Sometimes coming second hurts worse than coming last. To be so close yet so far; to have all the attributes for success but ultimately fail at the final hurdle can be worse than getting nowhere near victory. Madmonster had the potential to be a Bradley Wiggins of the iOS world but falls just short at Chris Foome level. It’s a valiant attempt but one that will probably be forgotten by the history books.
Like many other iOS apps published by Chillingo, Madmonster is at heart a very simple game. As the name would suggest, players control a monster that is not at all calm, hell bent on destroying everything and anything in sight. Controls are expectedly simple; left and right movement can either be controlled by touching either side of the screen or tilting the phone.
The premise of Madmonster is to smash into enemies (or aren’t they really heroes?) trying to stop you, which will send your monster hurtling upwards. There are different layers of enemies, starting off with ground troops before progressing to helicopters and eventually stations in outer space. This is what provides the groundings for the platform elements which form the basics of the game.
In the normal mode, each mission sets out various objectives that the player must complete; these are usually very similar and will require an X amount of a certain enemy to be destroyed, a number of combos to be performed or for the players to stay air born for a set amount of time.
Madmonster’s challenge comes from its health system in which the player’s life slowly drains if the monster goes too long without smashing into objects. Health regenerates through earning combos, which are achieved by smashing into enemies in quick succession. Once space has been reached the player’s monster can smash back down to earth, allowing for combinations to be continued.
It is a satisfying enough concept that creates enough of a challenge to make Madmonsters addicting but it is also one that can prove highly frustrating. Among the large variety of enemies and objects that can be destroyed are asteroids, which move across the screen before disintegrating in the atmosphere. With a slowly degenerating health-bar applying time pressure from the background, nothing is more frustrating than simply not being able to find any of this pesky space rocks. In one run through over 100s of planes, helicopters and satellites were hit without problem, yet only eight of the ten asteroids needed to progress had been hit. The world of Madmonster may be ravaged by giant, angry, monsters but they are certainly safe from the events of Deep Impact or Armageddon. The exact same level was completed on the next attempt, meaning progression could be attributed to pot luck rather than skill.
In an apparent effort to raise frustration levels from Nic Cage in Vampire’s Kiss to Arnie in Kindergarten Cop, elixirs must be used to continue a failed run-through. These are picked up sporadically through the game or can be purchased via micro-transations. It seems a fair enough system until you realise that after each failure the number of elixirs required to continue doubles, meaning that 69p you paid for five can disappear in a flash.
Micro-transactions are another source of slight annoyance in Madmonster. They come in the game’s shop, in which players can upgrade their monsters, power-ups, items or buy new monsters. This in itself is no crime, shops with the options of buying in-game coins or using money is certainly nothing new in the world of arcade iOS games. The limited number of coins given out during runs can make mico-transactions feel like a necessary route rather than a nice added bonus.
Madmonster also includes a Time Attack mode, which in truth feels like a missed opportunity. After selecting how long the run will be (either 30, 60 or 90 seconds long) three random objectives are generated before you select what enemies will appear in the level. That’s it. It would have been great to have a score-based mode rather than objective, setting players free to crash and smash their way through a minute and a half of a commute.
Despite its flaws, the game gets a lot right. With 60 missions spread over six levels, each with their own unique design, there is plenty of longevity and variety to entertain the player and give them their money’s worth. Every dozen or so levels a boss in thrown into the mix, adding a bit of freshness to the play. Power-ups and different monster abilities also spice gameplay up, even if it is a bit of a grind to unlock some of them. Madmonster is also a great looking game; enemies and backgrounds are very well detailed.
Any iPhone 4 or 3GS owners looking for purchase the game should be wary of slight frame-rate problems in-game. It is nothing game-breaking but the game noticeably slows when activating a smash or when things on screen get hectic. In fairness to the developers, a recent update has improved this problem significantly so it is not out of the question it will be eliminated completely with future updates.
Madmonster isn’t a groundbreaking game on the iOS platform. It is, though, a fun way to blast away a few minutes on the go and its addictive nature is an indication of the game’s quality. unfortunately often frustrating challenges coupled with a micro-transaction system tilted ever so slightly away from the luxury and towards the necessary means Madmonster falls just short of being a great game.
+Simple and addictive
+Lots of power-ups and upgrades to keep things fresh
– Challenges can be frustrating
-Players can be pushed towards micro-transactions
+Arcadey tune compliments gameplay well
+Each level feels varied
– Frame-rate can stutter on older phones