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Cassette Beasts Review: Hits Nearly All The Right Notes

EDITORS' RATING : 9 / 10
Pros
  • Charming and cozy retro aesthetic
  • Battle mechanics are unique, addictive, and easy to understand
  • Lots of freedom
Cons
  • Unavoidable battle grind
  • Some clunky mechanics

A PC code was provided to Zaaz for this review. "Cassette Beasts" is available now on PC. It will be available on the Xbox One, Xbox Series XS, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Game Pass in Late Spring 2023.

"Everything old is new again!"

It's a familiar saying and an old cliche, but time has proven its accuracy over and over again. Just look at how celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo have spearheaded the return of the Y2K fashion trends twenty years later, or how the global phenomena of the K-pop industry have re-launched the sales of CD players in the year 2023. While things like butterfly clips and physical representations were once nothing new, nostalgia has brought them back in a huge way.

Speaking of the return of physical music, here's another once-commonplace-now-aesthetic staple of the music industry: cassette tapes. Head to Etsy and you'll find hundreds of shop listings of old cassette tapes, as well as repurposed tapes featuring songs from current artists. They're, as the kids say, "a vibe."

Well, the developers at Bytten Studio have commodified this vibe and turned it into a quirky new game that you luckily won't need to go hunting for a retro cassette player to enjoy. "Cassette Beasts" is a creative and fast-paced RPG that sends players on a wild adventure to collect monsters, build relationships, and explore a colorful new world.

A Whole New World

"Cassette Beasts" is a strategic turn-based RPG that starts with players awakening on a remote island called New Wirral. It seems like a safe and harmless place with a cute little town, but unfortunately, you have no idea how you ended up there. As you start exploring the island and get to know some of the characters who inhabit it, you realize you might be stuck here for a bit as you try and figure out a way to make it back home.

While meeting new folks and exploring, you start to come across strange creatures you've unlike you've ever seen – or imagined — before. These Pokémon-esque monsters come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and they're everywhere. They're inescapable, and in order for players to explore new areas, complete quests, and (eventually) figure out a way back home, they'll have to take on these creatures with a trusty companion, some sick moves, and a bunch of cassette tapes to capture them. Yep, you read that correctly — in lieu of Pokéballs, players "capture" their monsters by recording them onto a blank tape in a cassette player. A bit wacky and random, but the game's execution is charming and it's easy to suspend your disbelief. And with over 100 different monster types to be found, players will find themselves doing a lot of recording.

A Whole Vibe

Aesthetically, "Cassette Beasts" is overwhelmingly charming, with a simple retro "Stardew Valley" art style that somehow feels cozy and comforting while exploring New Wirral; but also feels nostalgic and sharp while battling all the kooky monsters. Plus, the rendered portraits that accompany most characters while speaking and the partial voice-acted dialogue offer players a closer and cleaner look at this delightful cast of characters.

Speaking of characters, players are able to pair up with one character at a time and assign them as their "partner" while battling monsters. Fighting monsters together not only helps both characters level up but also helps build their relationships. One unique motivator for leveling-up relationships is that stronger bonds allow you to use the power of "Fusion" to create unique monsters with incredible powers.

With a title like "Cassette Beasts", you might be curious about the game's soundtrack. Luckily, it lives up to the name and doesn't disappoint; the background music while exploring is calming and chill, while the battle music is exciting and motivating. Plus, the game features a few indie pop-sounding songs that would make a perfect addition to any coffee shop playlist.

Welcome to New Wirral

Beyond the game's sweet aesthetics, a remarkable cast of characters, and intriguing story, perhaps "Cassette Beasts" strongest selling point is how easygoing it is. Once the main story is established and tutorials are completed, players are free to explore New Wirral at their own pace. Characters offer quests to give players some guidelines, but none of them are locked into a deadline and can be tackled at the player's own leisure. Whether you want to be a quest completionist, fill your "Bestiary" with every monster type on the island, or just fight and explore at your own pace, it's easy to choose your own path.

Even for people who might not consider fighting games as their cup of tea, "Cassette Beasts" has made their game accessible for all backgrounds. The game's fighting mechanics are not only simple to understand but incredibly addictive, especially for gamers familiar with turn-based monster games like Pokémon. Additionally, if going solo isn't your speed, the game offers a co-op mode for up to two players so you don't have to grind on your own.

Speaking of grinding, the game can feel a bit tedious with the constant battling, with many unavoidable battles. Even if you're main focus is exploring and questing, you'll likely find yourself in a cycle of battles, which can get monotonous. Additionally, some of the game's mechanics are a bit clunky. At one early point in the game, players get the ability to fly for a short period of time. But its in-game execution proved to be a bit unreliable and frustrating to work. Luckily, the flight time period gets extended as the game goes on, but its controls still aren't as intuitive and reliable as they could be. However, beyond these few tiny sources of frustration, there's very little in "Cassette Beasts" to be unhappy about.

Stardew Valley Meets Pokémon

Cassette tapes might be a fad of the past, but like their reemergence into popularity, everything about Bytten Studio's "Cassette Beasts" is fresh, trendy, and accessible for everyone to enjoy. With its cozy aesthetics, addictive fighting mechanics, and freedom to let players decide exactly how they want to spend their time on New Wirral, it's a perfect addition to add to the game shelf, whether you're a casual or serious gamer. If you're looking for a game that combines everything you love about the coziness of "Stardew Valley" with the addictive fun of "Pokémon", then "Cassette Beasts" is undeniably the game for you.

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