Want a Great Pokemon-like Game? Skip Palworld, and Check Out Cassette Beasts

There’s no doubt that by now you’ve heard of Palworld, the open world survival-crafting game that has hit PC, Xbox, and Game Pass like a tidal wave. This indie game from Pocket Pair Inc. has broken numerous records, with 5 million sales in its first week as well as holding the top spot on Steam for most concurrent players on a paid game ever. As a lifelong Pokemon fan, I too have been consistently disappointed by Game Freak’s output over the last 10 years with the sole exception of Pokemon Legends Arceus. I get it. Disgruntled fans want Pokemon, but good instead. Palworld is not it.

Palworld Mining Paldium Fragment
If you’re not looking for a game with mining, crafting, survival mechanics, building, and endless grind, Palworld is not for you.

Despite the premise basically being “Pokemon with guns,” Palworld does not deliver a single similarity to Pokemon outside of the monster designs looking like straight rip-offs. To me, this game is a flash in the pan that will get boring for most as soon as the novelty of “what if I had a shotgun and could shoot Pikachu in the head” wears off. More importantly, though, Palworld is not an RPG. It doesn’t feature turn-based combat, leveling up, stat builds, and instead is very similar to games like Ark Survival Evolved or Rust. However, a little known indie game from 2023, Cassette Beasts has all that and more. As a diehard Pokemon fan, Cassette Beasts managed to deliver a meaningful iteration on the open world RPG formula while still being its own thing and not straight up lifting designs from its inspiration.

Cassette
Cassette Beasts manages to make totally new monsters that are just as endearing as Pokemon but have their own style.

Cassette Beasts begins with your self-created character waking up on a beach and discovering you are trapped in the strange world of New Wirral with no way out. A young woman named Kayleigh appears to guide you through your new world, and you fall deeply in love with her. Actually, that might have just been me. But you can romance her! In this strange world, people suddenly appear, and they can never leave, and no one has any concept of time – you’ll spend the rest of your days here. Might as well spend them interacting with the island’s wild inhabitants, the titular cassette beasts! And wait… these monster designs are… good? And original? Not only are they pleasing to look at, evocative of super-powered pets, and bestowed with catchy pun names that rival Pokémon – it is a miracle that even with over 1,000 existing Pokémon, none of the Cassette Beasts I’ve seen seem to be a rip of an existing Nintendo monster.

CB2
Cassette beasts will interact with each other in strange ways out in the wild sometimes.

While keeping the beloved 2D top down aesthetic of Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen, Cassette Beasts finds its own identity in vibes, atmosphere, and tone. Immediately, the world is much more threatening than in Pokemon: battles with both trainers and wild mons are much more brutal, and there’s no free healing stops out there in the wild. Another kicker – status conditions and debuffs stick to you when you switch monsters, so no switching during a big battle to avoid the poisoned condition you just got. And yes, all monsters are present in the overworld – no random encounters here. Once you leave town, you’re surviving until you can’t survive anymore, engaging in difficult turn-based battles with monsters that will chase you across the map at first sight. The elemental chart is complicated, but you don’t need to memorize it – rather than doing double or half damage, elemental advantages bestow buffs or nerfs on enemies like lowering their attack power or evasion, or stopping them from using specific kinds of attacks for a few turns. And it’s all laid out plainly in the UI so you know exactly what each move will do.

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Cassette beasts has a few cool companions to choose from! But choose Kayleigh.

Combat is additionally more strategic because every single battle is a double battle, and catching monsters is a much more involved process that fails a lot. It’s also a lot more satisfying and much more of an event when you pull it off, because it is difficult. The best catch rate you’ll likely get is 50%, but even that is a reach – opposing monsters will always try to attack your human with the recorder and stop them. This is the kind of iterating I’d love to see from Pokémon but absolutely never will. In order to obtain a new monster, you need to record it and make a duplicate, rather than actually catching it – once you’ve got a new Candevil recorded, the old one stays in the wild, and you get a copy on a funky fresh cassette tape. You can explore the world further to find new and more powerful mons in new biomes by getting new overwold abilities (similar to HMs) that don’t need to use up a valuable slot on your beasts’ moveset, and which are obtained in fun and unique ways.

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These fusions are mostly AI-generated, but man, if they don’t look hand-drawn every single time.

I’ve been sort of burying the lede here, so time to reveal the main draw of Cassette Beasts! Alongside evolutions, it also features it a temporary fusion mechanic. Building up your fusion meter during battle lets you combine any two of the 120 monsters into a staggering 14,000 possible fusions that combine their abilities and get a new design. Most of them are AI-generated, but I’d swear the majority of them are hand-drawn with how much character they have. Fusion is something I save for tough miniboss enemies in the wild or the brutally difficult Archangel bosses. Oh yeah, you’ve got to fight Eldritch beings from another dimension, but whateves. Who has time for that when there’s gym leaders to beat and Team Landkeeper to put in their place?

Cassette Beasts was plainly born from love for what the Pokemon series used to be and a wish to iterate on it in a way that Game Freak refuses to. Palworld is born from a distaste of what Pokemon has become, and the results between the two could not be more different. With unforgettable music, amazing artwork, a good story featuring great characters, and a roster of monsters designed with quality in mind, I can’t recommend Cassette Beasts enough. Whether you’ve completely given up on Pokemon altogether, or are like me and still playing each entry hoping they’ll get better, you have a home in New Wirral.

Cassette Beasts is available on Steam (Deck Verified), PC & Console Game Pass, and Nintendo Switch. Get it!

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Rickstaman
Rickstaman
1 month ago

Hmm, tempting. The whole gun thing with Palworld is what puts me off it. I’ve not played it but it feels like a fad. Got a massive backlog, but will check Cassette Beasts out at some point. Thanks for the recco.

ARStudios2000
ARStudios2000
15 days ago

Interesting recommendation! I should check it out.

However, I would recommend you keep the article more focused on the actual topic instead of spending a quarter of the article dissing PalWorld and getting details about it wrong (PalWorld actually does have levelling up, stat builds, and you’re really ignoring and dismissing a lot of its own original designs too. Not to mention saying “most of the (Casette Beasts) fusion designs are AI generated” is not a good promo, since PalWorld literally just got out of controversy over AI usage and came out with no proof or evidence, and you’re here telling us this recommended game DOES use AI art? It also wasn’t made with distaste for Pokemon, the CEO straight up admitted he made the game because he just thought it would sell well).

It adds a layer of unprofessionalism, and makes it look like you wrote this article more to convey a distaste to PalWorld than actually recommending a better game.