April 26, 2023
I’ve enjoyed monster collecting games for the vast majority of my life, and despite playing a huge selection of them the Pokémon games are still the king. From Digimon to Dragon Warrior Monsters, plenty have tried to take the crown from Pikachu and his adorable buddies, but if you asked me what my favourite monster collecting game is on any given day I’d confidently reply with one of those classic Game Freak adventures. At least that was true until Cassette Beasts came to town and stole my heart.
One fateful day, our customisable protagonist wakes up on a place called New Wirral Island with no recollection of how they got there. Plenty of other colorful characters inhabit the island, but none of them know of a way to leave this mysterious place. The majority of them have given up all hope of returning to their life in the real world, and instead have focused on making life on New Wirral as enjoyable as possible. This isn’t easy though, mainly due to the violent monsters that roam the land.
Fortunately some of the early arrivals on the island were able to work out how to use these monsters to their advantage. It turns out if you record these beasts onto cassette tapes, you can transform into them at any time and beat up your enemies in turn-based combat. It’s an interesting way to switch things up from the usual collection of adorable critters, and makes for a couple of interesting changes in battle.
Each Cassette Beast you collect has a variety of elemental abilities it can use on a turn of battle with the AP it gathers throughout a fight, and you’ll always have two beasts available at once thanks to bringing an islander ally with you everywhere you go. If one of your monsters dies in combat you can switch to another on your next turn, but until then your enemies can attack your character directly and potentially take them out of the brawl entirely. This means when fighting other transforming humans you can either take down all their monsters one by one or focus your AP on one big strike and beat their human form down before they can morph.
Speaking of morphing, you and your partner have the ability to fuse together to turn into one superpowered beast any time your fusion meter is full. When you do this the two monsters you control are fused into a completely new combination of the two critters, with a massive power boost and double the AP to spend. The fact the developers actually created unique monster designs for each of these is ridiculously impressive, and makes using this powerful ability as often as possible even more tempting.
Like most RPGs Cassette Beasts features elemental types on its moves and monsters, but using the right one doesn’t deal the extra damage you’re used to. Instead any time you hit any enemy with a super effective move they’ll be weakened by a specific status effect. For example burning a metal type monster with a fire move will cause it to melt and take burn damage every turn, whereas smashing an earth type monster with a metal move will lower its defence for three turns. Unfortunately this works the other way too if you’re not careful, like when using poison on a metal type and granting them additional contact damage by coating them in toxins. All these different effects add an extra layer to the combat which is really engaging, and the game does a great job of letting you know what will happen with each attack.
Recording new monsters so you have a powerful team of six is crucial if you want to succeed in Cassette Beasts, and works in a fairly familiar fashion of weakening an enemy first and being given a percentage chance of getting a successful recording. There’s another reason to gather new critters though, and that’s because certain ones will grant your character the power to use different movement abilities outside of battle. The first of these you get is a glide that’ll help you reach certain platforms, but before long you’ll get a dash that breaks boxes and even the ability to swim. These are incredibly useful, because so much of your time in Cassette Beasts is spent exploring.
Cassette Beasts is anything but linear, and after the quick tutorial opening you’re free to wander in any direction and look for anything of interest. The map is designed perfectly for this, with plenty of areas rewarding you for exploring once you’ve got the right abilities and a whole lot of points of interest to check out. Primary objectives include but are not limited to – taking over the offices of evil Estate Agents, finding captains of the rangers and beating them in battle to prove your worth, and finding mysterious subway stations that might just help you find a way off the island.
The subway stations especially are fascinating, usually full of mysterious puzzles and something called an archangel. These monstrosities are absolute nightmare fuel, with the power to manipulate the world and cause glitches to the very game. Visually the otherworldly bosses are 3d in a 2d world, and all require a specific strategy if you’re going to beat them in battle. I don’t want to spoil anything more about these horror monsters that made their way into a monster collecting game, but I loved every one of my encounters with them.
I cannot understate how many clever ideas are packed into this wonderful monster collecting game. There’s an item called Fused Material that you can collect on your adventure that can be traded for permanent upgrades to your character like a better chance of successful recordings no matter the situation or the ability to hold more healing items. I also really like how your monster’s abilities work. Everytime you level up a beast they’ll learn a new ability in the form of a sticker, and these can be peeled off and replaced at any time so you can customise your moveset to your liking. You’ll even find stickers in chests on your adventure too, and there are some really creative strategies to be discovered by combining the right ones.
I should take a moment to mention the fantastic visuals and audio of this game too. Visually it’s the monster designs that impressed me the most. Wiith 120 beasts to collect and the ability to combine them all with fusion, it’s wild that they all look so visually appealing. The music is fantastic too, with banging battle themes and delightful laid back tunes (with actual lyrics) in the coffee shop you use as a base. There are even a decent amount of voice lines that help bring the game to life, which just isn’t a common thing in this genre.
I have so few complaints with Cassette Beasts, the only real issues I had seem to be very Steam Deck specific. Despite launching in a Verified state, at the time of writing the game I experienced a whole host of crashes and areas with significant frame drops. I’d like to hope these issues are Steam Deck specific, and that the game can be patched to make the game better there down the line too.
Cassette Beasts is easily the best monster collecting game I’ve ever played, with fantastic combat, wonderful monster designs and a whole lot of exploring to experience. Other than the issues I experienced with the current version of the game on the Steam Deck, I have no complaints with Cassette Beasts whatsoever. If you’ve ever had any enjoyment playing a Pokémon game before, you owe it to yourself to grab your tape deck and try the pinnacle of this genre as soon as possible.
The best monster collecting game I've ever played
Fantastic combat with plenty of unique ideas
Exploring the world is a joy
Delightful monster design
Performance isn't great on Deck at the time of writing
Cassette Beasts is the best monster collecting game I've ever played, with sensational combat and a wonderful world to explore.