Monstaaa! Review

One-touch controls have long been a hallmark of iOS, but how about no-touch controls? Pixel Elephant gave the accelerometer a whirl with Monstaaa! (Out Now, $0.99 Release Sale), a game that’s all about scooping bugs into the mouth of one hungry critter. Who knows why the monster planted himself at the end of such treacherous paths to wait for his meals, but the results should please the palate of any gamer who doesn’t want to sacrifice depth for casual accessibility.

When we previewed Monstaaa! last month, I could already sense the game would draw a lot of strength from puzzle variety. The final build doesn’t disappoint! What really surprised me when I dove back in is just how perfectly tuned the challenge curve is while stirring that variety in. Once you’ve learned to roll your bug over crevices and glide it through spiked passages with the greatest of care, the game hands you more than one, and finally timed bugs that grow too large to reach the monster if you dilly dally in the slightest. Then come the flame spitters, trap doors, locks and other obstacles that make for a continually gripping challenge. If the challenge gets too gripping you can skip the current level, but a cap of three for the whole game prevents the player from abusing this. Flexibility comes in the form of deciding whether you want to push your bug(s) into the creature’s snapping jaws directly or risk going for the performance stars.

Monstaaa! also builds nonlinearity into its formula. If you’re doing well you’ll likely unlock the next level set midway through the current one; you can choose to go on until you unlock the current set’s secret challenge level or cut off and see what new dangers lie in the next world. The game could definitely use more bug types over the long run, but even barring their possible introduction in updates, it does extremely well for itself with the environments alone.

Critical to the experience is a solid interface — some logic goes into the puzzle solutions, but Monstaaa! is an exercise in tilt mastery above all. It’s got the right calibration options – you’ll want to go for “custom” so you can adjust the game to your favorite chair – and the sensitivity is superb, making this one of the titles other devs should look at when designing their own tilt controls. Each bug is accompanied by a little arrow that gives you constant feedback on your tilt direction, and it serves as an excellent guide. While you can turn it off, I appreciated it so much I kept it all the way through.

Monstaaa!’s faults lie in how it communicates certain information — or rather, a lack of communication. If the player could tell how many performance stars are needed to unlock the next world, and what the goal of the game’s bone collection distraction is exactly, that would make things much clearer to the player in updates. Monstaaa! is well in line with the trademark cuteness of casually accessible iOS titles, but you really have to give credit to the sound design, filled with the monster’s adorable little burps and slurps — and disappointed whimpers whenever a bug kicks the bucket before reaching his munching teeth.

iFanzine Verdict: A masterful physics and action puzzler, Monstaaa! should be right up your alley if you’re looking for a game that’s light-hearted and easy to dive into but continually ups the ante on challenge.