Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook – Review
Follow Genre: Turn-based strategy RPG
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Switch, PS4, PS5
Tested on: Switch

Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook – Review

Site Score
Good: Game becomes better if you stick with it.
Bad: Bland and generic soundscape
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Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Last year we mentioned how packed Square Enix’s release schedule on the Switch was, but it seems like this year NIS America is aiming for the crown of most releases on the platform in a single year. They’ve released a staggering amount of games already, but also managed to keep up a consistency streak in terms of quality.  Does the publisher’s latest release, Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook cook up an experience that can stand proudly alongside excellent titles like Void Terrarium 2 and GrimGrimoire OnceMore or is this a matter of quantity over quality?


For an RPG, Monster Menu is surprisingly light on story, partially because the characters are blank slates by design. The idea is that you create party members yourself, although there are default designs and names available for each member of the main cast. These correspond with the characters as they are depicted in the game’s default artwork. Monster Menu starts out with your first party member finding themselves stranded in the wild and starving at the beginning of the campaign. Upon coming across a recently deceased monster, this hapless adventurer has no choice but to scavenge on the remains in order to survive. This awakens a craving for more monster meals. Before long, more adventurers join up with our hungry protagonist, and a party is formed with the goal of sampling the exotic delights that can be found in the monster-infested environment. Storywise, the idea is that the party is simply trying to survive and return to the civilized world, but let’s be honest here: munching down on the severed leg of a goblin-like creature irrevocably changes you.


While Monster Menu’s color palette isn’t as bright and saturated as many of NIS’ other releases, the chibi character design aesthetic certainly feels recognizable. Because Monster Menu doesn’t rely on having actual fleshed-out characters, however, the cast feels generic and lacks individual personalities, despite the fact that you can personalize their appearance. Monster designs also aren’t all that memorable either, although there isn’t anything wrong with them apart from a lack of identity. As for visual performance, at this point, you’d expect NIS to be able to create a game that plays to the strengths of the Switch’s hardware. They certainly deliver on this front, and we didn’t run into any issues concerning frame rate or other graphics hiccups.


We’d describe Monster Menu’s soundscape as generic as well, if it wasn’t for the frustratingly annoying one-liners that the cast keeps repeating over and over again as they interact with the environment or face off against monsters. Hearing the same phrases over and over again made us turn off the game’s sound rather quickly. Not that we were missing out on much as the game’s OST isn’t particularly memorable, and NIS seemingly relies on its stock library for sound effects. Everything about Monster Menu‘s soundscape feels phoned in, unfortunately.


Just like with the narrative, Monster Menu’s gameplay isn’t overly deep or complex. The game takes the default turn-based strategy RPG formula we’ve seen NIS tackle a dozen times, and sprinkles it with survival game elements. The result is something that we would describe as Disgaea meets Monster Hunter, at least in terms of concept. Taking control of your party, you hunt down various monsters. Your victims are then cut up into tasty ingredients which are used to cook meals for your ever-voracious party. Rinse and repeat. There is of course a bit more depth to what Monster Menu has to offer, but the above encapsulates the majority of what this culinary adventure has to offer.

The campaign is structured around a series of multi-floor dungeons that the party has to make their way through. Every few floors or so, you’ll be able to rest and recover your party members with meals cooked from the body parts you were able to scavenge from previous kills. This makes for an interesting risk-reward balance. Do you kill everything in sight to gather as many ingredients as possible or do you avoid enemies for a better chance at survival? Should your party leader perish, you’ll have to restart the dungeon, so either way, your main focus should be on keeping that specific party member alive and taking risks with the others. No matter what strategy you choose to employ, reaching a mid-dungeon campsite is always a relief. Monster Menu’s camp phase is surprisingly deep and fleshed out, offering you not just a chance to recover your party and buff them with carefully cooked meals, but also to repair and improve equipment, making your party more efficient. As you progress, more recipes and better gear are unlocked, although the game’s pacing could have been sped up as it takes a while before this aspect of the game becomes actually interesting.

Having a balanced party is the key to success. As we mentioned, the adventurers that make up your team are player-created, and with a rather varied set of weapons and classes available, there is a surprising amount of tactical depth. Despite this, combat itself is easy enough to understand. If you’ve ever played one of NIS’ previous turn-based strategy RPGs, things should be intuitive and familiar. That’s not to say that things are easy, because the game can really knock you for a loop. Early on, a surprise boss battle knocked out the entire party in a single hit, and due to the roguelike nature of Monster Menu, that meant starting over the entire dungeon. While this may feel frustrating or unfair to more casual players, this is entirely by design, and overall, Monster Menu feels surprisingly balanced, even if there is going to be a lot of backtracking involved. As you might expect, Monster Menu is a lengthy affair, and in all honesty, it took us a while to get into the game. Early on, things felt generic and dare we say it, boring. It wasn’t until several hours into the campaign that things clicked. This is a game that rewards those that stick with it, but if you’re looking for a game that immediately sinks its claws into you instead of a slow burn, then this one isn’t it.


While our initial impression of Monster Menu was that this was going to be another run-of-the-mill turn-based strategy RPG, that changed somewhat as we persevered and stuck with the game. That’s not to say that this is an outstanding title, but if you make it past a certain point, the game goes from “outright underwhelming” to “mediocre but entertaining”. The first few hours of the game certainly feel generic, to the point that we wouldn’t fault you if you dismissed the game early on. If you do take the plunge, we do recommend sticking with it, as the game becomes a lot more fun and interesting as you unlock new recipes, gear, and abilities, even if it never rises above average. It certainly isn’t the best of what NIS has to offer, but there are far worse options out there.

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Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Monster Menu: The Scavenger's Cookbook - Review, 5.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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