By Steve Baltimore / June 7th, 2023
|Title||Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook|
|Release Date||May 23rd, 2023|
|Platform||Switch, PlayStation 4|5|
When I first saw Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook, my first impression was this was going to be one interesting game. There hasn’t been a game in a long time with grid based combat, survival and rogue-lite aspects rolled all into one. I’ve spent around 30 hours with this one and completed all one hundred levels, so it’s time to share my thoughts. Was this a fantastic new experience, or just an exercise in frustration? Let’s find out!
The game begins as a group of adventurers enter a dungeon for beginners. The group soon finds themselves lost beyond any means of escape. Out of food and water, the group fears they are done for, but they stumble across the corpse of a dead monster. They decide to eat some of its rotting leg just to survive when they pass out, and then wake up in a strange camp. They will now have to venture forth to find an exit, eating tasty food and some of the most disgusting things imaginable. The group may just uncover the mysteries of this huge dungeon along the way.
Graphically, Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook looks pretty good on the Switch. The maps have a decent amount of detail representing the terrain of each area nicely and the character models look nice, but I do wish there were more options for your custom characters. Monster models look great and there are a few different variations of each one, but the boss monsters are where this one really shines. These bad boys are huge and will strike fear into you the moment you see them. Performance on this really depends on the graphical setting you choose. You have a quality mode that will give you low FPS but look pretty, a medium setting that is a good balance, and performance mode that will give you all the FPS but will look quite rough. I stuck with medium for my playthrough and thought everything looked fine, and the game ran well in handheld mode as well with this setting.
In the audio department this one is pretty standard affair. The music is OK but there really is nothing here write home about. None of the tracks are offensive and they fit the game very well, I just don’t think any of them really stand out. There are some voice lines for your characters in both Japanese and English. You will get different ones depending on which voice you choose during character creations and they will repeat these lines pretty often as you progress through the game. I thought both voice casts were fine, so just pick the one you like best and roll with it.
Now let’s get into the meat and taters of this one, the gameplay. You will begin by choosing a class for each of your four party members. It is very important when you pick your character’s occupations that you make a balanced party, since you cannot change this later. There are several different ones to choose from that range from mages with powerful magic, archers that have many great bow skills, chefs that are not great in combat but help make nasty dishes less toxic, and more. I think having all these options gives this game some good replay value, since it will certainly change the way you play each time.
Next up, you will begin to explore the dungeon by walking around each floor, collecting materials and slaying all the monsters in your path. Combat will take place when you come in contact with a monster, and you should try to hit them in the back without them noticing for an advantage. Combat takes place on a grid based battle field, and is 100% turn based. Each character will have a set movement range and, of course, range with their weapons and skills. You can harvest materials from the monster corpses post battle or by attacking the dead body during combat, but if you find yourself in a bind, you can always just devour it on the spot for some stat boosts and healing.
As you move around each floor of the dungeon and use skills, characters will become both hungry and thirsty. This can be replenished between floors by cooking meals, or eating things on the fly in the dungeon. You will get much better stat bonuses and abilities from actually cooking the meals, so you probably don’t want to just eat something unless you have to. In between each stage, you will be back at your camp. Here you can cook meals, craft items from materials, and more. Cooking meals is pretty simple, you can either use preset recipes or come up with your own. I had no luck with the latter and usually got food poisoning. Dishes will not only fill up your party’s gauges, it will give them different abilities as well. These include things like more HP, Attack, Defense, calories and water depleting faster, and much more. Some dishes will make your party member ill and they will lose happiness. This usually comes in when you are trying to feed them bugs or some other nasty things. These dishes will give some great perks sometimes, so you will want to make them suffer through it.
If you’re playing on easy difficulty, you will get to keep these perks upon your death, even though you will start back at level one. On normal difficulty or higher, you will lose these perks, some of your usable items, and start back at level one as well. You will keep your equipment and some materials on any difficulty. The equipment is an important one since you can upgrade it with materials found in the dungeon as you progress, so this will give you a base to start with when starting over. This will be important if you want to start on a higher floor since you can start on the floor after the last boss you defeated, but if you have low stats, you will probably just die instantly.
This is really just a taste of all the different things you can work with in Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook. If I explain all of this thoroughly, this review would be way too big, and at first, I wasn’t sure this was going to be a game for me. By the end though, I really was enjoying myself. I don’t think I would’ve had as much fun on the higher difficulties since you would be at the mercy of the game’s RNG as it generates the floors and materials. There were times I didn’t have enough to make food for my party for a few floors, and things got dicey quickly. At the $49.99 price tag, I think there is a good amount of content here, and if you like rogue-lites with some inventory management and survival mechanics thrown in, this will be a pure joy for you. Playing on easy difficulty would be a good way for someone to get into games like this, or old folks like me that want a decent challenge without it being a total stressor. I’m not sure I would say this one is for everyone, but I’m happy that NIS tried something different here. In the end, I think there is certainly a lot of flavor here, even if it’s not to everyone’s tastes.
Game was provided by the publisher.
Game ReviewMonster Menu: The Scavenger's CookbookNISNIS AmericaReviewsrogue-liteRPG