My, my…how Halfbrick manages to develop so well for the iOS platform is beyond me. Luckily, since I’m a gamer and not a developer, I can live with it. After the monstrous success of their hit Fruit Ninja, Halfbrick has returned to iOS with Monster Dash — an action game featuring main character Barry Steakfries and loads of monsters that need to be handled.
Essentially, Monster Dash combines aspects of Canabalt and side-scrolling shooters to form a superior product with only two game mechanisms. It’s a title that could have just as easily ended up on PC or Xbox Live Indie Games, but Monster Dash works far too well on the iPhone/iPod Touch. Here’s a full rundown of what works and what doesn’t.
As mentioned before, there’s two game mechanisms in Monster Dash: jumping and shooting. Why not running? Well, that’s because in plain Canabalt fashion the game does the running for you. You can tap the left area of the screen to jump and the right area of the screen to shoot. Initially, Barry will start out with a shotgun — a loud and satisfying weapon. The game will randomly pit you into a starting area — “Demon Dynasty,” “Vampire Kingdom” and so on. At every 1000 meters, it will transport you to a different area. Each area has its own set of enemies — obviously enough reflected by the name. On a side note, the pace of your running increases the further you get into your play-through.
So, most importantly, is the game fun? Absolutely. From the get-go, you’ll notice that blasting the monsters’ brains in a fast-paced manner as utilized in Monster Dash is highly enjoyable. Various different methods can be used to lower your enemy count — from jumping on enemies’ heads to weapon pickups like “The Pacifier,” “Machinegun Jetpack,” “Mr. Zappy” and others. Each of the weapons have their own special characteristics — “Mr. Zappy” shocks enemies at a medium range, “The Pacifier” is a handgun which shoots at a long range, and the “Machinegun Jetpack” is exactly what it sounds like: it’ll have you jumping over enemies whilst shooting them in the meantime. Monster Dash is beaming with personality and it’s so refreshing to see its mechanics brought to life the way they are.
That being said, however, it’s surprising to see the game offer only one mode. The unfortunate truth is that some gamers might just get bored with Monster Dash. The entire purpose of the game is to blast through monsters and run as far as possible — it’s like an arcade game, focusing on high scores. There is some solace, as OpenFeint integration will provide gamers with leaderboards and achievements. But will this type of gratification be enough to keep players interested? Not entirely. Knowing Halfbrick, though, updates are in store and new weapons/areas/game modes are probably in the works. For what it’s worth, Monster Dash is easily one of the funnest games on the App Store.
Halfbrick’s expertise stretches beyond gameplay. Nearly every game I’ve seen from them looks beautiful; Monster Dash is no different. Barry and the monsters are distinct and each area has its own set pieces and dynamic backgrounds — even the music is catered to each different area, with a much more Eastern sound devoted to the Asian-themed “Demon Dynasty.” For a 2D side-scroller, Halfbrick has also managed to use a lively amount of color and helps the game stand out among the rest of what the App Store offers.
While I’m fond of the personality of the game, I’m a little disappointed that the story is not more elaborate. Barry Steakfries is an excellent character — reminiscent of Ash Williams-like badassery. Apparently, the world is now swarming with monsters of all different types and Barry just has a lust for killing. Why isn’t the game more story-based? It would make much more sense to me to see this character obtain some sort of closure at the end of the road. It’s especially disheartening because of how good of a game Monster Dash is. I suppose one could argue that this is meant to be a more casual game — as Fruit Ninja was — but there’s no denying that Monster Dash would have benefited greatly had Halfbrick strung together a few plot pieces.
OpenFeint rocks. Moreover, everybody loves achievements. Even if you think they’re tacky or gimmicky, there’s a sense of accomplishment for obtaining an achievement — you’re not just doing shit for no reason. The leaderboards clue you in as to where you rank among other Monster Dash players. According to the leaderboards, I’m not doing so well…but I’m having a ton of fun and that’s all that matters, right?
At an introductory price of $0.99 — Monster Dash will most likely blow up on the App Store just as Fruit Ninja had done so before. It’s a different genre and caters to a different audience, but Halfbrick’s newest has all the makings of a hit. You heard it here first. (Err…except for the other reviews, I suppose.)
[DIYgamer obtained a free copy of the game for review purposes. This in no way affected the outcome of the review.]