Title: Monsters and Monocles
Available On: PS4, Xbox One & PC
Developer: Retro Dreamer
Publisher: Retro Dreamer
Official Site: https://monstersandmonocles.com/
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Where To Buy: PS4/Xbox Digital Store & Steam
Disclaimer: This product is (at the time of review) released in early access. My review is solely based on my experience with the game at the time of review. My policy on Early Access is transparent and for more of my thoughts on the matter, check out my Inside Look piece.
Monsters & Monocles is a twin stick, arcade style, retro shooter that supports up to 4 players. I have to be honest when I say I was drawn in by the theme of the game as it appealed to my fascination with all things horror related. That being said; I was a little disappointed right from the start. I was instantly reminded of Nuclear Throne and Enter the Gungeon, both of which were top-notch titles in the genre. Considering the plaudits both of those titles gained that’s always going to be a tough act to follow.
It’s not to say that Monsters & Monocles doesn’t have things going for it; there is plenty of positives to take from the title. For instance, the huge number of monsters on screen at once offers the player with plenty of obstacles to overcome, it is a real blast to play with 3 other players in 4 player multiplayer (available online or offline) and has a range of different add-ons and weapons to experiment with.
Now, being British, I did enjoy the novelty of consuming tea in order to restore my health bar and seeing such phrases such as Tally Ho, and Jolly good show and the inclusion of the crumpet launcher were all nods to British culture stereotypes. It’s not a bad thing, I found it all slightly amusing.
The single player experience of the game, I felt was too easy and didn’t provide me with many variations. A lot of what detracts from the experience is that there isn’t enough tailor made content for me to sink my teeth into.
Monsters & Monocles is currently in Early Access and certain features are indeed missing. There are only 3 playable stages at this moment in time, so I actually clocked my playthrough at around 20 minutes, which is laughably short. I know that the game comes into its own when you start progressing to the “harder” areas when you run through more than once, but 20 minutes didn’t really do this title justice.
The main issues I have with the game stem from some of the actual design, more than the gameplay itself. Having randomly generated maps is a big gamble, sometimes you get a map full of baddies that you have a blast killing working towards an objective, but when that objective is random as well?
Well, sometimes you don’t have an objective besides, leave the area; or kill 100 things, or kill 3 of this type of monster. The missions come off as a bit of a side note to the gameplay, conditions you will probably meet just by exploring the map.
The only mission I’ve found to be interactive was where I needed to find a key gun, use it to open a door and then I progress. There are no markers to indicate where the door is or where the key gun is; making it more rewarding to explore. What’s interesting to note, is that on every other mission type, you are told where the door to progress is.
What’s the reward for making it past the stages? A stage boss, unique to each area. The downside is that 2 of the 3 available boss fights are way too easy, even when you loop through (where the difficulty is higher).
For the most part, they are just predictable and almost static. The vampire boss in the city area is far more interesting because he actually moves around and creates copies of himself. The bosses should be rewarding to kill, but really aren’t because they offer no challenge. Pinwheel in Dark Souls is considered the worst boss, why? Because he’s a pushover. No-one tells me that Nito was a boring boss fight.
Now, I actually found the game harder to play with more players since I often couldn’t see what was going on with the amount of bullets being fired from allies and monsters alike. The difficulty felt a little artificial with monsters not really becoming more aware of what you are doing, but they just have a health increase and deal out more damage the more runs you do through each stage. I feel a little bit cheated whenever I find that a real effort hasn’t been made to stage difficulty in tiers, by making the actual game harder, but rather by just making it more time consuming.
Whenever I spot a new weapon, like most people would; I try it out in a room or an open area full of monsters to get the feel of it, but more often than not, I try and stick to certain guns that I know are reliable rather than gimmicky. Yes, it is nice to be able to throw crumpets at monsters, but the cool down between shots means I have to be more accurate and that doesn’t really suit my run and gun play style.
Some of the rooms can easily be exploited and cleared with ease by standing in a particular spot and just angling your shots into the room with the spread shot or a well-aimed machine gun spray, or even a well-placed grenade. Most rooms or areas will only give players a problem if they are not prepared for what’s to come.
I also found that many of the weapons appear to be missing or in need of serious balancing. Some weapons whilst being a novelty, are useless, with the standard revolver seemingly doing more damage.
Power-ups and health pickups are random drops from monsters, and health pickups are like waiting for the bus; you wait and wait and wait, then all of a sudden 2 or 3 of them show up all at once. This is a serious problem for British transport and to players of Monsters & Monocles. There is a power-up you can activate to gain additional health pick-ups to drop, but the power up is a random drop that you have no guarantee of seeing, similarly with weapons.
I had an entire run through with only a revolver and a blunderbuss as every monster kept dropping more revolvers, which really began to annoy me, as you can’t pick up the same weapon twice.
You carry two weapons because as you fire, your weapon can overheat, so when one is disabled, you can switch out to another. This works when you have two weapons that you want, but throw in the fact that you need to share pickups with allies, this can lead to a lot of arguments.
In short, this game is a lot of fun and has the potential to be a really fun multiplayer title. I didn’t see enough content to warrant a recommendation as a single player shooter and it became repetitive incredibly quickly.
Gameplay: Fun, but repetitive.
Graphics: Pixel art is appealing but the screen gets very busy during combat.
Sound: Decent soundtrack overall.
Presentation: Appealing fun title but it needs something more to give it a boost.
- Fun fuelled gameplay
- British culture stereotypes
- Well designed pixel graphics
- Great multiplayer
- Poor single player content
- Useless weapons
- Easy, predictable boss fights
- Randomly generated missions
- Artificial difficulty
Ryan Griffiths is a British gamer, known as a bit of a lone wolf. Retro games are his passion, with newer releases not living up to his expectations. Of course there are exceptions to the rule when it comes to Dynasty Warriors & Total War games.