The premise of Cohort Studios' Me Monstar: Hear Me Roar is not too dissimilar to Pac-Man. In this arcade score-driven PlayStation Mini, your primary goal is to advance your character through the food-chain by eating as much as possible.
Playing as a Pixar-esque monster, you'll start as a dwarfish blue ogre being harassed by practically every other creature on the screen. You'll need to hammer away at similarly-sized foes to release Dreams, blue spherical objects which provide the basis for your first snack. Eating enough Dreams will expand your waistline, transforming you into a larger monster able to gobble up smaller fiends. And so the process continues, until you become a lethal predator striking fear into even the most fierce of beasts.
Those initial stages of growth are amongst the most important in Me Monstar. The game is divided into 30 three-minute stages, each set within slightly different arenas with various conditions. Each stage has three separate score targets (rewarding you with Bronze, Silver and Gold medals respectively), in addition to separate objectives which earn you bonus medals. In order to earn points, you need to eat as much as possible, with the larger monsters you eat awarding you with higher score bonuses. Thus, the key to success lies in how quickly you can evolve your monster through the food-chain. If you spend too much time languishing as a lowly blue monster, you'll find your score etching forward at the pace of a snail. But if you make an early push, and grow into a red monster with time left on the clock, you'll find yourself dominating the scoreboards.
Of course, growth isn't a straight-forward process. While you're still expanding, you'll be hunted by larger beasts, all of which see you as the target for their next feed. So the game becomes a strategic mix of risk-reward balance: do you opt to grow your monster as quickly as possible and find yourself targeted by larger beasts, or do you slowly pick off targets avoiding the other nasties on the stage? It's up to you. The game does provide you with the tools to escape from any impending threats however. For example, you can roar to frighten any nasties, giving you a window to gobble them up or flee. And you can fart.
Me Monstar: Hear Me Roar does not take itself particularly seriously. The game is packed with a juvenile sense of humour that's surprisingly funny despite being a touch silly. Farting allows your monster to essentially boost around the stage, but it's not the only element of toilet humour present in the game. Chillis allow you to (and we quote), "release a deadly flame-ball of burning bad breath" while a plate of Vindaloonatic Curry enables you to clear the screen with a "gut-cleansing butt blast". There are other power-ups too, including an ice-cream sundae that attracts any nearby Dreams to your character, and a plate of Haggis which makes you invincible. We wouldn't recommend eating haggis under any conditions, but we suppose it's just about acceptable in a video game.
With so many mechanics in place, Me Monstar can be a hard game to get into at first — in fact, we downright hated the game's first couple of levels — but once we got a grasp on the importance of evolving our character's status within the food-chain, the game began to grow on us. Cohort's done a good job of pacing the game's difficulty over its 30-stage roster, though the Gold medals are fiendishly difficult to collect and will prompt some serious replay value if you're a completionist.
Perhaps most striking about Me Monstar: Hear Me Roar is its staggering art-direction, which scales wonderfully on both the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3. With vibrant blocks of colour and such a creative art direction, the whole release is tinged with the sad news that Cohort Studios has now closed its doors. We'll probably never see a Me Monstar 2, which is a shame because we'd be open to a successor.
If the game could be criticised for anything, it's that it sometimes tries to do too much. With numerous power-ups, abilities and foes occupying the screen, the whole thing can get a bit overwhelming. For instance, we forgot that we could actually attack minions until we'd progressed roughly half-way through the game. Suddenly, subsequent stages became a bit easier with the awareness of such a crucial mechanic. It's not that Cohort does a particularly bad job of informing you how to play the game, it's just that there's a bit too much information to process at once. The game would probably benefit from a tutorial level, or better pacing.
But Cohort's parting gift is a unique and original PlayStation Mini, with a stunning art-style and a solid gameplay foundation. The game might not be instantly engaging, but its bonkers premise and silly sense of humour will reward your perseverance.