The world of DIY is a scary place for those unskilled in its wily ways. While there's doubtless significant savings to be made by doing all those odd-jobs around the house yourself – savings not only of money, but also of alpha-male face – DIY is a minefield. Don't take our word for it: reports say that 20,000 people are injured in DIY-related incidents each year in the UK alone.

Won't somebody think of the children?

Thankfully, Gurumin's concept shows that's exactly what somebody has been doing, although with reckless abandon. Adorably pig-tailed girl finds monster village in the back alley of a boring mining town? Fine, fine. Said monster village gets destroyed by nasties and requires the girl to save the day? Yeah, no problem. Girl is bestowed with a legendary power drill to aid her quest? Oh no, no, no – we'd better check with Health & Safety first.

But given her circumstances, we suppose she's allowed a little bit of fun. Dumped unceremoniously on her grandfather's doorstep by her explorer parents, Parin faces a long stay in a mining town where not only are there no other children but no other people too, as a result of the town's inhabitants spending all their time toiling down the mine.

It's lucky, then, that the monster village she discovers is inhabited by a number of charmingly oddball creatures. Single-shaded and blobby they may be, but each displays a Hayao Miyazaki-esque display of personality through primitive form, further compounded by bizarre characterisation. What other game features a tall purple monster with an obsession for French cuisine and culture, or starts off with an intro movie of a breakdancing blob?

This sense of style even encompasses doe-eyed heroine Parin, whose sharp tongue will raise the occasional smile and please those who tire of the RPG hero archetypes of either overly-nice or exasperatingly moody.

Given the game's bright and easy-breezy tone, it's no surprise that the game doesn't feature much in the way of story. Neatly, progress grants not plot development but instead a surprisingly satisfying view of the town's gradual rebirth.

Presentation-wise, Gurumin doesn't disappoint, with varied dungeon environments and a pleasantly detailed (albeit small) section of the human town to explore. All of the many cut-scenes in the game are fully voice-acted and, while suffering from the sort of flat delivery that still plagues most games, nevertheless contribute to a polished feel.

Actual play reveals the game to be a dungeon crawler at heart, with few overground exploration areas available. Suiting its host platform perfectly, each dungeon is a relatively short affair – most taking under half an hour to reach the end – whereupon you are greeted with a piece of furniture stolen from the attack on the monster town. Returning these items to their rightful owner unlocks a further piece of the map and thus another dungeon. Aside from the occasional punctuation of boss battles, this is pretty much the pattern of play.

That may sound dull, but thanks to a solid fighting system the dungeon sections are actually rather enjoyable. Playing like a combination of Zelda and a super-scaled back Street Fighter, Parin can string together combo attacks with her drill and unleash special attacks with some deft button-pressing and stick-spinning.

Encounters may often fall back to mashing the X button, but dodging and mid-air juggling become more important as the game progresses and enemies get tougher.

Rather than Parin 'levelling up' and increasing her own abilities, development is handled through extra add-ons for her drill, equipment and special moves that can be purchased in the town, while equipment can be further upgraded with junk metal collected from felled enemies.

Despite all this praise, Gurumin is not perfect: the camera can be troublesome at times; there's at least one occasion where the game makes you backtrack to the point of insanity; it occasionally feels a little samey; and some of the boss battles are too hard for their own good. And yet the lasting resonance is a great one.

In the end, there's very little else like it: unashamedly cheerful but with substance to back it up, Gurumin can easily be recommended to both action RPG fans and those wishing for an excellent, accident-free introduction to the genre.


Quirky and bold, Gurumin proves that a simple dungeon-crawler can be as compulsive as even the most heavily-scripted affair