Standing out in mobile stores not for its premise but for its hand-drawn, watercolor art style, Creature Chaos is a game based on the popular ‘monster collection’ sub-genre of the JRPG and fuses this with elements of RogueLikes.
The story behind Creature Chaos is really that of a two-man team consisting of game designer Ernesto Hernandez and artist Audre Schutte. The game appears to be something of a labor of love, with the title initially being published through Pocket Labs before the pair split to form the self-titled company ‘Creature Chaos’ and managed to convince them to hand the aging and un-updated title over to them for relaunch (adding the ‘Dragon lords’ subtitle) where they’ve worked on it exclusively ever since and are only recently beginning to open out their uncatalogued with new games in development.
Visually the graphical style of Creature Chaos is make or break for the title as its instantly distinctive but may not prove to be to everyone’s tastes. Hand rendered and painted images are lovingly scanned into the game and everything has a ripped paper aesthetic that builds upon the style through menus and options tabs. Monster designs themselves range from the fantastical to the truly interesting, though a few border on unimaginative, falling into fantasy staples such as spiders and bats, etc. There’s a massive amount of these creatures included in the games build, with more added in each update, and the title encourages you to collect them purely to see and experience them all rather than for any short-term goals in-game.
Sound effects are somewhat bare-bones but manage to do their respective jobs admirably. They are few and far between however, only really appearing when fighting a battle or at a battle’s conclusion when a small fanfare plays. Music is similarly sparse, with a single track looped indefinitely between menus and play. It’s an upbeat and happy piece of music with an interesting use of clapping that would feel at home in a Nintendo party title, and it plays for a while before looping, but ultimately it is just the one track.
The narrative of the game is sadly entirely absent. You appear to play a lone human traveler in a world otherwise filled with vast plains and tracks of unexplored wilderness that is the home of wild monsters. Forging a relationship and taming these allows you to explore further into these locations and each of the 4 currently available (plus 3 optional ‘Event worlds’) contains a dragon which rules over the environment there. There’s no set endgame and the motivations for going on aren’t explained. Sadly this can lead to many deleting the game from their devices after completion of the 4 base locations simply because there’s little reason to continue playing outside of collecting each and every monster for personal reasons.
Gameplay is the strength of this title however, making up for weak sound design and a lack of narrative when coupled with the distinctive visual flare on display. The game starts with a choice of ‘starting’ monster, who will be your initial companion and sole combatant until you expand your team in traditional Pokemon style. Unlike that title and its pretenders on iOS however, this game presents a RogueLike approach to exploration of each of the games 4 worlds (each themed around a different element and possessing a new range of monsters to capture). Here you explore one space at a time, with potential paths hovering in semi-transparency around you, collecting treasure chests for currency and precious stones which act as the games premium currency (though it is dropped frequently) and which doubles as a collection resource. Ideally looking for an exit to a lower level as you progress deeper into a zone, you’ll also see monsters as shadow figures which conceal the type of battle you’ll encounter. This exploration system works extremely well and lends depth to the game that would otherwise be missing, though the decision to switch a human figure (silhouette) for a golden pointer does rob the game of a little of the character. Combat is a 1-1 affair with your monster of choice battling it out in turn based fashion against another, wild creature. Defeating this monster allows you to pay out in stones to recruit it to your team, which can hold 3 monsters in stock before the rest go into a sub-menu for later drafting and viewing. Monsters level through the amassing of experience which you can choose to spend when your ready and you boost them in a field of your choosing to cater to how you want them to play. In battle each has its own fixed set of attacks to choose from, with some having more than others to a max of 4 options, and can use potions purchased from a shop at any time to renew health or mana, which pays the cost for using these moves. Once you’ve delved sufficiently into a world the next will unlock, and each world also hides a fierce dragon at its core to tame. 3 special Event Worlds with their own special monsters and themes (such as an ice cream land) exist separately to the main game for optional exploration and drafting of weirder monsters and extend play. Logging in once a day will also award you with free cash to drop on higher level potions to heal or boost monsters performances.
A spin-off game based around the same art and monster assets and set in the same fictional ‘world’ is available in the US under the title of ‘Card Chaos’ but we’ve sadly been unable to review it because it’s unavailable in the UK store and currently Creature Chaos has been without an update for some time. The game remains a fun experience that lacks depth in favour of casual play, and for what it is this decision seems to have been for the best. Yes, they could have introduced a deep and interesting story campaign to accompany the island exploration angle, but this is a title that revels in drop in/ drop out gameplay for a quick dungeon delve and the chance to perfect a collection by capturing that one elusive monster. As it stands, Creature Chaos is an excellent RogueLight.