A few weeks ago, Nintendo released four new StreetPass games for the 3DS. Unfortunately, it’s hard to reliably find StreetPass tags even when living in a densely populated area. Luckily, there is a way to guarantee StreetPass hits: conventions! Arcade Sushi recently took our 3DSes to Otakon to see how these games fare under heavy StreetPass traffic, in order to give them a fair review. Today we cover Monster Manor, a bizarre combination of puzzle game and RPG.

Monster Manor takes place in a Manor, 30 floors of a Manor to be precise. You and pretty much everyone else out in StreetPass Land has become lost in the mansion. It’s up to you to fight your way through the darkened floors, beating off specters and spooks, until you finally find the exit.

Every person to StreetPass has a “piece of the map” to share with you. What this actually means, is that they give you Tetris like room pieces to place around the darkened floor of the mansion. Your goal is to uncover the stairs by placing a room piece in the right spot, but your secondary goal is to connect huge continuous pieces of the same color. Of course, the color of your piece is determined by the shirt of the StreetPassed Mii you found.

Why focus so much on putting same color rooms together? Several reasons actually. First of all, putting together a 2 X 2 square room of the same color spawns a reward of some sort. It can either be a chest which will give you weapons, items, or money, a brief meeting with another Mii who may join your party temporarily, or a “mystic orb” which lets you upgrade your weapons’ stats by trashing weapons you don’t want. Continuing to build upon the same room will grant more chests that will contain even more rare rewards for each 2 X 2 square you make. So filling an entire floor with one color will shower you with rewards.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Not only are each of these pieces shaped differently, but you will likely not meet many Miis wearing the same color shirt. In addition, you will have obstructions and traps to build around as well. If you connect two different colored pieces of room together, you create a door and there is a chance of a random encounter behind every door. There are also enemies simply lounging around on floors that will fight you if you place a room over them as well.

Battle in Monster Manor is a strange combination of action and RPG mechanics. You are armed with a gun, usually with a different type of element attached to it. Your gun has multiple battery meters and firing it, which you can do at any time, costs one full meter. Your meters charge back with time, kind of like an active time battle system.

Of course, enemies will be attacking you as well. To defend yourself, you can put up a shield which actually makes your batteries lose their charge instead of gaining them. So there is an interesting balance in the rhythm between attacking and defending.

A third thing you can do during battle is charge the power of your shot. When you do this, batteries stop charging but do not drain and a power meter grows at the top of the screen. When the power meter reaches a charge line, the properties of your shot change. If your charge meter fills, you even have a chance to activate a special ability. Unfortunately, you cannot defend while charging, so be sure you can take the hits before you start.

Monster Manor is perhaps the deepest of the new StreetPass games for the 3DS. There are tons of weapons, each with their own stats, max levels, special abilities, and more. The crafting and upgrade system, while simple, adds yet another level of complexity to the inventory system. Grinding on prior levels by putting together puzzle like room pieces is also fun, far more fun than simply participating in random battles. Also, there is a reward for tagging someone multiple times in that you get to choose from many different shaped pieces instead of just one.

The only downside to Monster Manor is the difficulty level. Simply put, the difficulty in this game spikes very fast. By the time you hit your first boss you will be doing next to no damage, even if you are wielding a weapon he is weak against. Your only real option is to grind it out on lower levels, or be absolutely perfect in your defense to avoid one hit kills. It’s frustrating, but thankfully Monster Manor is fun enough to warrant coming back.

If you were going to pick up any of the new StreetPass titles, pick up Monster Manor. It’s the perfect balance between fast gameplay that lets you blow through your StreetPass tags, and thoughtful exploration and puzzle mechanics. It’s a great reason to get out there, meet other people with 3DSes, and explore this kooky Monster Manor together.