With Nintendo’s long history of being labeled as the company of choice for providing “kiddy” games, it comes as no surprise that their current console, the Wii, is home to a slew of games that skew towards a younger audience. While it may be easy to find titles on the console that are thematically appropriate for younger players, it can be much more difficult to uncover one of these titles that is actually fun and plays well. Luckily, this is exactly where The Munchables from Namco Bandai fits in, clearly being made for younger players but with an appealing visual style, interesting gameplay, and enough quirkiness to ensure that it could resonate with a gamer of any age.
Beginning with the game’s cartoonlike introductory cutscene, players are immediately introduced to the vibrant visual nature of the game as well as its somewhat odd and largely ignorable story. The Munchables takes place on the planet Star Ving (note the game is full of these types of terrible but still humorous puns throughout), a peaceful place made up of several islands and inhabited by creatures who love nothing more than eating. Each island is home to a legendary orb, which continually provides food for all the surrounding residents. One day a group of space pirates headed by the evil Don Onion descend upon the planet, stealing the legendary orbs and using their power to create throngs of Tabemon Monsters, but more on those in a bit. It is then up to the player to return peace to Star Ving by taking back each island’s legendary orb, thereby restoring order and an ample food supply for its populace.
In this quest to eradicate the space pirate menace, players are given their choice of two different characters, Chomper and Munchy, with a third option that can be unlocked upon completing the game. There is ostensibly no real difference between these two creatures, as both are essentially just different colored blobs with two eyes, a mouth, and an insatiable hunger. Despite not displaying a ton of detail and having fairly simplistic designs, the game’s playable characters are actually quite appealing and will even change shape and size during levels. Chomper and Munchy can also be somewhat customized using one of several different unlockable items such as hats or glasses that can be worn by the characters.
The premise behind Munchables’ gameplay is pretty simple and can best be described as a mixture of Pac-Man and Katamari Damacy, which makes sense since those are both Namco developed titles. You’ll typically start every stage at a fairly small size and low level and must munch your way up the food chain in order to finish. Players are able to consume any enemies, who appear as cutesy vegetable and fruit creatures, having a lower level than their character. As your foes are swallowed, a stomach-shaped meter will begin to fill, and once topped off, causing your amorphous blob to grow a size larger. Ingesting adversaries will also improve your overall level, allowing you to consume higher level enemies, which fill your stomach meter and make leveling up much quicker.
As I said earlier, it is a simple concept but there is also some hidden depth present as well. If you come upon several enemies with lower levels than you (conveniently displayed above their heads), instead of just pressing the A button several times to consume each of them separately, you can hold the button down and then let go to perform an open mouth slide. Not only does this make quicker work of your foes, it will also speed up the stomach meter filling and leveling process.
Running into higher level enemies can also work to your advantage since you can use the B trigger to attack them, which breaks them into smaller and easier to consume versions. Of course, you’ll still have to be quick about gobbling up these smaller pieces, since they will eventually Voltron back together into their higher level form. Players will also find power-ups throughout the game’s levels, which can help things out such as one that turns your blob into a buzz-saw to quickly break up higher level enemies or a vacuum that allows you to swiftly devour any nearby lower level foes.
Besides the basic concept of consuming adversaries to gain size and increase your level there are a few other things to do in The Munchables as well. Most levels contain some fairly basic puzzles to be solved. These usually involve basic ideas such as buttons that require a certain level to use, which should help younger players make their way through game. There is also a mild amount of platforming involved, despite being somewhat difficult to control due to being forced to shake the Wii-mote in order to achieve lift, which rarely gets frustrating or causes death/backtracking. Each level in the game also contains a good number of hidden items to be found, which once collected will unlock character customization items.
Players will also be treated to some entertaining encounters with imposing bosses at the end of each island. In order to reclaim a coveted legendary orb, you’ll need to dispatch with the likes of Brocco-Lee (a massive head of broccoli) and Rice Baller (a gigantic sumo wrestler made of rice). These boss’s patterns and weaknesses are fairly easy to identify and exploit, making them easier for younger players, yet they still manage to remain satisfying to those with more experience as well.
While thematically The Munchables is definitely aimed at a younger audience, its simplistic but satisfying gameplay and oddball nature should appease players of all ages. The controls mostly work well, its look is vibrant and colorful even if not graphically impressive, and the gameplay is easy enough for beginners but still maintains some hidden depth tucked away for more experienced players. This game can also be a pretty lengthy experience if you’re looking for full completion, since you’ll unlock a mirror time attack mode after your first time through. Sure, you’ll just be making your way through mirrored versions of the same levels you’ve already played but it is still fun, and the option of trying to get the best rank with the clock ticking away provides a serious challenge. If you’re a younger gamer or are just looking for something fun and a little different, you can’t go wrong with The Munchables.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
While there isn’t a lot of detail to be found, everything is bright, colorful, and appealing. 3.2 Control
Everything works great except for shaking the Wii-mote to jump. Although, it is infrequent enough that it doesn’t completely hinder the overall experience. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound fits the game perfectly with a host of cheery and upbeat tunes and sound effects. 3.6
The initial playthrough was entertaining and took roughly between 4-6 hours, and the addition of a time attack mode will easily double this playtime.
3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.