Monster mash

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 June, 2006, 12:00am

Monster Hunter Freedom for the Sony PSP, published by Capcom, can be best described as Conan the Barbarian meets The Lost World. It is a PS2 portable that needed extra time in which to address some issues that should have been fixed by its release for PlayStation's little brother.

The game's premise is fairly simple: the player has to embark on quests and gain experience to rise through the ranks of monster hunters. Quests require players to hunt and gather. Hunting involves going out and killing monsters, while gathering usually means running around in search of herbs, mushrooms or monster eggs (the most dangerous of gathering quests).

The hunting quests are the most fun - how could hacking, slashing and dicing dinosaurs not be? Quests can also be undertaken in groups of four players using a WLAN connection.

The computer-generated intro movie for the game is awesome - like watching an episode of BBC documentary series Walking with Dinosaurs. In-game graphics are equally spectacular. The sound is just as great and helps the player feel they are in a jungle or forest.

The controls are fairly simple. There are two sets - one for when the player is in a village and another for when they are on a quest. The analogue button controls the basic navigation of the player's character; the directional buttons control the camera view in both settings.

Yet Monster Hunter still suffers from the same problems that plague the console version. The bad auto-camera positioning and awkward combat system are still there, and more irritating still is the lack of a lock-on system for fighting, which means players find most of their attacks hitting thin air.

The Hong Kong English edition of Monster Hunter comes with a helpful, 80-page Chinese booklet explaining the ins and outs of the game and giving detailed statistics about the monsters and weapons.

The game is definitely worth buying, even with its quirks, because it offers some unique game play and has a great, 40-plus multiplayer online feature.