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Review: Beastie Bay (Android)

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 by

There are a lot of Pokemon wannabes in the mobile space right now. From the dragon-based take of Dragon Island Blue’s to definitely Pokemon minus the overworld take of Little Masters, there’s just a lot of options for people who miss catching ‘em all.

At the head of the pack, though, is Kairosoft’s Beastie Bay.

Beastie Bay Growth Spurt

Growth spurts are a stroke of luck.

Calling it a Pokemon wannabe, however, is a slight misnomer. Yes, you collect and battle monsters while traveling around the world, but Beastie Bay doesn’t do it nearly as well. If that were all the game was, then it’d be easy enough to enjoy and discard after use. Core Pokemon elements, such as collecting gym badges and evolving your monsters, are missing. There’s next to no exploration to be found. Even the elements, perhaps especially the elements, have been gutted with just a literal handful in place, now.

So why do I keep coming back to this silly game? Well, in that gaping Snorlax-sized hole is Kairosoft’s kooky brand of simulation, nearly a genre in and of itself, with town-building and monster collecting merely another theme. Your goal is to take this little unpopulated island and turn it into the world’s greatest tourist attraction.

You and your monsters will need to work and scavenge for food and wood if you are to survive and expand. After unlocking a few areas, you’ll gain access to a research facility. There, your brilliant engineer (and chimpanzee sidekick), Chimpan Z, will help you unlock all sorts of new facilities, from common farms to river-spanning bridges. You’ll need to contribute some of that valuable wood to help him hasten his studies. You’ll spend a lot of time in these menus early on.

Placement is key, especially early on, as you won’t be able to move building around until much later in the game. Monsters aren’t living in tiny balls here; they live in actual houses that you need to build and place strategically. Almost every building can be upgraded if they meet the proper requisites, such as being surrounded by natural elements or having a high energy supply, to increase their effectiveness. It’s a lot to take in and the game gives you no hints.

Beastie Bay Battle and Build

A Tale of Two Games: It was the battle times, it was the building times…

A lot of discoveries in Beastie Bay come from happy accidents. Unless you’re willing to part with your precious gold medals for a few clues or slight advantages, there’s a good chance you’ll realize you’ve been playing the game wrong. The replay value of Beastie Bay then becomes “can I do better than before using this knowledge?”

That’s not to say that the game is wrong, nor is it tinkling a change cup every chance it gets. Beastie Bay is that rare breed of free-to-play where every purchase is very much an option. Even the ads seem unobtrusive.

Progress can be slow to come at times. Sometimes, especially early in the game, you’ll need to wait on your citizens to gather necessary materials before going out in the world. Other times, you’ll be waiting for research to finish or monsters to heal. It can bring the fun to a halt, but by around year four there’s a good chance you’ll have more than you really need.

Beastie Bay Mystery Ship

See the world via raft or hot-air balloon.

You will grind out monster levels until you can face the next dungeon or unlock the next island. There, you may find new monsters. It’s very similar in that regard to finding a new route in Pokemon, though the travel and dungeon exploration has been streamlined. However, all tamed beasts revert to level one and need to be raised from scratch. Later, the School unlocks to help you raise them without taking them to battle.

After freeing an island from its monster menace, you’ll be able to invest in its infrastructure. Doing so will improve your island in various ways, but the end results mostly increase the amount of gold you get from tourism. There’s not a lot to do with gold, though, aside from gathering it and eventually wasting it on items you don’t really need. Sure, there’s the 15,000 gold “Capture Boss Creature” license, but that’s about it.

There are a lot of elements at play in Beastie Bay. It’s interesting, in a way, that it’s hard to tell which theme is really the core experience. Is this a town-building simulation or a monster battler? You spend a lot of time alternating between both, really, and it’s hard to pick which one is more entertaining.

Frankly, the beauty of Beastie Bay to me is that neither element would be particularly entertaining alone, but when combined make something truly unique. While it’s obviously an unlike comparison, Beastie Bay is better than the sum of its parts and ends up an entertaining balance of two differing styles in the same way that ActRaisers was before it.

4 star

(Beastie Bay is available for free with ad-support in the Google Play Market. Ads can be removed via in-app purchase for $3.99. Gold Medals can be purchased, as well, but are unnecessary to the gameplay experience.)

About the Author

Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming. Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.

Fade to Slack has written 352 posts on Delta Attack
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