Fledgling developer Monstars Inc. possesses some enviable talent; its creative team alone boasts several Q Entertainment alumni, with the likes of Rez, Lumines and Child Of Eden on their CVs. The studio’s iOS debut Kotomon therefore arrives with a heightened sense of anticipation, which makes the resultant mess that much more disappointing.
Your rotund avatar is tasked with guiding a number of small aliens through a variety of environments to the safety of a campfire at the end of each stage. These monsters double as shields and ammunition: Kotomon is vulnerable to the attacks of unfriendly extraterrestrials when not clutching a creature, which can also be bowled into groups of enemies with a tap.
There are clear echoes of Pikmin in the pleasingly simple setup, and such economy of design would work were it not for a litany of flaws that sap all enjoyment from your quest. The floating virtual joystick used for movement proves problematic when negotiating difficult terrain, and coupled with some woeful AI pathfinding and a camera that sits far too close to the action, it’s all too easy to lose sight of both your allies and incoming projectiles. It’s an unforgiving world: the loss of an ally or a single direct hit leads to the game over screen, while unpredictable rolls and ricochets frequently – and frustratingly – prove fatal in the later stages, with quicksand and lava hazards ever ready to claim your diminutive charges.
Kotomon does offer fleeting moments of pleasure, mostly aural: your footsteps are accompanied by the sound of a gently brushed hi-hat, while a perfect arcing shot into a long line of enemies offers both score bonuses and additional musical layers, with the soundtrack further enriched by eating the fruit which lines the route to the level exit. A little Mizuguchi magic has rubbed off on his former colleagues, then, but otherwise this is a bitter reminder that pedigree is no guarantee of quality.