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Cassette Beasts

Cassette Beasts

Love Pokémon but are tired of Game Freak's predictable formula? This is the game for you.

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No one will deny the fact that Pokémon has been absolutely revolutionary for gaming and entertainment. The idea of setting out on a grand adventure in a wonderful world populated by powerful and unique creatures that you can capture, train and befriend is something that we've seen explored in many different ways since. While for the most part, Pokémon has remained as the gold standard for this style of gameplay, the last few years have seen the pocket monster franchise struggling to innovate in truly meaningful ways, and now alternative takes are starting to catch up and even overtake what Game Freak is putting out there. For Bytten Studios' Cassette Beasts, this is precisely the case.

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From an initial glance, Cassette Beasts comes across as a Pokémon clone. A pixel world with sprite characters, a collection of unusual creatures that have elemental typings, catching mechanics, RPG features and levelling suites, even the UI looks like one of Game Freak's titles. From an individuality perspective, Cassette Beasts is in the same category as that of Coromon and the other monster-catching titles that can attribute their entire existence to that of Pokémon. However, it's when you start to peer underneath the hood that Cassette Beasts comes into its own and shows that Bytten Studios understands the necessary steps that need to be taken to keep iterating and evolving the Pokémon formula in a way that Game Freak seems to misunderstand.

While Cassette Beasts' world of New Wirral isn't the same size as the regions in the world of Pokémon, the open-world nature does mean that you can explore and hunt down creatures and secrets of your own accord, without being tied to what are essentially corridors between major cities. Yes, Pokémon Scarlet/Violet shed this linear nature properly as well, but Cassette Beasts approaches it in a more compelling way as the quest structure, environmental puzzle solving and exploration are all presented in a way that requires a bit of player problem solving. Unlike in the Paldea region where you are presented with exact points on a map to find the next stage of a quest, in Cassette Beasts, you are given an approximate area and then told to figure out the specifics when you reach that place. Do you have to solve a small puzzle to unlock a hidden secret to progress? Is there an NPC you need to find? There's very limited hand-holding in this game, and that really works wonders for doubling-down on the immersive qualities it offers.

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The quest design is structured in such a way that you need to talk to NPCs, enter buildings, find secrets, listen to rumours, and more to be able to piece together and figure out the next major story beats, rather than trekking around the world in a predictable and almost circular pattern. By doing this, it gives plenty of extra depth to the world, as you never really know if you've explored all that an area has to offer or whether an additional quest will take you somewhere unexpected.

Cassette BeastsCassette Beasts
Cassette Beasts

Then comes the creatures. While the variety and designs are cool, there's no denying the designs have taken a lot of inspiration from the way Pokémon matches up environmental qualities and aesthetics with real animals. But, it's not the actual creatures where Cassette Beasts once again flexes its muscles, it's the battle mechanics. There's still the elemental typings to consider and how one type is more or less effective than another, but now you also have to manage ability points that determine what moves you can complete on a turn. It brings an added degree of strategy to an otherwise very familiar and similar strategy system, and then looks to build on it further with a whole array of buffing and debuffing abilities and moves, and even the Fuse mechanic that allows you to literally combine any two beasts together into a more powerful special one. Fusing works because Cassette Beasts is always played with a companion who you can bond and grow with to forge a more powerful connection when fusing. As you might have wondered, battles in Cassette Beasts are always at least 2v2, with this even working in local cooperative mode.

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The more complex nature of Cassette Beasts is its biggest strength for the most part, but I won't deny that there are times that it could benefit from better explanations. A lot of the new information, such as how catching and catch rates work, is only really explained in a short summary message during the early tutorial stages of the game, so if it doesn't instantly sink in once you've read that portion of text, you're basically expected to figure it out through trial and error. And this is the same with the quest design, and the healing, and the different typings and so forth. Something similar to the Trainer's School in Pokémon would've been a huge addition for new players looking to learn the ropes and perfect them.

I haven't had the chance to play Cassette Beasts on PC or Xbox as of yet, but I will say that the Switch version of the game has some demons right now. The performance is very choppy with very fluid frame rates and frequent freezing, which become frustrating to deal with. I haven't come across any bugs of note, but the actual raw performance is a problem in its current shape.

Cassette Beasts
Cassette BeastsCassette Beasts

Still, besides the Switch performance problems and the lack of detailed explanations, Cassette Beasts is an example of what a more mature and difficult Pokémon could be. The new additions to combat, exploration, and quest design all make the world thrilling to explore, and the sprite/pixel combination shows that there's still plenty of potential for monster-catching in this art style. Game Freak has done a lot of good with Pokémon through the years, but they could learn a thing or two by looking at Bytten Studios' latest work.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Exploration is well implemented. Quest structure is engaging. Battles are more complex and rewarding.
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Switch performance is poor. Could do with better explanations and tutorials.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Love Pokémon but are tired of Game Freak's predictable formula? This is the game for you.



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