Monstars Inc. — the same people whom previously released Kotomon (our review) — are back once more to the iOS arena, this time with a wild west inspired yarn that they call Mondos (out now, free). This game is probably what happens when some guys in Japan — after chain watching poorly translated Quick Draw McGraw cartoons — decide to make their own version of El Kabong, all rendered as a mobile video game. Afterwards imagine that the following game was then eventually brought back to the US, complete with an additional layer of poor translation issues tossed into the mix for good measure.
Anyways, your goal is to guide the legendary “shooter” Koto Mondos — and the various companions that join him along the way — in their mission to stop his evil father: Titi Mondos. While most people would assume that a “shooter” in the wild west was someone whom packed twin six-shooters everywhere he went, here it means that Mondos is a man whom is always ready to solve problems by hurling his friends at them. Furthermore — for those moments when he might not have any friends nearby — he also packs a mean Spanish Guitar, with which he can easily send anyone flying majestically off into the sunset.
The controls for Mondos are kept extremely simple, with a set of icons representing each of your currently active heroes at the bottom right — and a whistle icon at the bottom left — forming the bulk of the player’s inputs. Hitting any of the hero icons not belonging to Mondos will then summon that character to come running back over to him so that he might then hurl them at his foes, which is done by then tapping on Mondos himself. However — assuming you aren’t already holding someone — tapping Mondos’s personal button will instead cause him to whack an enemy with his guitar, with the power of your swing being increasable if the button is held down for a while before letting go.
So far you might have noticed a complete lack of mentioning how targeting works in Mondos, and this is because the game is primarily driven forward by the concept of auto-aiming. Mondos will — whenever you execute a friend toss, or invoke a guitar smash — promptly aim for whomever the game determines to currently be your closest adversary, although you can also pre-select a target if you tap an enemy beforehand. Note: whenever you aren’t directly asking any of your friends to let you pick them up, they’ll freely wander off on their own — fighting enemies, and grabbing items — however they see fit.
You do have direct control over Mondos — however — which can be invoked either by tapping anywhere on the screen that currently isn’t occupied by an enemy, or by holding down on the screen and dragging in the general direction you wish for Mondos to travel. Furthermore — outside of individually calling your friends over to you one at a time — you can hit the whistle button to immediately order everyone to return to Mondos’s current position, although they can be distracted on the way back if enemies get in their way. Greatly aiding these limited controls is the fact that Mondos — although technically rendered in full 3D — is always being played out on a linear track of sorts, similar to how most levels were handled in the early Crash Bandicoot titles.
Now while some might already be worrying that the above controls could do nothing but fail at permitting players to successfully navigate the chaos that often ensues on the battlefield, leveling up in Mondos is actually far more important than troop placement. Increasing the level of your various troops — which will both provide them with more hit points, as well as more power towards their personal specialty — is done via spending the gold coins dropped by the various varmints unfortunate enough to get in Mondos’s way. Even though each level up will cost successively more gold than the one before it — and each and every character needs to be leveled up separately — this is thankfully not a particularly painful process, even despite the fact that Mondos features cool down clocks.
Mondos has a stat known as “Vital” — with one Vital being returned to him every five minutes — which is the currency that must be spent for him to enter a stage, with later stages costing greater amounts of “Vital”. Where as most games with a set up like this would give you a fix bar of 100 “Vital” that would never change, Mondos’s maximum possible “Vital” will actually increase each and every time you level him up. Although this does mean that a larger “Vital” pool will take longer to completely fill up, this also means that you will gain more from larger periods of away time as Mondos is leveled up.
Although you wouldn’t be blamed for initially assuming that this combination means that legitimately grinding towards level ups in Mondos may as well be utterly futile, the fact is that deliberately grinding for levels pays off massively in the realm of Mondos. Just a few level ups, which will come very quickly if you don’t try to horde every last treasure you find, can quickly change a region’s levels from harrowing into something much easier. Only those whom try to endlessly plow through the game — from start to finish in record time — will be forced to pay in order to make any progress within Mondos, whereas those whom take their time will still see regular progress occur (minus the hefty costs).
Furthermore — for those of you whom actually do use IAPs — I am happy to report that Mondos is actually a rather fair game in this regard, with a max IAP value set at $29.99 — rather than $99 — that provides you with far more Tequila than anyone could actually use. Specifically, Tequila is the special IAP currency in Mondos — provided exclusively either from randomized login rewards, or from cash shop transactions — which is thankfully never used in ways cruel or unusual. Although you can buy more “Vital” early with Tequila — as well as skip Token hunting, something I’ll be covering soon in more detail — and even use it continue a failed stage, not one of these actions will ever be required. Mondos is thankfully 100% devoid of the special challenge objectives that other free iOS games often have, meaning you’ll never have your forward progress hampered until you pay your way through a mission such as: “waste tequila violently by continuing twice”.
