X-Radar Portable for the PSP - which failed to reach UK shores - lit up dreary commutes across Japan by adding a social gaming element to satellite navigation. Monster Radar is a substantial evolution of that unusual pairing.
We all know that there are monsters all around us: lying in wait under the bed or hiding in the wardrobe. Maybe there's one behind you right now. Unfortunately, they can't be seen with the naked eye.
In Monster Radar you track down, catch, and study a hundred of them, and help your team of scientists win the 'Mobel Prize'.
Gotta net them all
Using Sony's own Peta Maps, Monster Radar shows your location and any monsters around you. The maps aren't as detailed as Google's, but they're more than good enough for this game's purposes.
Cute blue Pac-Man ghost-esque icons indicate the locations of monsters, and these turn pink if you get close enough.
Once you've got a monster in range you whip out your net and bag it. At this point you get to use your PS Vita's augmented reality features, and the effect is suitably nifty.
Some monsters are quicker than others, or move erratically, so there's a compass overlaid to help you keep track. After the thrill of the chase, actually netting a monster is rather prosaic - you just tap on the screen when you've managed to get it centred.
After capturing a monster, you have to visit the lab. This actually serves as the game's central hub, with five rooms each offering different functions.
The first room is where you look after your specimens. There are plenty of ways to interact with your new pets, including the usual feeding, petting, and poop-cleaning. You can also tilt your Vita or tap the rear touch panel to cause objects in their cages to roll around. This boosts their mood at first, but they soon grow bored.
Unfortunately, so will you.
In other rooms of the lab you can experiment with your subjects, testing their reactions to different foods or medicines, or dressing them up in clothes and accessories. It's even possible to free your prisoners, sending them off with gifts and messages for other Near players to pick up.
On the search
The main menu navigation - sliding from room to room within the lab - is smart and simple, as are most of the interactions with your captive monsters. Unfortunately, the remaining functions in the game are hidden in tedious and confusing menus.
The menus for options, player and monster stats, online rankings, and shopping for more monsters and goods are all spread out across specific rooms, which can be a hassle.
You'll need to do plenty of travelling to collect all the monsters, since each type lives in a different place. The best monster of all, the beer monster, is found near pubs, but the tennis ball monster - a member of the local tennis clubs -might prove a little more elusive depending on how close you are to a sports centre.
There's just not that much content to be found here, and the monsters, while adorable and numerous, are presented very simplistically.
Ultimately, Monster Radar feels like it would be more at home on a mobile than on a high-end handheld device. It's perfectly fine as a showcase for the PS Vita's GPS and augmented reality functionality, but it won't be long before you've caught all the monsters you can be bothered to catch and the game falls off your radar.