While Bytten Studio’s first game, Lenna’s Inception, was a self-published debut, the two-person studio has partnered with Raw Fury for Cassette Beasts, a turn-based RPG centered around monster battling and collecting. Cassette Beasts oozes charm, and its various systems come together to create an RPG experience I’ve been craving for a long time.
Take it back to the classics
Cassette Beasts opens with your character stranded on the mysterious island of New Wirral, which exists in some strange limbo outside of Earth. Luckily, you’re not alone, as there are many other people on this island, hoping to discover the story behind it and find a way back home. The island is also inhabited by various creatures referred to as Monsters.
Bytten Studio wears its Pokemon inspiration on its sleeves. When you boil it down to its core elements, Cassette Beasts is about exploring a mysterious land filled with creatures, which you capture and harness the power of in order to become a more formidable fighter yourself. That said, it does enough to carve out its own unique, charming personality. Primarily through its clever music motif and unique approach to combat.
As you make your way through New Wirral, various human characters can be recruited as allies, typically by completing quests for them. They’ll fight by your side in battle and follow you along in the overworld. Traveling with them and completing additional quests for them will increase your bond, which provides some nice boosts in combat. I unfortunately didn’t find many of the supporting characters to be all that compelling. While I was engaged with the story and the mystery surrounding the Archangels, it was a bit of a bummer that none of the characters left much of an impression on me.
Beats to grind levels to
Cassette Beast’s roster of over 100 unique Monsters have abilities and stats that give them distinct advantages and disadvantages in combat. In true Pokemon fashion, they also have typings, such as Water, Fire, Plastic, and Air. These typings follow a rock, paper, scissors format, with each type having a powerful or weakened effect over others. Learning the typing match-ups and building a party that covers all the necessary bases is classic RPG strategy goodness and Cassette Beasts offers a multitude of ways to assemble a dominant squad.
Where a lot of Pokemon-likes fall short is in their creature design, which happens to be one of Cassette Beasts greatest strengths. The naming conventions and visual designs of the Monsters in New Wirral are quite clever, and I found myself chuckling and giving my screen a nod of respect when encountering some of them for the first time. Palangolin, Dandylion, and Traffikrab were a few of my personal favorites.
Instead of sending out your Monsters to fight on your behalf, you actually transform into them at the start of a battle, reverting back to your human form if the Monster’s HP is depleted. Cassette Beasts’ turn-based combat system requires AP (Action Points) in order to use abilities. Weaker moves are relatively cheap, while the majority of your AP is spent on more powerful attacks. AP is accumulated after each turn, but there are abilities and other unique circumstances that can increase the rate of AP acquisition.
I often spent the first couple rounds of battle using moves that buff my party’s stats and lower my opponent’s, soaking up AP so that I could unleash a devastating barrage of attacks a few turns in. The further I got into the game, the more I realized how deep the combat system really runs. There are so many potential strategies to deploy, and I had a lot of fun just sitting in the menus, mixing and matching tapes to create the best possible team. It was able to scratch an itch that very few modern RPGs are able to reach for me.
Gotta record’em all
To capture a Monster, you must “record” their tape, which can be done during combat encounters. The odds of successfully recording a monster are random, but can be increased by dealing damage to it. The game actually displays the percentage success rate over the course of a turn, providing more information on what capture tactics are most effective.
Once you’ve added a Monster’s tape to your collection, you can add it to your active party, or store it. It can also be examined in order to get a better idea of a Monster’s stat distribution and available moves. Additional moves can be granted to a Monster by applying Stickers to it. What’s really neat, is that you can peel a sticker off a Monster’s tape and apply it to another. I love that I can take a powerful move from a weaker Monster and apply it to one of my preferred party members without jumping through too many hoops.
Perhaps my favorite combat feature in Cassette Beasts is fusing. After filling a meter, you and your ally can combine to create a singular creature, one that merges your physical appearance, move list, and stats. Not only was it fun to see what each pair of Monsters would create when fused, but it was a very climactic maneuver to pull off during the height of a challenging battle.
Music to my ears
Cassette Beasts utilizes a 2D/3D hybrid, with pixelated characters moving around a beautiful 3D space. The blending of art styles reminds me a lot of Square Enix’s patented HD-2D style, but Cassette Beasts features much brighter lighting and more colors than what we’ve seen from games like Octopath Traveler. The use of pixel sprites for the Monsters themselves allows the designs to have much more personality, adding to the charm that this game has no shortage of.
With the ever-present theme of music and cassette tapes, it’s only right that Cassette Beasts has a soundtrack of excellent tunes to perfectly complement the quieter exploration moments and intense battles. Not only are the themes groovy, but there are also songs with lyrics in them. It was a bit jarring at first, but the music was so good that it only further immersed me into the world. I’ll be on the lookout for a vinyl release after this game launches.
Top of the charts
Bytten Studio puts all of its creativity on display in Cassette Beasts. Not only does its sizeable roster of Monsters include some really fun and unique designs, but the thoughtful approach to combat and clever music element really set it apart from most Pokemon-likes. Although the characters weren’t as intriguing as I’d like in an RPG, just about everything else was enough to make up for it. Cassette Beasts is sure to be one of this year’s indie darlings.
This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Cassette Beasts is available now for PC, Xbox, and Switch.
- Clever creature design
- Deep combat system
- Original soundtrack is all hits, no misses
- Gorgeous blend of 2D and 3D art
- Most characters are unremarkable
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Cassette Beasts review: A sweet mixtape
I was hoping this would turn out fun while it was in development. Good to hear!
on gamepass, hell yeah