Gurumin starts off with a bang: the attractive title screen and fantastically cheery music is sure to get you smiling. As you explore the incredibly restricted town, your character will come to a realization: there are no other children in this mining town! Oh no! However, she'll quickly stumble upon monsters: creatures that human adults can't see. And so begins her Monstrous Adventure, where she'll have to stop the encroaching Phantom menace.
The game's opening moments are quite memorable, simply because of the quick pace of events and the super-happy-fun-time intro movie, which showcases the game's highly attractive monster designs. Each monster is animated with a create sense of character, and the dialogue can be, at times, quite humorous. With such excellent production values, one can't help but feel happy playing Gurumin.
Even the opening level will provide a relatively engaging experience. The gameplay is easy to pick up, and the game does a great job of walking you through. The main character, Parin, wields a magical drill that can cut through enemies with a simple press of the button. Quickly, you'll be slashing enemies, doing combos in the air. It's certainly ain't no Devil May Cry; it's much too simplistic. However, it's easy to learn, and feels solid.
The dungeons you explore are fairly linear, and feature some run-of-the-mill puzzles. Challenges include the requisite "destroy every enemy" or block-pushing puzzle. However, you won't be scratching your head over any of these. You'll want to destroy everything in your path, whether it be enemies or jars ... and you'll want to do it quickly. The game grades you on your performance in every level, and earning S grade rankings can unlock some special bonuses.
The game remains fairly fun throughout, especially after the first boss. However, as the game progresses, you'll realize that the gameplay doesn't really change. The dungeons, although they span a variety of environments, don't feel too complex. The combat also doesn't change--even with the addition of "special moves" that can be purchased, the core mechanics are unchanged, and may be too simplistic for its own good.
Each level has you retrieving an item from the end of a dungeon, or rescuing a monster. This concept slowly turns into mindless work over time, and becomes increasingly frustrating when you're forced to backtrack to Monster Village over and over again to unlock new levels. While backtracking isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is when there's no sense of reward or accomplishment with it. The story comes to a grinding halt, and the town segments can feature some unnecessary fetch quest, which can feel quite tedious. One quest is almost unbearable: it has you searching for a particular character, but without any guidance, you're forced to look through potentially every level you've visited. Twice. Ouch.
Regardless of the slow pacing, Gurumin is still an enjoyable game. It's simply unfortunate that it isn't as polished as it should be. The controls work well, even if the camera can be problematic. The graphics get the job done, even if the textures are sub-par. The gameplay is fun, albeit stagnant. The characters are cute, in spite of some stiff vocal work. The dungeons can be entertaining, even if they're a bit too long for a portable game. There's certainly a lot to like in the game, and if you're willing to overlook these minor flaws, you'll find a fairly lengthy, replayable game. Children will especially love the game: it's easy to understand, but not stupidly easy as other titles directed to the young tend to be.
Overall, I had a good time with Gurumin. If Gurumin had just a little more polish and a little more substance, it could've easily been a great game. Unfortunately, as it is, it's simply good.
PSP Fanboy Score: 7.5