There’s something about Cassette Beasts that really sets itself apart from its world-famous creature collecting inspiration that features a yellow mouse. Through its campy 80’s theme and the nostalgia of music and games from the era, the game takes the previously mentioned world-famous creature collector and remixes the formula with its own take.
Cassette Beasts is a creature collecting strategy game that, as the title implies, uses cassette tapes to “record” the creatures that roam the island of New Wirral. Once captured, you can use those tapes to transform into the creatures you captured in order to protect yourself. The monster designs are creative and adorable, drawing inspirations from the 90’s media and philosophical jokes.
Your customisable character wakes up on an unfamiliar beach, wondering how they got there. Explore deeper, and you find the first human character, Kayleigh, right before you get ambushed by an adorable crab wearing a traffic cone and a gameplay tutorial from Kayleigh. There’s also a “pick your starter moment” that I can appreciate as a fan of the older games.
After the tutorial, the game runs you through a short intro sequence before you take over and explore the open-world island at your own pace. This time, you have your cassette tapes at the ready to defend yourself from the visible monsters that roam the island, and have a handy guide that teaches you how to “record” monsters.
At first glance, the game features the turn-based combat that is familiar to anyone who has picked up a copy of its predecessors: monsters take turns based on speed attacking each other and you can switch out monsters based on types. Fights are also done with a partner.
However, spicing combat up are several mechanics that add a layer of depth to the formula. Attacks now cost Action Points, and each creature gets two every turn. Weaker attacks cost less AP while stronger attacks may take awhile to get online, meaning combat isn’t about reusing the strong attacks repeatedly. Attacks also come in the form of stickers pasted on the cassette tapes, which is such a huge flavour win.
Combat also features a typing system that works more than just “fire beats water”. While also doing more damage, attacks will also add either powerful buffs or nasty debuffs depending on the attack type that hit the monster. Your water monster may suddenly be hit with a “conductive” debuff after being hit with a lightning attack, or a healing “steam” that regenerates it over time. It’s less straightforward than the games that came before, which is mitigated by a speechbox that explains the effects as well. There’s an option to turn it off if it ever gets too annoying.
As the hours go by, you find that repetition will set in. Once you’ve gotten a gameplay loop with your favourite monsters, there’s little incentive to move away to other strategies. Why fix what’s not broken? In addition, levels are gained by players and companions rather than monsters, giving less reason to train up your party.
Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh take on the genre. Cassette Beasts’ visuals look great and the music fits a cosy vibe that you’d curl up in bed on a Sunday afternoon listening. It’s a fun adventure game with lots of unique design choices, on the basis that it doesn’t have to cater to kids, and the overall meta-horror and jokes at capitalism’s expense is a welcome addition to any Pokémon-likes.