Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook is a turn-based, strategy RPG roguelike that sees a group of adventurers in the wrong place at the wrong time, stuck in an increasingly difficult dungeon while on the brink of starvation.
Picking your primary character, you’re instantly thrown into a whole host of customisation options, from choosing which of the eight character designs you’ll use as your starting point, to which job class they’ll be. Along with the standard changes of hair, eye, and skin colour, you can even customise sprite illustrations and character traits. We spent far longer than we care to admit in the customisation screens, playing around with different combinations to create the perfect party.
The hungry adventurers must seek escape from the dungeons, all the while scavenging for food and sustenance. Loot points dotted throughout each floor provide key items for cooking, like hay, or sometimes, even weapons and other combat equipment. Battling enemies means you can loot their bodies for ingredients, which are fine for basic preparations in the dungeon for a quick fix, or you can take them back to base camp for a proper meal. Items will degrade over time, so it’s best to use things while they’re fresh — unless you’re getting tactical, and can somehow use the negative effects to your advantage.
Each floor of the dungeon is relatively short, but the difficulty steadily increases as you progress, with a day and night cycle prompting enemies to become stronger when the sun goes down. Progressing to the next floor via a portal gives the option to retreat to your base camp for a rest, where you can cook and eat meals, craft objects, and sleep. This will replenish stats, and there are a few to juggle: the standard HP, but also calories and hydration. Traversing the dungeons will deplete your energy levels, with some battle moves reducing these stats, both of which will have a negative effect on the adventurers if they drop too low.
If the lead character’s HP reaches zero then it’s game over. All character levels are lost upon defeat, and you’ll have to start the dungeon from the first floor, keeping your equipment and any learned skills. Though the floors are short, it’s best to take your time and level up steadily to make progress in preparation for the potential difficulty spike, otherwise you’ll pay the price for trying to rush through. The game's flow can feel quite protracted as a result, and there’s a certain amount of level grinding from the off.