The Denpa Men is actually quite charming and innovative, despite reeking of Pokemon.
Every so often, a game comes along that is nearly impossible to define on its own terms. Darksiders, Sleeping Dogs, Battlefield 3’s main campaign, and Dead Island are fine examples of games that can be easily described by just naming a similar game. You could talk about Dead Island’s four player co-op zombie killing mayhem with the promise of crazy loot, or you could just say ‘It’s like Borderlands and Left 4 Dead combined’ and assume the people reading a video game website know what you’re talking about. So I hope you’ll forgive me when I say The Denpa Men is basically Pokemon if Pokemon took full advantage of the 3DS’ technology.
It’s a little more complicated than I made it seem, to be fair. Sure, you catch different kinds of little monster men to help you fight enemies, certain kinds are weak to certain elements, combat is turn-based, and there are monsters based on everyday things except they can kill you. But catching aforementioned monster men isn’t as simple as wading into some grass and just throwing spheres willy-nilly. You’ve got to put in some work!
Catching Denpa Men is done using the 3DS’ Augmented Reality feature; what you see in your camera has an impact on which Denpa Men appear, so moving around your house yields different Denpa Men.
And you’ll need different ‘Men if you want to survive the game’s various dungeons. The game is actually fairly difficult from the outset, but gets less difficult once your party has more to do besides ‘attack’. The enemies are strong, and you’ll need to grind quite a lot before your party is able to actually move forward without too much opposition.
The plot isn’t up to much; there’s an ‘Evil King’ and you need to kill said evil king. However, the individual dialogue is fairly charming, which is probably helped quite a bit by the equally charming visual style. The Denpa Men themselves look like the guys from Katamari, and the rest of the world has a very bright and round look. Everything is just really nice to look at, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a full console game done in this kind of visual style.
I’m a bit sad there isn’t more to talk about here. My time with The Denpa Men was consistently endearing, and I want to like it very much, but there’s maybe not enough happening on the surface to separate it from Pokemon. If you like the Pokemon series, which I generally do, you’ll enjoy The Denpa Men just as much, even if the difficulty curve does unfairly waver a little. It’s also the best argument for the 3DS I’ve seen thus far, which give it reason enough to exist.