Coromon - Nurse

There are two things that I do in every single Pokémon game I play.

  1. Pick a fire starter.
  2. Get a Magikarp and try to evolve it to Gyarados as soon as possible.

This is a top-notch early-game strategy, as it covers both fire and water types. It’s very likely that you’ll encounter a grass-based gym or a fire-based gym pretty early on, and this sets you on your way to being able to deal with those effectively.

However, Coromon is not a Pokémon game. At least, not officially. So I decided to break from my well-established strategy and do something different. Coromon, for example, features an ice starter called Cubzero, which is described in-game as an all-rounder. That ended up being my pick for my first save file (I did create a second save file just to see what the fire starter was all about).

Also, you don’t get a surfboard until you’ve defeated the game’s second Titan, and you can’t go fishing until you have one. So even though Flowish evolves into Daricara (which is the closest comparison to Magikarp/Gyarados), you won’t encounter a Flowish until you’re well into mid-game (at least, I certainly didn’t, and I explored every area pretty thoroughly). So I had to rethink my party composition a bit.

Coromon - Soggy Swamp

I bring all this up because this anecdote is a microcosm of the game as a whole. When you start playing Coromon, your brain will automatically switch into Pokémon mode, which means you will conceptualize Coromon in terms of what you already know from Pokémon. If you’ve ever played a Pokémon game, you really won’t be able to think of Coromon outside of that context.

This isn’t a bad thing, and the creative team behind Coromon is certainly self-aware enough to understand this. In fact, when I talked to TRAGsoft’s Jochem Pouwels and Marcel van der Made at E3 2021, they cited Pokemon as an influence, alongside other titles like The Legend of Zelda, Chrono Trigger, and EarthBound.

After my experience with the game at E3, I said that Coromon attempts to do with Pokémon what Stardew Valley did with Harvest Moon — it takes the series back to its pixelated roots and then adds in some of the conveniences of modern technology (with some absolutely phenomenal music). Having played Coromon for more than 50 hours now, I think this statement still rings true (and the music is great here as well).

The basic formula for Coromon is immediately familiar. You’re a kid sent out into a world of strange creatures, which you must capture, collect, and evolve. These creatures have types, and some types are weak to other types in a rock-paper-scissors fashion.

While Coromon never truly carves out its own unique identity, it does a few small things to differentiate itself. It’s kind of like the kid in school who really admires another kid, so they dress just like that person, only with a slightly different hairstyle and different-colored shoelaces.

Coromon - Serpike

The best example might be in the tiered Potential system. In Pokémon, you might encounter a shiny version of a particular creature, which is a super-rare version with a different color palette. In Coromon, there are actually 21 rarities for each critter. a Coromon’s “Potential” value determines how fast its stats grow, and there are three different color variations to denote this (labeled as Standard, Potent, and Perfect). While a vast majority of the Coromon you encounter will be of the Standard variety, you will see Potent versions fairly regularly. Perfect Coromon, though, have that once-in-a-blue-moon quality that makes shiny Pokémon so sought-after.

I really love this system. I think that attempting to catch Potent variations of all 114 Coromon is actually a feasible goal for those who put in the work, though it will take quite a bit of grinding. At the same time, it makes finding a Perfect Coromon a true spectacle, something that makes your heart race and your eyes pop out of your skull. It gives collectors a mid-tier option to obtain without diminishing the value of the highest tier.

Coromon also excels in its puzzle design. Whereas Pokémon tends to keep its puzzles super-simple (move a block on top of this switch to open the door), Coromon gives you some real head-scratchers. For me, the closest comparison to Coromon‘s puzzle design would be the original Wild Arms for PSOne. These are puzzles that force you to pay attention and sometimes even grab a notebook (or you can use an online guide, I suppose).

But it’s not all roses and puppies and heart-shaped candies. There are a few places where I think Coromon overindulges in its systems to its own detriment.

Coromon - Purrgy

For example, there’s one point (right before the second Titan), where you end up in the body of a Purrgy and you have to collect lost souls in potion bottles. There are nine souls to collect around the haunted village of Pawbury, and once you collect all nine, you’ll feel pretty done with that side gimmick, ready to take on the Titan.

However, at that point, your potion bottles pour into a larger potion bottle, and text appears that says “1/5.” Yeah, you have to do this same thing (in different areas with increasing difficulties) not once, not twice, but five times.

To make matters worse, I got myself into a situation where I had tripped a gate that can only be opened from one side. The trigger-side switches, so you should be able to always activate it from whichever side you’re on. However, I hit one of the “bad” souls, which counted as a fail state and sent me back to the most recent checkpoint. The problem is that this sent me to the opposite side of the gate, perpetually locking me in. I don’t know if there’s an alternative way out, because after about 15 minutes of searching, I just loaded an older save file, which means I had to do this whole first section over again.

Later in the game, on the way to the fourth Titan, you’ll have to do some training to prove that you’re worthy of the Tremor module (which you’ll need to progress further into the game). There’s a section where you have to jump over a moving beam, which speeds up and slows down to try to throw you off. You can’t pass this section until you’ve managed 35 consecutive successful jumps. Yeah, 35. I think a normal game would have made that 10 or 15, and a game that reveled in its own difficulty a bit might bump that to 20. But Coromon demands 35.

Shortly after that, you have to get a score of 50 or better in an arcade game called Flappy Swurmy, which is basically a Flappy Bird clone. This is actually really hard (at least for me it was; maybe I’m just really, really bad at Flappy Swurmy). The first time I beat that score, I accidentally hit the “Yes” button to try again instead of the “No” button, which would have exited the game. So I failed the next round on purpose just to get out of the game and turn in the quest, but the NPC would only acknowledge my most recent score. This means I had to do it all over again and beat the score a second time.

Coromon - Flappy Swurmy

It’s in places like this where Coromon can start to get tedious. A single activity can roadblock your progress for a really long time, and there are places where I think people are going to be tempted to bounce off the game. If Coromon really wishes to indulge in itself, I would much rather have it do so by giving players more Coromon to collect rather than extensive side-activities that bog down the game’s pacing.

With all that said, Coromon never escapes the shadow of its predecessor. Then again, it doesn’t really try to. Even with the game’s title, you can tell that TRAGSoft is inviting the Pokémon comparisons rather than attempting to shrug them off. That’s fair; there’s plenty of room in this sea for more Pokémon-likes, and giving players more options might force Game Freak to think a little harder about what they want Pokémon to be in the future. I think that’s a positive thing.

So Coromon might not be perfect, but it’s a scrappy little Pokémon-like with compelling gameplay and a really great soundtrack. It’s ideas may not be super innovative, but some of the tweaks it makes to the formula are appreciated (especially the Potential system). If you love Pokémon and pixel art, you’re going to enjoy Coromon just fine.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for Coromon for Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x