Arrowiz, the studio that brought you Cairo’s Tale and Beat Fever, and with help from Prime Matter publishing comes Mato Anomalies. A visual novel, JRPG, is based in a futuristic city. Mato Anomalies was released on March 10th of this year. You can play it on PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and Steam for £31.99.
It’s only a “Mato” of time.
The trailer for Mato Anomalies looks to me like a cross between Persona and Slay The Spire. Being someone who doesn’t usually go for the visual novel genre, I thought I would give this one a go. Playing two protagonists caught my interest, and the story of uncovering the strange world of Mato made me even more curious. Explore the neo-futuristic world of Mato as Doe, a private detective dragged into a job to discover the whereabouts of the product HANDOUT. Doe teams up with Gram, an edgy exorcist he encounters after being pulled into another world.
The core gameplay splits into two main parts, which our heroes will cover. Doe’s job is talking and interacting with the populace of Mato and gathering intel, while Gram dives into dungeons known as Lairs to fight the otherworldly threats. These enemies are named Bane Tides. They appear as monsters who thrive on the desires of humans. Looking around the world of Mato you will add information to a journal based on the information you collect from; Factions, enemies, areas, and characters that appear during the game.
It’s all in the cards
Doe doesn’t do much for gameplay besides running from point A to B. However, he gets a mini-game called Mind/Hack. A selection of decks will be available to use. All decks work differently. Smoker mainly focuses on using his defensive cards to hold out while he stacks up attacks. After progressing through the story, you will unlock the advanced decks. These provide bonus effects to already existing cards. The main goal is to defeat the host’s willpower. One or three orbs can spawn called Demons. These will have various effects that will help the host against Doe.
After the player loses a couple of times to the Mind/Hack mini-game, Mato Anomalies will give the player a skip button. This feature was helpful as I wasn’t very good at the mini-game. A selection of designs for the back of the decks can be selected, a neat addition, though it only serves as a cosmetic.
How does the combat work?
In turn-based combat, take control of up to four characters at once. Each plays a specific role. Progressing through the game will unlock other characters to join your team, and all characters get two weapons of choice to use. There are three skill trees (yin, yang, and ultimate). You can invest points to create builds that best suit your playstyle. Want to try other builds? Then respec your characters and try something new such as turning Butterfly into more of a damage dealer than a healer. Gears can be found throughout levels to chain buffs for the team. A problem with the Gear system was that they never really fit next to each other unless the parts both are the same symbol. An example of this is a picture of two musical notes, this means you won’t be able to get the buff from them unless connecting to each other.
Skills on the weapon you assign will have differing skills. Gram’s sword gives more attacks that hit multiple enemies, while his spear allows him to lower enemy defence. Skills and potions get separated into three tabs during combat (attack, support, and potions). Helpful when finding the right skills to use instead of going through a long list of moves. All characters get a unique ultimate ability. Unfortunately, the party shares a singular bar, but only one member can use their ultimate.
Lairs of the Bane Tides
Bane Tides come in different forms. This is only for design, as none have a specialized type that affects combat except for the bosses at the end of chapters. There are three variants of Lairs (main story, side quest, and random). Random lairs begin with a pillar that gives a choice of two random buffs, more damage for a specified weapon, or better evasion. Certain Bane Tides are weak to different forms of damage (crushing, piercing, and slashing), make sure to adjust your team’s strategy.
Lairs in Mato Anomalies take the theme of whatever the chapter is, like chapter three’s Misty Corridor, centred around a theatre with silhouettes in the background acting as an audience. Main story Lairs have a specific puzzle for each chapter. For example, the group will have to collect coloured keys in the shape of an animal head and use them on pillars to get by. Puzzles are simple and don’t require the player to think too hard.
Random Lairs have a recommended level for the party. However, even when the party was several above the required level, they struggled to fight and were often defeated. Cubes found throughout the Lairs contain weapons, potions, gears, and on rare occasions, money. Most of the time Cubes only seem to drop gears.
What can be found in Mato
There are several areas you will visit in Mato Anomalies. The reoccurring place players go to is a hotel located on Neo Bloom Road, owned by the mysterious NightShade. As the group travels, they can come across Item Merchants who will sell the party potions with various effects. Potions are expensive to buy, as the game doesn’t give players much money after finishing Lairs. Sell unwanted weapons, potions and gears to the Traveling Merchants.
Though Mato has many people walking around, there aren’t many things to interact with apart from the cinema that replays cutscenes or a few stray cats and dogs scattered around that you can pat.
Graphics & Audio
Mato Anomalies has three ways of showing the story; comic panels, cinematics, and a text box with the character’s portraits on either side. All the main characters hand drawn designs look detailed and unique. Gram looks like an edgier take on the traditionally tattooed yakuza. Matos levels look visually stunning, especially in South 2nd Road with the giant hologram of Madame Rose. The citizens of Mato all have clean-looking character models, though they are overly used. Lair designs embody the theme of the chapter very well, with chapter one centring around greed and having hands protruding from the floors below.
Bane Tide boss designs look great, especially The Lord boss, having two creatures together and swapping one for light and another for dark. Sadly they didn’t use The Lord’s design in literal use for gameplay, like having one part of it heal while the other attacks.
The cast has a couple of good voices for the characters, but one that doesn’t hit the mark seems to belong to Doe himself. He sounds very flat when delivering a serious speech, and when surprised, he seems unbothered. Lady Eldeweiss’s voice was very out of place for this game with the awful southern accent. Lip-syncing is an issue, with it being a few seconds off. The music during the dialogue between characters is decent and sets the noir tone well, but this gets repetitive after a while. No special music is present for boss fights which is underwhelming.
Mato Anomalies can be completed in roughly forty-five hours, which includes all the side missions. The player can unlock one of two endings, the Normal Ending and the Bad Ending. There were no choices I could see that affected the story, when a choice did come, it was the same two dialogues worded differently.
There are seven chapters, each completed in roughly three to four hours since they consist of talking and grinding for experience. Lairs vary in time as my party struggled to level after I hit chapter four, so later one became difficult.
The story of Mato Anomalies doesn’t do anything special for the story. Each chapter felt like a random adventure instead of having an overall narrative. Some characters have intriguing backgrounds. Nothing stood out to me. Side missions were short and pointless. Rewards on clearing Lairs are underwhelming, giving the player barely any loot from fighting monsters. Defeating a level twenty Bane Tide hardly gives you money, weapons, or potions. There is no way to sell stuff in bulk, which is a bit of a letdown. Grinding for weapons to convert into money is tedious and takes too much time. Enemy designs are underwhelming as they don’t make anything creative. I was fighting two hula hoops stuck together. Bosses get good designs, but combat is lacklustre at times.
I was starting to get bored and frustrated around the 8-hour mark on Mato Anomalies, thanks to the poor rewards and Gear System. Making the team share a health bar seemed like a good idea. However, it does more bad than good, with enemies barraging with attacks. One health bar removes the roles of the tank for the party, as you will focus more on healing rather than attacking. Players go through healing potions quickly since healing skills have a cooldown of three turns. I award Mato Anomalies the Thumb Culture Silver Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.