Cassette Beasts – PC Review

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Originally announced in October 2021, today sees the release of the Creature Collector-JRPG Cassette Beasts, developed by UK-based Bytten Studio, and published by Sweden-based Raw Fury.

Cassette Beasts is available today for Steam and Windows, and will be released on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and the Nintendo Switch in late Spring 2023.

Today we will be looking at the PC version, which will cost £16.75/$19.99 or can be played via PC Game Pass and will require 2GB of space.

Gotta Record ’em All?

Now, if there is one thing I’m certain of, it’s that this game will no doubt have “Pokémon clone” thrown around alongside it. And while yes, it is a creature-collecting, monster-battling, turn-based JRPG, I feel like calling it a Pokémon clone would be doing it a disservice. Of course, there are similarities between them and I very much expect to see Cassette Beasts pop up on every “The best Creature Collector games that aren’t Pokémon” list. But Cassette Beasts carves out its own identity in the genre. So I’d say it’s Pokémon adjacent. It’s like a Lo-Fi Creature Collecting game if it was a performance by José González.

Screenshot showing the character creator screen. In the background it is black with multiple colours stripes all going towards a vanishing point. The text reads at the top, "Who are you?"The first option is name, which is set to Vinno. The second option is your pronouns, which is set to He/Him. The following options are: favourite colour, skin colour, hair style (which is set to headband), hair colour, hair accessory colour, face, eye colour and face accessory colour. In the bottom left it is telling you to press square (on a PlayStation controller) to randomise your character. In the bottom right it is telling you to press start to apply and save changes.
This is my look! A good look. A strong look.

You start by creating a character. You choose their name, pronouns, and appearance. Then you will wake up on a beach and be introduced to some of the mechanics of the game. I really appreciate that this game doesn’t force you into a tutorial for every control and assumes you’ll know how to do things like, y’know, move around. Good game. To begin with, it just tells you how to dash and jump.

What’s the Story

After exploring the beach a bit, you’ll head towards a town where you’ll be greeted by a little traffic cone-shaped critter. This is also where you’ll meet your first companion, Kayleigh. Kayleigh will give you a tapedeck and a cassette for you to transform into your very first Cassette Beast! (He did it, he said the thing!). You’ll battle the monster and then head into Harbour Town with Kayleigh, who will give you a bit of backstory. Turns out that you’ve awoken on the island of New Wirral which the characters believe isn’t quite on Earth. You’re stuck here with seemingly no way of returning home.

Battle screen for the first boss fight. The platform is a green tiled floor with the wall seemingly being pulled apart by a vortex behind it. In the top left are the health bars for the player characters, Vinno and Kayleigh, as well as their level, which is both 8. In the top right is the enemies health bar, Morgante, and the level is 100. Morgante looks like the ghost a shattered porcelain doll.In the bottom of the screen is a cassette player which has all of the options, which are, fight, switch, item, flee and record.
Not sure I was prepared for this.

After this, you’ll check out some cracks that appeared north of Harbour Town and a mystery train station will pop up out of the ground. Head down and you’ll face an Archangel. This will be your first boss fight of the game. Upon defeating the Archangel Morgante, you’ll learn there may be a way home after all. You need to defeat all of the Archangels to complete Morgante’s song. This sets the main plot of the game in motion.

Gameplay

Now you have a goal, the game opens up for you and you can really get stuck into exploring the Island of New Wirral. While you’re on your journey, you’ll meet more companions, who will each have their own questline for you to complete. Once recruited, you can raise your relationship with your companions by completing their stories. And who knows, maybe a bit of romance is on the cards. There are side quests and rumours for you to complete along the way that will award you extra XP.

Talking of XP, it works a little differently here than you might expect. XP is awarded for completing sidequests, rumours and winning battles. But there are two types of XP. One is for player characters, which will track the level and determine things like base HP and power. One is for monster forms. Even so, monster forms don’t have levels in the strictest sense, they have stars. When a monster forms star increases, you’ll unlock new moves for it. When a monster reaches 5 stars it can be “remastered”, Cassette Beasts version of evolving.

A screenshot showing monster evolution, or remastering. The background is a purple, and darker shade of purple checkerboard. In the top left "remaster, evolve your monster forms" can be read.left of centre, you can see the monster, it is a sleek, white, purple and pink monster with sub woofer wings, and a headset, with a spiky head. Down the right side are the tapes for the monsters. From top to bottom they read: Wooltergeist, Decibelle, Wingloom, Snoopin, Masquerattle, Nevermort. The text box at the bottom of the screen reads, "your Sirenade tape became Decibelle. In the bottom right it is telling you to press circle on a PlayStation controller to exit.
Remaster? Remake? Reboot? Who cares, it looks awesome!

I have to say, I really liked this approach to levelling up. Due to it, it meant I could try out some other monster forms that I hadn’t used before without being completely overpowered. Plus, with stickers, which is the game’s ability system, I could play around with adding different abilities to different monsters. It seemed simple on the surface but made for an in-depth system for customising my monsters and their move-sets.

Fightin’ Round the World!

