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‘KOTOMON’ Review – No Controlling This Dance

TouchArcade Rating:

When we first found out about Kotomon ($2.99) recently, I was excited for the possibilities especially considering that some of the developers at Monstars consisted of folks from Q Entertainment (Lumines, Rez). Unfortunately, reputation alone is not enough to carry this simple music platformer with iffy controls.

Kotomon follows the adventures of a cute red monster of the same name as he searches the world for other monsters. Gameplay is divided into levels and has you navigating Kotomon and his companions across the terrain, battling monsters of various strengths until you reach a campfire, signifying the end of the level. A three-star system grades your completion with points awarded for faster completion, combos, and the amount of food your companion eat (littered across each level).

As you progress, Kotomon will meet new monsters (which are hatched by finding eggs), each with their own abilities and attributes. While the help menu provides small blurbs in each monster, i still found it a but vague for trying to figure out the differences of some of them. Regardless there’s enough there for strategy in later levels when you have the choice of choosing who to bring with you in a level.

The platforming itself is enjoyable for being a simplistic title. Levels are usually divided into battle royales with tons of combat or terrain based missions with obstacles that can block or kill your companions. There’s an interesting dynamic of keeping tabs of your companions while simultaneously using them as weapons of destruction. The difficulty also cranks up in the latter half of the game for gamers that enjoy a challenge.

One of Kotomon’s features is a dynamic soundtrack affected by the actions of your Kotomon. For example, launch a monster at some baddies and the beat picks up temporarily for each enemy dispatched. Extras notes are also added when taking on more powerful bosses.

Other than those little nuances, I didn’t really find anything particularly special about the music features. True, watching the enemies and your monsters dance to the beats of the song is quite adorable, but it’s hardly game-changing. If anything, the emphasis on a dynamic soundtrack means that you’ll be hearing a lot of simple tunes until you get into the thick of the action.

By far, the biggest issue I encountered with Kotomon dealt with its frustrating control scheme. Kotomon utilizes a floating, non-static virtual joystick for movement, which means that movement is always relative and can lead to the joystick sliding all over the screen. Compounding the problems are the shooting mechanics, which are solely based on the direction of your character and just feels unintuitive. For me, this lead to a lot of misplaced shots primarily due to the controls which range from frustrating to level-ending (especially with levels that contain lava which can instantly kill your companions).

The control issue feels amplified when you start to get to later levels with enemies that actively seek you out. Since aiming is based on the direction of Kotomon, you’ll find yourself in a constant predicament of running away while trying to turn around to launch a shot before turning back to avoid dying.

Other facets of Kotomon simply felt average. The visuals were a mix of cell-shade for the characters coupled with bland backdrops and a heavy dose of particle effects. Meanwhile, content felt a bit light once you get past the star ranking system.

Maybe it’s just a case of irrational expectations, but I was a bit disappointed in the overall package of Kotomon. It feels less like a music/rhythm adventure and more of a simplified platformer with frustrating controls and little in terms of variety. The cute monsters and somewhat catchy music are sure to appeal to some but folks looking for the next great platformer may want to pass.

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