Looking at the box art of Gurumin, one may simply pass the game off as a simple, average children's adventure game. It's important to remember just how deceiving looks can be. Because behind the art of the adorable red-haired girl, and her equally cute monster friends, is an adventure game developed by the fine people who brought us the Ys RPG series. An adventure game that should be well worth your time…
While the Ys series has a fairly small following, especially here in the Americas, the existing fans may find a few quirky connections between Gurumin and the Ys games. The star of Ys is a red-headed girl named Parin who enjoys a good adventure. The game states that Parin is the daughter of two very famous adventurer parents who were known for exploring ruins. Likewise, Ys starred a red-headed adventurer named Adol, who later on in the series did have a red-haired child. So it seems like the game is insinuating that Parin is supposed to be the daughter of Adol.
When the game starts, you meet a lost Parin as she enters Tiese Town and looks for her grandfather's house. Parin was sent to live with her grandfather while her parents are out excavating an ancient ruin. You soon meet grandpa Hyperbolic (that's his name, no kidding) and find out that he's also the Mayor of the town (among another key fact further into the game). Tiese Town is boring and Parin finds out that there are no children her age for her to play with. So she sets out looking for someone to talk to and something to do, and she runs into a little girl cornered in by a barking dog. Parin butts the dog out of the way, and then discovers that the cute girl she's just saved is actually a monster. Yes, a monster — her name is Pino. You'll be invited inside the Monster Village, which is located in a secret warp behind a wall in your town, and you'll meet a host of other "monsters".
You'll befriend the cute little guys and the game will pick-up from here on. You'll embark on your first journey through a ruin (a practice of sorts), as you'll have to go off and find Pico's brother Puku. Before you set off, you'll be given your primary weapon, which is a mysterious drill shrouded with untapped powers. Once you find Puku, the evil leader of the phantoms named The Prince appears and destroys Monster Village. The Prince threatens to disturb the balance of the world and here is where the story officially starts. As you progress throughout the game you'll be able to enhance the powers of your weapon by attaching elemental properties to it, or adding new moves to your arsenal. From the start you'll have a drill power gauge which will be used to measure the strength of your attacks. If you're at perfect health and using your weapon every chance you get, then the gauge will stay full and your attacks will be at their full potential.
Likewise, when your gauge is full, you'll also be able to fire a projectile from your drill. If any of this sounds familiar, that's because it's similar to what Zelda's done in the past. Another featured inspired by Zelda is Parin's charge attack, except there are three different levels that Parin can unleash. The gauge is broken into three bars, so the longer you charge the gauge, the stronger the attack; if you charge it to the fullest, Parin will perform a powerful drill attack as she hurls herself forward. When you're attacking normally, you'll be able to pull of a number of different combos – most of which you'll learn as you progress.
The game will take you through a variety of different "dungeons", and you'll be required to jump over obstacles, unlock doors, move boxes, solve a few puzzles, and other common basics you often see in adventure games of this type. One of the neater aspects to Gurumin is that you'll be able to cross large gaps by performing a chain-attack in midair that'll move you from one enemy to the next, until you reach the platform.
No adventure is complete without the ability to purchase upgrades, and Gurumin has that covered too. You can purchase new accessories, but you can also upgrade them, as well. The game relies on collecting not just coins, but also junk parts that a merchant named Disk will use to enhance your equipment with. Likewise, you'll be able to purchase parts and oil for your drill from Cylinder, the town skeeve. And of course, let's not forget the token heal shop; in this case, pastries are what will heal you – cookies and cakes.
There's a lot to love about Gurumin, despite its simple nature. It's unusually addictive, and the scope of the game seems to get larger and larger the more you play it. Moreover, the game also rewards you with some pretty cool mini-games, secret modes, hidden characters, and secret costumes – so there's quite a bit to unlock. Interestingly enough, you'll be able to unlock two of the game's costumes just by having the PSP's date set between December 25th-31st and January 1st-7th, representing the two different periods Christmas is celebrated.
Visually, Gurumin is nothing amazing, which was to be expected considering that the game had been previously released in 2004 for Japanese PCs. But there's certainly nothing bad about the graphics either. The characters are extremely simple looking, and are probably PSOne caliber at best (albeit more polished). The environments, on the other hand, look quite nice. Architecture sports good looking, sharp textures and you'll notice this during the game's cut-scenes. Gurumin also features a dose of environmental interactivity, which will allow you to destroy most of the objects planted around you — in turn, you'll pick up coins and other items. Frame rate is pretty consistent, and the game doesn't have any major visual issues. It looks a bit on the simple side, but it's got a lot of charm and gets the job done well.
Believe it or not, a standout category for Gurumin is actually its audio. The game delivers a fantastic soundtrack that is precisely the kind a traditional adventure game should have. Infectious melodies compose the soundtrack, and every one of the tunes is as good as the next. On top of that, the game comes complete with voiceovers done by a cast of voices that are no strangers to the role. If that doesn't sound convincing, Kris Zimmerman was the supervising director for the voice-acting…Mr. Zimmerman is also the voice director for the Metal Gear Solid series, Dead Rising, Socom, and God of War II. So let's just say this man knows his craft. Take my word for it, the audio is pretty impressive stuff, and it's quite surprising that Falcom decided to go all out for the game's voice work.
Even though Gurumin borrows quite a bit from other notable adventure games like Zelda, it's still got a soul of its own and a unique charm that few games possess. It's heartwarming in every way, but also an incredibly satisfying experience that fans of the genre absolutely must look into. If you can get past the fact that your main character is a 12 year old girl, you'll find a splendid game in Gurumin. There's a lot to unlock and discover, and the adventure itself will run you around 10-15 hours. Despite being visually simple, Gurumin sounds wonderful with an ensemble cast of voice-overs and an infectious soundtrack. An adventure fan should pick up a copy of Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure, you'll be happy that you did.