Anyways, the treasure that I previously spoke of will drop each and every time that the player fills up Mondos’s “chance” bar (which will generally happen around 1-2 times per level). These treasure chances will contain either a guitar that will increase the power of Mondos’s attacks, or an outfit that will both increase his defense and change his on screen appearance entirely. Much like in any PC MMORPG currently on the market, one region’s ultra rare gear will often end up being replaced later on by the common gear — with inherently superior stats — that drops abundantly within the next region.
Due to this the player will often make a good portion of the money they need for level ups in Mondos merely by selling off the drops that they’ll be accruing on a regular basis. Players with a fierce case of collector’s OCD might find themselves at a disadvantage here — though — as Mondos only has five slots available for Guitars and outfits each, with additional storage slots only being purchasable via Tequila. However — as I already stated — there is really no practical reason to actively keeping anything but the current best gear, due to the fact that inherently better suits and guitars are always just around the corner.
It is worth noting that although most of the game’s gear is found purely via the luck of the RNG on each and every treasure chest pick up, there will be guitars and outfits of legendary power made available for Tequila purchase as you progress through the story. However, not once did I actually need these legendary items — although some of them admittedly were very neat looking — as I could always easily floor my current region after one-to-two full “Vital” sessions of deliberate grinding for gold. Which of course went even faster whenever I was lucky enough to earn my way into the Gold Fever bonus stage, which pays out gold by the bucket load and doesn’t cost any “Vital” to enter either.
There is still one other thing of interest that your Tequila can be used for — however — and I would be remiss if I didn’t this bring it up as well: Ability Tokens, which I did briefly mention earlier in the review. Although heroes — except for a few premium characters — are earned naturally just by progressing through the entire story mode, a character’s super special property is only unlocked if you collect all of the ability tokens for their region. Each stage in a region will have an ability token which has a random chance of dropping from each and every enemy you defeat there, meaning that — given enough time — you can generally earn these easily just by regrinding the levels in question.
Unlocking one of these extra abilities — while certainly not required for forward progress — will definitely result in an immediate world of difference, such as one particular medic character gaining the ability to generate hearts each and every time she kicks an enemy. Although no one is ever forced to specifically pay for these, a person can pay a flat fee of 20 Tequila — which doesn’t seem to increase in price during later regions of the game — in order to automatically be given a specific stage’s token. So those who pay to skip things in Mondos will usually continue to find themselves in situations where they need to keep on paying (since grinding for these tokens is also an excellent way to get level-up gold).
You might have noticed that even though I have so far spent a great deal of time explaining how one actually plays through Mondos, I have not yet talked much about the game’s actual content. Well — as the beginning of this review would suggest — Mondos is actually quite impeccably bonkers, in ways that haven’t really ever been seen since the era of Japanese designed 8-Bit platforming classics went forever away. Your wild west trip will take you up against zombies chasing after ladies (but not to eat them), a circus filled with dragons atop an active volcano, and other such very unwestern style locations.
Furthermore — other than the blue horse you already begin with — the first friend you recruit in Mondos, whom is also the first region’s boss, is quite obviously meant to be a parody of Freddie Mercury. The second recruit is a lady from the town of Busty — whom, all things considered, certainly lives up to the town’s name — that can heal your party members by, and I kid you not, standing still and shaking her bosom in their direction. Also — upon defeat — the last enemy of each stage will fly off into the sky until they explode in a starburst, along the way shouting off random epitaphs such as, “Stop calling my name, Grandpa!” and “Kids, always brush your teeth before bed!” Naturally some will consider such anachronistic Japanese-isms — presented without any shame — an actual plus, as games this unabashedly weird have definitely been in short supply since the NES.
Anyways — assuming you can over look the sometimes dodgy translation, as well as the over all Japanese flavor — there actually is a genuinely decent time sink to be found within the confines of Mondos. Although I would have personally preferred a game that afforded the player far more effective means of directly controlling the ensuing chaos all the same. You should probably be just fine with Mondos so long as you didn’t go in expecting a game of complex and strategic real-time team management, or a plot that ever made even one lick of sense at any given moment.
Finally, it’s probably only fair that I mention that I haven’t actually yet finished Mondos at all (so far reaching roughly halfway through what the game has currently denoted as Season 1, which also hints that the creators aim to potentially add more levels later on). Although Mondos currently appears to be finishable sans the need for IAPs, it is never truly possible to make an absolute judgment upon any app that hasn’t first been completed in its entirety. Therefore it is advised that one keeps in mind the game’s very real potential to go completely sour if they do choose to follow Koto Mondos on his ill-translated mission to defeat his evil father (probably by guitar bashing him in the face).
iFanzine Verdict: Although Mondos is not — thanks to the game’s indirect control scheme — the most strategic title out there, the massive chaos that ensues is at least often amusing to watch. Playing out conceptually as if people from Japan had been asked to make an NES game about Quick Draw McGraw, this is one bizarre western tale about Dragons, Guitar Bashing people in the face, and magical healing bosoms. I am also happy to report — at least in regards to the half of Mondos that I have finished so far — that the game’s IAPs are not aggressive, lacking many of the mean methods most other free games generally employ to realistically be anything but free.