Cassette Beasts is a monster collecting, turn-based RPG from developer Bytten Studios and published by Raw Fury. As you wash up on a strange island, you soon find that you have traveled to a new and dangerous world. An Island full of monsters. But luckily, some local inhabitants are ready to teach you the ropes of how to survive the dangers you now face as you search for a way home. I got to experience the opening moments of this journey in my preview of Cassette Beasts and it promises not only fun monster-collecting battles but some elements that may be enough to draw in some who have never been interested in the genre’s mainstream series.
Soon after you awaken on this strange island, you meet Kayleigh, who introduces you to the ins and outs of the world you now find yourself in. When you run into your first monster on your way to the local settlement, Harbor Town, Kayleigh gifts you with a magic tape player that allows you to transform into a monster. But not only can you transform into one, but utilizing blank tapes you can even copy the monsters you encounter and then swap between forms. Once a form is acquired, it can be leveled up to unlock new abilities, as well as be customized with the help of stickers that can be applied to the monster’s cassette.
Capturing, leveling, and customizing the various monster forms you acquire is the central focus of the preview I got to play of Cassette Beasts. The fun battles that facilitate this growth were simplistic but had the potential to become more complex as the game progressed. Characters gained AP during combat that can be spent to unleash powerful attacks and abilities. Choosing when to utilize these abilities seems one of the gameplay’s core elements.
Each form the player takes has its own health bar, allowing the player to swap between forms to keep characters active. If a form drops to zero health, its cassette must be fixed either with an item or at a camping spot. When copying an enemy’s form, the player is present in their normal body. Damage inflicted on the player at this time goes to the player’s health pool. If the player ever runs out of health they must retreat to Harbor Town to recover.
With monsters everywhere, it would be dangerous to go alone, luckily for the player, Kayleigh volunteers to accompany them on their adventure. Kayleigh functions just like the player character, able to swap forms and copy enemies. But while the presence of a second party member opens up the tactical possibilities of combining powers and utilizing more combat advantages like elemental weaknesses, there is a larger element to Kayleigh that may prove an additional selling point to some players.
As players fight alongside Kayleigh, the bond between the two characters grows to allow the player to learn about Kayleigh. This also provides them bonuses in combat, particularly the ability to fuse their monster forms, creating a more powerful creature. But while I only got to fight alongside Kayleigh in my preview, Cassette Beasts promises that there will be more party members that can be teamed up with. Strengthening bonds and learning about party members is a huge lure for some gamers. With many monster collecting games being light on character development, this approach looks like a smart way to help the game stand out from many others in the genre.
The other aspect that stood out to me about this monster collector is how hard it leans into the music theme. With music cassettes being integral to the story, Cassette Beasts also delivers a fun, pop-driven soundtrack that feels fitting with the aesthetic of the game and also keeps the moment-to-moment experience feeling laid back and relaxed.
The visuals deliver a fun, top-down pixel art look, that shifts to the classic side view battles that turn-based RPG fans will be all too familiar with. The game also offers a solid customization suite that allows the player to craft the character they want. Everything from hairstyles and color, to clothing, and pronoun choice are there for the player to modify, allowing them to make their ideal avatar.
While my preview of Cassette Beasts was brief, I enjoyed what I got to play thoroughly. If the game can expand on its combat in an interesting and engaging way, while also bringing a satisfying payoff to its promised relationship-building elements, Cassette Beasts could find a place that not only lets it stand out from the pack but manage to attract players who would pass on others in its genre.
Cassette Beasts is scheduled for release on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Xbox Game Pass in 2023.