Review: Mononoke Forest is a soothing strategic simulation

Every once in a while, you come across a game where the whole reason for its existence seems to be as cute as it can possibly be. Maybe, if you are lucky, the rest of the game will have a sense of purpose and offer actually engaging gameplay. With Mononoke Forest, we have a game that nails that balance. This eShop exclusive is absolutely precious, but it also has compelling gameplay. It is a thoroughly pleasant thing.

The purpose of Mononoke Forest is rather simple. A Grand Mononoke Spirit has been forced out by malicious creatures. This means the village near where it lived and the lesser Mononoke are left rather destitute. The smaller creatures can not grow or do anything meaningful; the land is barren and polluted. Fortunately, a new Grand Mononoke with amnesia and his friend have appeared! With the help of these more important creatures and the lesser ones, you can listen to the wishes of the humans and build up the village. Naturally, every human and supernatural character is absolutely adorable.

Mononoke Forest spreads its tendrils across multiple genres; it is best described as a simulation where you use strategy to pair and place Mononoke where they will do the most good.

Mononoke Forest spreads its tendrils across multiple genres; it is best described as a simulation where you use strategy to pair and place Mononoke where they will do the most good. During the day, you may have a wish or request to listen to. For example, someone could want you to clear garbage from rivers or oceans, have grass grow on barren land, fill up a forest or prepare an area for more homes, commercial buildings or industrial buildings. Or, if you are at a point where you need to find and recruit more specific Mononoke for certain requests, you will be able to check the book to see where you may find these characters and prepare for a night segment where you will just attempt to recruit characters while also touching up the surrounding area a bit. You may even need to protect the village from Wandering Mononoke by flinging characters you have recruited up at them to chase them away. Which might make you feel a little sad, as even the “bad” Mononoke just look so good.

Once you know what needs to be done, it is time to prepare for the character matching and tossing segment. Each objective requires certain characters to be paired together in groups of two or three. Pairing Bugsy and Graz, then sending them at a barren patch, will make grass grow there. Hurling BlueFlower and Conifer together at a grassy spot three times will make trees grow. Adding Cororoke to a pair or trio increases the effect on the village. So first, you pick which five Mononoke head with you into the evening phase. Then, when it begins, you pair them up, pull back and aim at the right spaces to make things happen. You can toss characters a set number of times each evening, though items that may randomly appear can grant more tosses. There is no pressure, as there is no time limit. Rather, you need to use the characters that appear as effectively as possible to make as much progress as possible each evening. Once the evening ends, a ravishing rooster crows and ushers you back into the morning phase.

Success in these segments means every area can flourish and grow. The Mononoke you find and recruit after night segments can evolve into more powerful forms once hitting certain level caps and having Happy Orbs from completed Wishes spent on them. Granting requests and making Wishes come true give you Happy Orbs and a more well-rounded village. It also means more difficult requests, new Wandering Mononoke and new characters to recruit. Mononoke Forest offers steady progress, even when Wishes or Requests involve multiple evenings to complete. Character evolutions, new spirits and other rewards come so frequently that each pairing and throwing round is a welcome one. All of the possible combinations of super cute characters really get you thinking about what you can and can’t accomplish.

The only downside is that Mononoke Forest is not always clear, even though the first hour is filled with tutorials exploring the ins and outs of the game. When telling you about flinging, there is a general “aim here” message, but it doesn’t explain how often you should or shouldn’t be aiming at spaces. The game doesn’t tell you to gradually move around the map, as your evening will take place in that location when you begin your nightly activities. It doesn’t do a very good job of explaining how much of a difference adding a third Mononoke or some Cororoke to a pair can make. These segments cover the basics, but don’t always get into the minutae.

Mononoke Forest is a delightful timesink that never asks too much or becomes too overwhelming.

Mononoke Forest is a delightful timesink that never asks too much or becomes too overwhelming. While the concept is simple enough, it eventually requires you to think strategically in terms of which Mononoke you bring along on a mission, how you can best complete each goal and how you should arrange your stable of critters and village to make it a little utopia. It is compact, compelling and cute, something Nintendo 3DS owners are sure to appreciate.

Score: 8/10
Publisher: Gamedo
Release Date: July 20, 2017
Developer: Gamedo
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Questions? Check out our review guide.

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