Once you’ve got your team together, you’re going to want to battle, surely? As I have said, Cassette Beasts is a turn-based JRPG. Monsters start with two abilities. They will have more slots for more abilities as you increase their power. Each ability has an AP cost assigned and at the start of each round, you will get two AP. So, if you want to use the more powerful abilities, you will have to use less AP in the earlier rounds. There are abilities that can increase or suppress your AP, or transfer AP to an ally as well.

Vinno, who is Level 28 and Kayleigh, who is also Level 28 are battling a Level 22 cultist in their Allsear form. Vinno and Kayleigh are in their Bansheep and Decibelle forms, respectively.The Allsear is a silver flying sourcer with a yellow and blue trim with a golden pyramid on top. Bansheep is a white ghostly sheep looking monster with black hands and torso with black and gold horns, a little gold halo and small white batlike wings. Decibelle is a sleek, white, purple and pink monster with sub woofer wings, and a headset, with a spiky head. Bansheep used the move Bite, and Decibelle used the move Sonic Boom.
Well, that was over quickly.

Each monster has an elemental type, classic things like Fire, Water, Earth, Metal, etc… Hitting a monster with an opposing element doesn’t do more damage in Cassette Beasts, instead, it will cause an effect. For example, if an Air-type hits a Fire-type, the Fire-type will be “extinguished”, which will result in weaker attacks for the Fire-type. Conversely, if a Fire-type attacks an Air-type, it will create an updraft, which will give the Air-type an Air shield, protecting it from damage. There are many other different types of effects, and it makes the battles a lot more interesting than just duking it out.

However, the fun doesn’t stop there. Cassette Beasts also has a fusion system, where you can fuse with your companion to create a new monster. The better your relationship with your companion, the more powerful this fused form will be. In the words of one of the greatest wordsmiths of our generation, Hannah Montana, “You get the best of both worlds!”. But be careful, as it’s not just the player characters who can fuse. You can find powerful fused monsters in the wild, which you can defeat for some valuable loot.

A short gif showing a Dandylion, which is a red and green lion with a golden mane, fusing with a Folklord, a bipedal lizard looking monster, with green skin, red gloves and a skeletal head.The resulting monster is a Dandylord, a quadrapedal red monster with a golden mane and skeletal head.
Fusion, ha!

Graphics & Audio

From the 2D pixel sprites to the 3D pixel-art world, and the character’s anime-inspired design that pops up with their text boxes, I love everything about the aesthetic of Cassette Beasts. It’s truly beautiful. The set pieces are amazing, and even the level design, from working out how to navigate dungeons puzzles to the tranquil scenery of Harbour Town, everything works.

Obviously, it’s not a demanding game, so my RX 6700 XT ran this at a constant 60 fps at 4K. This should run fine on any system that wants to run it.

The soundtrack is where we get to my only gripe with the game. Firstly, it’s not the soundtrack as a whole, cause most of it is great. It’s a mostly instrumental soundtrack, from the relaxed plucking of an acoustic guitar to the eerie bongo playing and the synth metal battle theme, it’s almost brilliant. But there is one song, which you will hear when entering the Gramophone Café, or your apartment, which isn’t instrumental. This song, while not a bad song, is looped, so you have to listen to the same verse and chorus over and over and over and… yeah, I think I’ve made my point, I got sick of it. But to be clear, this was my one real issue with the game that is easy to overlook for the amount of greatness that Cassette Beasts offers.

Vinno and Kayleight stand in the streets of Harbour Town. Vinno has brown hair with a tan jacket and red shirt. Kayleight has ginger hair with a green hat and a ourple and white top.In the background is a two story building. The bottom half is white, and the top half is red. On the top half is a yellow neon sign of a Gramophone. There are metal stairs leading up to the second floor. there is a wooden box next to the building and a blue brick building next door with a grey slate roof with one beige and one blue roof tile. Either side of the red and white building is a street lamp. The floor is a cobbled stone floor.
Taking in the cool sea breeze of Harbour Town.

Longevity

According to the developer, Cassette Beasts should take you 8-18 hours to complete and a completionist run should take you around 50 hours. I could imagine spending longer than that in New Wirral just because I want to. Whether that is just battling, collecting all 100+ monsters and their bootlegs (Cassette Beasts’ answer to shinies) or starting the game anew, who knows?

The game also offers an online co-op mode, so you can play with your friends, which can provide even more hours of enjoyment. Needless to say, you’d definitely get your money’s worth out of it.

Final Thoughts

All-in-all, Cassette Beasts is a delightful surprise, that adds a unique spin on the Creature Collector genre. Yes, it is a Pokémon clone in the loosest sense of the word, but play it and you will see it is so much more than that. It’s a charmingly delightful game with a remarkable amount of depth to its battle system. Add to that the good ol’ British humour and a gorgeous aesthetic and it’s hard not to love. Cassette Beasts is an absolute triumph for Bytten Studio, and they should be incredibly proud of their work.

The battle is done, and Cassette Beasts collects a Thumb Culture Platinum Award for itself.

 

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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