Monster Sanctuary Review

A marvellous mongrel.

A mash-up of a Metroidvania and a monster catching game, it’s not just Monster Sanctuary’s elevator pitch that’s pretty awesome, but it’s also so well executed that it feels like it’s just a perfectly logical combination of genres. That’s to Moi Rai Games’ credit, for sure, because I feel as though if even one aspect of this game were off in the slightest, it might feel like a shambling Frankenstein’s Monster of a game.

Instead, what you have in Monster Sanctuary is an incredibly fun game that has some of the most enjoyable turn-based combat I’ve experienced alongside some very nostalgic feeling platforming and adventuring.

Everything works together wonderfully, and the way you use your monsters while journeying around to unlock new areas is great. You also pick up new abilities as you would in a normal Metroidvania (although one of them is Warm Underwear, which is quite funny).

If all you want is to know if the game is good or not (and for some reason haven’t just skipped to the end like many impatient readers do), then I recommend doing the thing I accused you of in the brackets. Otherwise, pull up a seat and read me waxing lyrical about how damn cool the systems in this game are.

First up, let’s talk about those monster abilities.

Each monster has an ability you can use outside of combat. Sometimes this will be something that lets you break through walls, sometimes it’ll make you levitate to help with platforming, it’ll activate special switches, or it’ll let you see in the dark. Some monsters have the same ability in this sense, but it makes catching new beasties well worth your while.

To catch new monsters you need to beat them in combat and also hope for the best. You see, you get a rating in each fight, and monster eggs require you to get a really good rating. You can get them even if you do poorly, but it’s far less likely.

To get a good rating in combat you need to take as little damage as possible, win fairly quickly, and take advantage of elemental or other weaknesses where possible. You also build up a combo meter in each of your turns, so the order your monsters do stuff in is incredibly important. It’s just layer upon layer of cool systems.

That’s not all though because while your monsters do level up as you’d expect, they gain skill points instead of just learning new moves. You can then put these skill points into sizeable skill trees and create a monster perfectly suited to whatever you want them for.

That means you can have two of the same monster that will have completely different uses in battle. It also means you have to really think about team composition in the battles, even in the more common battles you find as you’re journeying around. It means that every choice you make is essential to crafting a unique team, and that unique team can then be sent into various challenges to get more powerful monsters or even fight against other players online.

When you then add in the cute pixel art style, and the astoundingly good chiptune soundtrack, Monster Sanctuary not only blurs the lines between genres, but also between modern and old-school games. The story is a little light, but the gameplay is almost perfect, and this is an excellent monster-taming adventure and Metroidvania game all rolled into one.
  • Effortless Metroidvania and monster catching mash-up
  • Sizeable skill trees to customise monsters
  • Cute pixel art and chiptunes
  • Story is pretty light
Written by
Jason can often be found writing guides or reviewing games that are meant to be hard. Other than that he occasionally roams around a gym and also spends a lot of time squidging his daughter's face.