Kairosoft tries their hand at “gotta catch’em all!” gameplay

You’re stranded on a deserted island, but not for long – and it’s not very deserted, either! In Beastie Bay, the new monster collecting/city management game from Kairosoft, you’ll battle, capture and tame a wide variety of beasts both familiar and exotic while building your island into a bustling tropical paradise.

I’m becoming something of a Kairosoft fan. The mobile game studio doesn’t put a premium on eye candy, but instead focuses on providing an interesting and varied gameplay experience. The studio has a definite “style,” at least among the games I’ve played, and Beastie Bay fits right into it. It’s fast-paced, lively and features an odd yet engaging mix of building and battle.

Beastie Bay     Beastie Bay

Beastie Bay bears a powerful resemblance to Pokemon in many ways. You must capture and tame creatures – “beasties,” I suppose – raise their levels, teach them new skills and use them to conquer an ever more powerful array of opponents – some of whom will ultimately join your ranks. And unlike other games that bear a more obvious Pokemon visual aesthetic, in Beastie Bay, a certain amount of strategy is required if you want to succeed.

The game begins on a small patch of a deserted island, with other areas opening up to exploration as you progress. The “exploration” is simply a matter of moving through a few random encounters and battles with up to three allies (beasts you’ve previously captured) at your side, but the battles actually require some thought and input in order to be won. You can attack enemies, assume a defensive posture or use items and auras that will restore your health or improve your abilities, and although it starts off easily enough, it won’t be long before losing becomes a very real possibility. Even the loss of a single ally in battle can be costly, as beasts who are knocked out before a fight is over don’t gain experience for the encounter, which hinders their advancement.

The computer does a pretty good job of managing the combat automatically if you tell it to, but one thing it won’t do is attempt to capture enemy beasts, which is obviously a vital part of building your forces. Much like the battles themselves, capturing a beast is never a sure thing. Different kinds of bait are available to help convince weakened enemies to join your side, but they’ll sometimes decline your generous offer. You’ll have to be careful if you want to bag the big ones.

Beastie Bay     Beastie Bay

While you’re busy battling beasts, you’ll also have to take care of your island. Every captured beast needs a place to live, as do the humans you encounter on your travels, and you’ll also have to harvest food and lumber to keep everyone fed and allow research and development to continue. Shops will allow you to buy and sell supplies, while a research station will open up advanced technologies that improve crop yields and make you more effective in battle. Ultimately, the goal is to turn your desolate island into a flourishing, far-flung tourist paradise with all the amenities. 

Visually, Beastie Bay is pure Kairosoft, with blocky, low-resolution graphics that still somehow manage to be cute. The game controls are relatively simple, and players who are a bit fat of finger can use the standard “pinch-zoom” maneuver to help them poke with precision. The music is also exactly what you’d expect: boisterous, high-energy tunes that can get downright frantic when the action starts. And in a nice touch, there’s a full day/night cycle that not only adds to the atmosphere but also has an impact on what beasts you’ll encounter while you’re out exploring. Some only come out at night, while others are strictly sun-lovers.

Beastie Bay provides an assistant who guides you through some of the basics of the game, but it doesn’t do a very good job of explaining what’s going on or how to best approach certain tasks. It’s not exactly brain surgery, and some players may even enjoy figuring things out on their own, but for all the numbers and information being thrown around very little effort is put into clarifying what any of it means. I stumbled over the simple act of building a home for my pet duck, to the point that I actually restarted the game.

But if you’re a fan of sprawling, simple and slightly oddball strategy games and don’t mind stumbling around a bit until you get your bearings, Beastie Bay is definitely worth a look. It’s big, it’s lively, it offers a lot to do and most important of all, it’s a lot of fun.