If Link Was An Orange Haired Preteen Girl
Back in the early months of 2007, Gurumin was released on UMD. Why didn’t I play this game when it first came out? Perhaps it was the title’s strange name. Or maybe the colorful, yet unknown, box art kept me at bay. No matter what my excuse is, much shame should be put on me for not picking up this game sooner as it is definitely one of the best PSP games that I have played.
Gurumin can be declared as a sleeper hit. While this title was never really on the edge of gamer’s tongues, those that did play it gave it high critical acclaim. Now available for download through the Playstation Network, there is no reason not to play this game, especially with its cheaper price point.
You assume the role of Parin, a preteen orange haired girl, who is sent to live with her forgetful grandfather in a mining town. Desperate to make friends with children her own age, Parin runs into a monster who eventually leads her back to the main monster village through a small hole in the city wall. Because only kids can see these monsters, adults think Parin is a little on the crazy side since she is seen talking to no one. Upon first entering this monster village, Phantoms and a dark Prince destroy the monster village. Using an ancient drill as a weapon, Parin sets off to restore this destroyed village and put an end to these Phantoms.
With a total quest time of about 10-15 hours, Parin will venture all over the Monster Kingdom, finding lost monsters and returning their furniture and other personal belongings. While this plot point might be considered lame, the impressive level designs and gameplay material really set this game apart on the PSP.
From a third person perspective similar to any Zelda game, Parin is controlled with the analog nub (or direction buttons) while the face buttons are using for attacking, jumping, and re-centering the camera. Using a spear-like weapon with a drill head attached to the end of it, Parin starts off with only a few different attacks and techniques. New attacks can be unlocked by purchasing different items from the local store. But perhaps the most interesting concept revolves around attacks with her drill gauge. Each time the player lands a blow against an enemy, the drill meter grows. The more the drill meter grows, the stronger the attacks become. For example, when the player completely fills this meter, a beam of light will shoot from the end of the drill, very similar to how Link shoots beams from his Master Sword when he has full health. On the other hand, if Parin takes damage, this meter will deplete, making combat a little more difficult. This combat system forces players to always stay on top of their game.
It is not uncommon for Parin to face off against multiple Phantoms at once. Due to the drill’s versatility, there are many attack options available. Some Phantoms will come to battle dressed in armor. Before damage can be given, Parin must break off this armor with a charged attack. Once the enemy’s armor has been broken off, Parin is free to attack the enemy. But this broken armor also serves a purpose. Collecting broken pieces that enemies drop allows the player to accumulate “junk”, which gives the player options to upgrade stocked items. Using this junk will warrant upgraded statistics like halving damage from poisonous gas, or increasing elemental damage.
There is a surprising amount of depth in this game. Each stage keeps track of the player’s progress. Depending on how many enemies you kill and how many pots you break, colored coins are rewarded. Collect enough coins and new material is unlocked. This form of replay value is valuable because it forces players to search high and low within every stage, while unlocking new ones as time goes one. With collectable items, creative combat, and a lighter blend of puzzle solving, Gurumin really takes on a Zelda meets any dungeon hack n’slasher feeling.
Overall, the game is a gem, but there are a couple a flaws that will annoy more than hinder. First are the load times. Every time you walk into a new room, you must sit through a ten second load time. Certainly better than other PSP titles, I find it to be a little ridiculous when I walk into the city, I have to sit through a loading, then when I walk into the store, another ten second load takes place, then when I exit, I have to wait for another load session. Each stage is big enough to keep loading sessions at a minimum, but traveling through the constant ins-and-outs of city travel is annoying.
My second complaint is the small amount of backtracking that the player must do to move the story forward. There are a couple times when the player is required to play the same level over again. This happened once within the first hour I was playing the game. When levels are completed, Parin usually finds a piece of furniture or some type of collectable that belongs to a member of the Monster Village. But giving these items back usually involves hunting down these run-away monsters in the main human village. Why can’t I just find these friendly monsters at their home village? Why do I have to randomly track them down to give them the item that will open new paths for me to take, sitting through several load times? It just seems like a cheap way to make sure the player goes back to the main village.
Finally, the camera system, which does a decent job, is not perfect. While the player has the option to rotate and quick center the camera behind Parin, there is no option to adjust how far back the camera can go. There were many times when I wish I could just pan out my view a little more. Because the camera is a tighter view point, there are times when enemies can attack you from off screen and running into walls happens more often than it should. In comparison, just about every PSP game has some type of camera flaw, but it can be considered hardware based due to the single analog nub. Gurumin does a decent job, but it can definitely be better.
The game’s cute anime visuals definitely give this game a unique feel and kid friendly vibe. No where near pushing the system to its limits, Gurumin sports a colorful palette and decent graphical flare…minus a few instances of clipping and the good-but-still imperfect camera system. Audio quality is surprisingly high for this game. Beside the delightful tunes, each character is voiced extremely well by popular voice actors.
This title is definitely a sleeper hit. From the box art alone, you would never guess this game packs such a pleasant surprise. With a solid and friendly combat system, a unique gameplay presentation, a comical and kid-supported story, Gurumin is definitely a PSP game to play. If you missed buying the UMD disc, considering purchasing the game through the Playstation Store. Either way, be sure to load this game into your PSP at some point.