Action-adventure games like Zelda have hit a rut recently. They’re suffused with time-stretching content and yet contain little in the way of actually compelling gameplay. They stretch their quests over dozens of hours and force you to repeat the same puzzles ad infinitum to pad their length. Gurumin is an action-adventure game, but it is not a Zelda game.
Anyone who owns a Playstation will instantly recognize Gurumin‘s style. Borrowing whole hog from the Mega Man Legends series- a sequence of games I watched entirely over my college roommate’s shoulder-Gurumin peppers a few RPG elements around its action gameplay. It shoves you into a dungeon and tells you to go with it.
You assume the role of the young girl Parin. Parin befriends the benevolent monster race under attack by evil blobs of goo (called Phantoms). Your quest is to pound these uncomfortably adorable blobs of goo as if they were birthday pinata until money and other treasure spews out of every orifice, like an even cuter version of River City Ransom. After you’ve cleared the dungeon of all its horrific evil denizens, the vast majority of which look no more threatening than a slime from Dragon Quest, you take your winnings and buy stuff to upgrade your drill!
Simplicity is the primary goal here. Parin can equip one weapon (the drill) and one piece of armor (head gear). The drill can be upgraded to form new super moves. All of these moves are performed by the same 360-degree spin on the analog nub. Head gear is a little more diversified: goggles protect against water damage and bandanas give increased attack strength. Collecting bits and pieces of enemy equipment allows you to upgrade your helmets, conferring immunity to certain types of damage and other benefits. This is the total extent of Gurumin’s complicated gameplay.
Simplicity is also Gurumin‘s biggest strength. The word to describe Gurumin is “unambitious.” There are box puzzles and button mashing and absolutely nothing that you haven’t seen in an action game a dozen times over. This game succeeds where others fail because it knows this. Its creators seem more concerned with delivering a solid B game than shooting for an A+ and ending up with a C-.
Gurumin clearly does not want to be the next 40+ hour adventure into Zelda’s Hyrule. It wants you to pick up your drill and bash up a bunch of pots. At the end of the dungeon you fight an extraordinarily cute shape-shifting evil butterfly. Then you are summarily dumped back out into the world map to proceed to the next dungeon. There, an equally adorable evil prince awaits to test your skills. At 10 hours, just when the formula starts to drag, the game ends. Thus, you haven’t had time to get bored with it. This is a stark contrast to those overachievers who put out a really fun 15 hours at the expense of the incredibly boring 25 hours that follow.
Gurumin relishes in its lowbrow attempt. Almost every game out there nowadays requires a four-week dedication. These games are filled with side-quests and complicated upgrade paths that would require a degree in Matrix theory to understand. Gurumin only asks you to keep hitting square in the general direction of the giant smiling blob wearing a cape and boxing gloves. Sometimes that’s all you need from a game. Although far and away Gurumin won’t be the best thing you play this year, it’s still a pretty decent way to blow $20 and a weekend.
Developer: Nihon Falcom Corp
System(s): Playstation Portable
Rating: E 10+