Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Mononoke Forest, as the name might suggest, is a game about Mononoke. You might be asking, what are Mononoke? Well, they are little creatures that thrive on making humans happy, collecting “happy orbs,” and trying to create paradise. Unfortunately, not all Mononoke are good, as there is a group of Hazard Mononoke looking to wreak havoc. As Mononoke Forest begins, you’ll find out that the Grand Mononoke has fallen into a deep sleep and has been kidnapped by the Hazard Mononoke so that they can freely do their bidding to destroy paradise. It’s your job to train a new Grand Mononoke and make sure to restore and sustain the human’s small community.
At its core, Mononoke Forest is a simulation style town building game but with a bit of a twist. You’ll be responsible for cleaning up debris and trash, creating forests, coal, and gold to use as resources, and build a variety a facilities to accommodate the humans. These tasks aren’t done in a traditional fashion as you’ll need to use Mononoke creatures to accomplish most of these goals. The main gameplay mechanic involves pairing up Mononoke on the bottom screen of the 3DS and shooting them up to the map on the top screen to create your town. It’s a bit tricky trying to properly explain this, so I’d recommend checking out the trailer below.
Over the course of the game, you’ll collect a number of unique Mononoke that will play a role in developing the town and each is used to create specific types of resources. There’s no guess work when trying to figure out what each Mononoke is able to do thanks to an in-game journal that will tell you what each creature is capable of once you recruit it. Each of your Mononoke will also collect XP as you use them allowing each to evolve up to twice throughout the course of the game. Evolving a Mononoke allows it to spread more energy with each use and boosts its unique stats, which will help when combating Hazard Mononoke.
Building up your town won’t be as easy as just completing projects; you’ll also have to sustain and protect what you’ve built. This means dealing with everything from normal consumption of resources by the humans, natural disasters, and, most commonly, invading Hazard Mononoke. There are a handful of Mononoke that will try to destroy what you’ve built by using garbage, fire, pests, and more. When these Hazard Mononoke arrive, you’ll have to go to battle using the Mononoke you’ve collected by launching them into the Hazards with the hopes of chasing them away.
Mononoke Forest is broken down into two parts – day and night. During the day, you’ll be able to build facilities (if you have the resources) and also acquire wishes from humans. These wishes are usually small tasks like build a certain number of one resource or clean up a certain area of the town. Each of these wishes you grant will score you Happy Orbs. These orbs will allow you to evolve your Mononoke and build certain facilities. At night is when you’ll do your building, cleaning, and wish granting. You’ll only have a certain amount of turns before the night is over, so efficiency is key. After each night, the season will change and this will affect what wishes you can grant and what resources you can build.
Mononoke Forest‘s gameplay can be fun at times. It comes with its issues, the biggest being how finicky it is. You’ll need to use a stylus if you want to optimize the control you have, but even then, it still leaves a lot to be desired. If you move even slightly in any direction as you are lifting the stylus, it will completely screw up your shot. There were also plenty of times when I would be trying to move my Mononoke into a better position, only to have them launch off to the side. This is rather annoying when you’re trying to set up your town in a certain way only to have some random tree or road in a place you don’t want it. This is even worse when you are battling the Hazard Mononoke because you just can’t be as accurate as you need to be. This isn’t so bad in normal encounters as you can take multiple nights to chase away the Hazard, but there are a handful of “boss battles” where they need to be defeated in a single session or you can’t continue. These fights, especially later in the game, were tests of patience more than anything and completely killed the flow of the game.
Another issue I ran into was just how tedious the gameplay became. The first few hours were fun and had me coming back trying to build up a perfect town. Unfortunately the more I played, the more I got bored with the gameplay. With each night basically being the same as the last (because the gameplay never changes regardless of what you’re doing) and the constant barrage of Hazards messing up what I had built, I eventually got burned out on the loop of doing the same thing over and over.
As a town building simulator, Mononoke Forest can be a pretty entertaining game for the first few hours. Unfortunately, finicky controls and tedious gameplay make the middle to late game more of a chore than a game. If you’re into these kinds of games, I’d recommend checking it for the $3.99 price as you’ll easily get 15+ hours out of it, if you don’t get burned out before that. For everyone else, I’d say this is one you can safely pass on.