A Worthwhile Story
By Richard Jewell
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on September 2nd, 2016 on Xbox One and PC
Developer/Publisher: GuGames Development
Stories of Bethem: Full Moon takes place, as you may have already guessed, in the magical kingdom of Bethem. Players take on the role of Khoma, a young boy whose father had been cursed by the Blue Witch while exploring the Indigo Woods. Now he must seek out the help of the Red Witch in hopes of breaking the curse and saving his father before it’s too late. Luckily, the Red Witch has good news... sort of. She can break the curse, but she will need Khoma to travel around the kingdom and gather the eight Oneiric objects needed to power the spell. This sends Khoma off on an epic journey to explore the vast reaches of the kingdom of Bethem. As an action/adventure/RPG with retro-styled pixelated graphics, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with the classic games that it was inspired by, such as Zelda: A Link to the Past. It shares many similarities but is so much more than a simple imitation knock off. It also features an excellent modern soundtrack, for which I’m grateful because if I’m going to be completely honest, I’m not really a fan of chiptunes. There are some games out there that have excellent chiptune soundtracks but for the most part, they grate on my ears and my nerves after listening to them for more than thirty minutes at a time. The musical tracks in this game suit the mood perfectly, whether it’s a jaunty tune complete with flutes and string instruments that make it the perfect background music for exploring, or the brooding, ominous tunes that accompany you throughout the main dungeons.
To help explore Bethem with its many nooks and crannies, wild monsters, and puzzle-filled dungeons, Khoma must rely on his magic. Khoma is given a magical bracelet by the Red Witch, which he can use in conjunction with special orbs found around Bethem to allow him to use a variety of spells. Not only are the spells used for helping Khoma defeat the plethora of monsters he will encounter in his travels, they are also used for puzzle solving and exploring. For example, Khoma can use his fireball spell to burn down a log that is blocking his path to another area. Or, he can use his water spell to put out a fire that is blocking a treasure chest. In the games main dungeons where each Oneiric object is located, you will be solving plenty of puzzles before you reach the main boss of the dungeon. There are a variety of different puzzles to solve, with increasing difficulty as you progress through the game, but they generally follow the same formula. Push rocks past obstacles to fill up the ground holes. Or, find and light a certain amount of candles to get rid of the blocks stopping you from continuing onwards. And of course, the basic kill everyone in the room to progress to the next one. One of my favorites involves trying to knock a hot air balloon into a fire. The balloon sits in an enclosed area. You must hit it with a spell to make it move, but once you hit it, it flies straight away from you and doesn’t stop until it hits something solid. So to make it go to the fire you must run around the outside and knock it into the proper direction until it sails right into the fire. The harder variations add destructible bushes in the center so you have to decide what to break and what to leave untouched to make a proper path for the balloon. I found most of the puzzles to be easily doable, but there were a couple of instances where they frustrated the hell out of me! Like all classic RPGs, the amount of damage he can take before dying and the amount of magic spells he can cast are displayed in the form of an HP and MP bar. You can refill HP and MP by finding hearts and blue orbs dropped by defeated enemies or by smashing barrels and grass. MP also regenerates by itself, though slowly. There are other options as well. Before bosses, there are yellow fountains that can fully restore both your HP and MP, save points that can also restore a little bit of your HP/MP, but only up to a certain point, and lastly, Khoma can also purchase healing and magic potions, though you can only carry a certain amount. Early on in the game, Khoma finds a tailor shop which offers him the chance to purchase new costumes that offer him bonus effects to help him on his adventure. These effects range from being able to find more money from enemies and smashing objects to helping locate buried truffles, one of the game's many collectibles.
Speaking of collectibles, this game has plenty. If you want to 100% complete this game and join the illustrious Bethem VIP club, you need to complete all the side quests and find all the treasure chests. Completing side quests often give you great rewards, usually in the form of new spell orbs, or items that increase your health and magic points. One of the most useful things hidden around Bethem is the Unknown Medals. By collecting these, you can take them to the Green Witch, and in exchange, she will power up your bracelet to make your spells more powerful, make your MP recover faster, and make it easier to capture the monster souls. Collecting monster souls are necessary for another side quest offered by the museum of Bethem. The owner of Bethem’s museum asks you to collect the souls of defeated monsters so he can gain info and make a statue of them to display in the museum. Once a monster is beaten, there is a small chance that it will drop a soul. Once you grab it, a button mashing prompt appears, and if you don’t press the button fast enough to fill up the bar in the time limit, you fail and have to wait until the next time one drops before trying again. A large number of collectibles give you plenty of reasons to take your time exploring the kingdom.
Stories of Bethem is a great game, but it is not without its problems. GuGames Development is a small indie game studio based in Spain, with only one (!!!) developer working there, so keeping that in mind this game is quite the accomplishment. The English translation can sound a little strange sometimes, with a few grammatical errors here and there, but ultimately it does not detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the game. I experienced a more serious issue later on in the game, during the Deity’s Castle area. The game crashed on me on two separate occasions as I double-tapped the Xbox guide button to go into the sidebar menu. It was the only time I had that problem, so I guess it was an isolated glitch of some sort. Other than that, the game runs quite smoothly. The game runs about 20 hours long, so if you are looking for a light-hearted, humorous adventure filled with quirky characters, lots of exploration and puzzle-filled dungeons rife with monsters, I highly recommend giving Stories of Bethem : Full Moon a shot. As for me, I’m off to go find the last of the treasure chests so I can get into the Bethem VIP Club!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 8.5/10
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