dialed-in and produced perfectly. For example, the story about a young girl befriending monsters and helping them regain lost furniture isn't very gripping, but the characterization is solid and there are enough laughs to let the player establish a better-than-average connection to what's going on.
The third-person action featuring light puzzle elements and minor dungeon exploring isn't anything gamers haven't seen before, but again, it's completely nailed. The controls are tight and show above-average awareness of the player experience by including small assistive features such as a functional lock-on system and an auto-jump for tricky gaps that make sure players don't get frustrated by the inherent camera issues unavoidable due to the PSP's one-stick limitations.
Game progression is masterful. It's easy to blow through and see an ending in around eight to ten hours, but there's a substantial amount of fresh content left for those who want the "real" ending, not to mention a huge amount of replay for completists who want to score top marks in every level and find every secret item. It may seem simple, but many developers stumble badly in this area. I can't praise Falcom enough for making Gurumin equally satisfying from both casual and hardcore perspectives.
The colorful, cartoony graphics don't push the cutting edge of what the PSP is capable of, but the art direction is superb in that every element is not only bright and attractively rendered, but that a great deal of effort was made in making sure that the visual cohesion throughout the entire adventure was as complete as it could have possibly been. There are no stylistic breaks to be seen anywhere, and as such, Gurumin's identity and flavor come through in absolutely pure fashion.
Making the extremely difficult look effortlessly easy, Falcom has created what could be called a "perfect" portable game. Its level of technical production takes full advantage of the hardware and presents equal opportunity for both newcomers and seasoned gamers alike in bite-sized chunks tailored for on-the-go sessions. Could a portable fan ask for anything more?
The box art might not be interesting (and personally, I think the title of the game is terrible) but once past those superficial elements it's impossible to ignore the superior design and technical mastery that's present in every minute of gameplay. Gurumin puts most of the PSP's library to shame without even trying, and my hat is off to Falcom for creating the kind of PSP experience that so many other developers have failed to.