Master of the Monster Lair Review
Master of the Monster Lair box art
System: DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Global A Entertainment 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Atlus 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 21, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
This Game Hasn’t Mastered Anything
by Joseph Catalanotto

Dungeon crawlers are among the oldest type of RPG that’s still around today. Starting with such cult classics as Rogue and evolving into popular, casual-friendly titles such as Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, dungeon crawlers are a popular and long-lasting genre of video game. One of Atlus’ latest DS titles, called Master of the Monster Lair, takes the oh-so-popular genre and adds a really interesting little twist to it. If you don’t particularly prefer dungeon crawlers, Master of the Monster Lair isn’t going to change your mind about them, but if you’re a fan of the genre, then this game is worth checking out.

Master of the Monster Lair screenshot

The game’s story is definitely not its highpoint and frankly doesn’t make much sense in the context of the originality of the rest of the game. Master of the Monster Lair stars a boy named Owen who one day stumbles upon a talking shovel and is tasked with creating a dungeon that will attract all sorts of monsters. With this scant plot premise in place, you set off to develop a successful dungeon.

Before getting to the actual gameplay mechanic, I’ll spend some time ragging on the story. In addition to being sickeningly childish, the development team didn’t even bother to fill the game with any good writing. This is all really confusing -- the development team obviously had a good idea, but apparently they weren’t very confident about it because they’ve set the game up so that it’ll have an obvious appeal to young gamers who can’t even properly appreciate what Master of the Monster Lair tries to do so well.

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Regardless of any inconsistencies between originality and story writing, the gameplay mechanic here is what really makes Master of the Monster Lair interesting. Rather than simply wandering through a lot of mildly different dungeons, Master of the Monster Lair actually has you building your own dungeons to attract monsters, and then fighting them once they come to your dungeon. It’s a really interesting twist and while it’s not exactly groundbreaking, it’s a nice change of pace for the genre.

Master of the Monster Lair screenshot

Actually building your dungeon is quite easy, thanks to an intuitive in-game building tool. Laying out a variety of different environments is easily done, and constructing paths, mazes, and rooms is also quite easy. The builder itself isn’t very complicated, but that’s okay because it doesn’t need to be. It gets the job done and you feel like the dungeon you’re exploring really is your own.

Hand-in-hand with the dungeon-building elements of Master of the Monster Lair is a micromanagement mechanic that actually reminded me a lot of Viva Pinata. Different monsters will be attracted to your dungeon for different reasons; by catering different areas of your self-made dungeon to different monsters, you’ll increase the variety of baddies that come. It’s a surprisingly addictive gameplay mechanic and personally, I found it to be the most enjoyable aspect of the game. Master of the Monster Lair actually works better as a management game than an RPG.

Master of the Monster Lair screenshot

The reason for this? Frankly, it’s the RPG inclusions that really bring Master of the Monster Lair down. The battles are typical RPG turn-based affairs. You’ll see icons representing foes on the map, and coming into contact with them initiates a battle. Yes, battles can get pretty repetitive, but that’s not a huge problem. There’s a loot-drop angle to Master of the Monster Lair; defeating enemies will give you weapons and items that can make you stronger and permanently increase your stats. For this reason, the repetitive nature of the battles isn’t so big of a deal.

What is a big deal, however, is that Master of the Monster lair is way too easy for any self-respecting RPG fan. You always seem far more powerful than the baddies you’re fighting, which just serves to make battles ridiculously boring. Combine this with the repetitive aspect of the game and you’ve got yourself something of a role-playing flop.

Screenshots / Images
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