I love farming sims and cutesy creatures so of course Monster Harvest (opens in new tab), an RPG made by Maple Powered Games that's basically Pokémon meets Stardew Valley, caught my attention.
The story might sound a little familiar. Playing as an office worker tired of living in a bustling city, you conveniently receive a letter from your wacky Uncle inviting you to the countryside. Turns out, he's discovered a substance that can turn plants into animals and has named these hybrids planimals (get it?). He's now too busy rummaging around in the lab after this new revelation to look after his farm, which he has now left to you.
Starting from a single bag of seeds, you need to get the farm up and running by planting, watering, and nurturing your crops which you can then mutate into creatures that can be used to battle dungeon monsters.
Monster Harvest sounds like a game that is very much up my street so I took the free demo for a spin and the story is weirdly wonderful. The substance your Uncle discovered that can mutate plants into animals is a type of slime. Plant a potato in the ground, slap some slime on it, and in a couple of days, a spud with limbs will pop out of the ground.
The slime also has its uses outside of mutating plants, too. It's a resource that sits at the heart of the community, each character and business finding their own uses for it to the point where you can see glowing pipes around town. There's even a shady corporation, SlimeCo Pumping, that your Uncle suspects is using the slime for nefarious reasons.
The world setting has an interesting hook, but Monster Harvest is weighed down with laborious tasks and busywork, and that's coming from someone who planted 100 individual seedlings in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin (opens in new tab) and thought it was fun. The town's community is as wooden as a farm barn, you can barely get enough done in the day because the stamina bar depletes too quickly, the way battles carry out is tedious, and the worst part is that your creatures permanently die if you lose a fight—which is a pretty bad oversight.
It's a shame because there's so much potential for Monster Harvest, but it feels like a rough Early Access build rather than a complete game. As mentioned before, there's a free demo (opens in new tab) available over on the game's Steam page that you can check out if growing an army of small potato lads is something you've always wanted to do—just don't take them into battle unprepared, or you'll be left with nothing but mash.