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Review By: Jesse Mason
Developer:   Tecmo
Publisher:   Tecmo
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Puzzle
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:    10-22-00

Ever since Day 1 with Tetris, the puzzle game has been, and always will be, the definitive Game Boy genre of games. Game Boy gamers will always be twisting their brain into mind pretzels because puzzle games are easy to get into, easy to get out of, and usually simple enough for even the craziest of crazies to understand. However, since Mario and Luigi surfaced their heads in 1985 so they could do some landscaping on the tattered video game scene, the Action/Platformer has been the dominant genre for video games all around. These games are, while often very fun, usually awkward on the Game Boy because of the systemís limitations. In 1994 however those mad scientists over at Nintendo managed a way to do it with Donkey Kong (which over the years has had it's named changed to Donkey Kong Ď94 to avoid confusion in the DK universe). Simplify the action game down to a pre-Mario Bros. level and add puzzle elements. Voila! The puzzle features made up for the lack of action and the action made the puzzle features more fun and exciting. It was the Game Boy way of doing an action/platformer. Donkey Kong along with Tetris and The Legend of Zelda: Linkís Awakening, is one of the three best Game Boy games ever. The puzzle game genre is such a mobile one that a small change in the gameplay can bring about a whole new way of playing a game. Monster Rancher Explorer, which has about as much in common with the PokeMonster Rancher games as Mario Tennis does with Super Mario 64, is nothing more than a watered down version of Donkey Kong, but nonetheless manages to present a different experience.

Like Donkey Kong, the object of the game is to grab an obscurely placed key and head to a door, and avoid monsters so you can live to grab another obscurely placed key and head to another door. The key difference and the game is centered not on the fact that the Donkey Kong Mario moves like a snail on squeaky crutches (itís just so amazing how different the Mario Bros. Mario is from the Donkey Kong Mario), it focuses on our hero Coxís nifty little ability to create boxes out of thin air. Yep, youíre going to have to figure out how to build a stair case of boxes to a precious item, you're
gonna have to create a circle of boxes around yourself to protect your precious pixels from touching an enemy, use boxes to destroy enemies, use them to find items, and so on. Boxxle it ainít.

The reason why Monster Rancher Explorer doesnít surpass good olí Donkey Kong is that Donkey Kongís game is centered on Donkey Kong Marioís limited abilities, which creates a numerous amount of puzzle possibilities, while
Monster Rancher Explorerís boxes are much more limited in their applications. After playing about 25 or 30 levels, the levels start to lose their
personality and blur together. What really pushed Donkey Kong over the edge was its idea to have the player work around his (or her!) character, which forces the player to delve into those unused cobwebs in his (or her!) brain.
Meanwhile Monster Rancher is concentrates directly on your abilities, which (except for your monster pals which show up later in the level) number two (you also have the ability to pick up "fireworks" and fire a limited number at enemies, which isn't as helpful as it sounds). Donkey Kong created an obstacle out of itís main character, which amplified every single obstacle in the game. Monster Rancherís only obstacles are itís bad guys. Sometimes the game feels like a wait and see game where you just wait for the monsters to move out of the way so you can move on and other times there are so many
monsters that you move so fast, the game can resemble Robotron.

But then Donkey Kong never had the infinitely cool idea to let you design your own puzzles. Creating your own levels (and characters) is starting to become rather necessary for video game developers lately, as more and more
gamers demand that games become more interactive. However, the building your own level has always been fun, but a bit limited in my view. Iíve always felt that youíre still just using stock features of the game. Itís like making
your own Monopoly game by choosing different titles and dollar values of the properties. In puzzle games, however, creating your own level resembles making your own crossword puzzle. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. If
the game is too easy, just use that genius brain of yours to make the game fit your challenging needs. This especially works with Monster Rancher because itís hard to make levels work around your character, like they do in Donkey Kong, but itís nice and easy to make them fit your character. There are a few kinks to this though. You better have a friend who digs Monster Rancher Explorer too, because if you know how to solve a puzzle, itís no longer a puzzle, no? Also, there isnít much to Monster Rancher Explorer, there arenít many kinds of enemies, Cox doesnít have many abilities, and
there arenít many different items in the levels, making the whole "stock features" peeve all that much more annoying.

Even so, Monster Rancher Explorer manages to be a neat little game that you can easily get into and easy to get out of and itís simple enough that even the craziest of crazies can understand it. Tecmo has built a successful company out of thinking inside the box with their games, but this time the game couldíve been a lot more tempting to get into and a lot harder to get out of if they had broke through outside of the box.


Game allows you to create own stages.


The stages don't have that much personality.

Final Verdict: 

There are a bunch of games out that just scream "harmless". They are the ones that really don't shout good or bad or innovative or fun or anything really. Monster Rancher Explorer is one of those.

Overall Score: 6.1

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