‘Monstaaa!’ Review – Accelerometer-Based Gaming Needs Some Improvement

When you see a game with a crudely spelled title, the first thought that comes to mind is the game may not be so good. As for this game, Monstaaa!, this assumption is correct in some ways. Developed by Pixel Elephant and made universally for iOS, it uses simple gravity-based gameplay to show off the abilities of the iOS accelerometer capabilities. Even though the game isn’t the best, it’s fairly adequate, and the decent boredom relief could be of some value.

Honestly, the graphics and visuals of Monstaaa! are well made. However, this is squashed by the fact that the whole game has the same generic background. Though there are four different-colored levels (green, red, yellow, blue), the levels and the menus for that matter, are all generic cave scenes with a similar dark-colored scenery. The sprites for the bugs and Monstaaa! itself are very cartoon-y, as if it was from a 90’s Cartoon Network program.

The worlds in this game are referred to as “caves”, and as said before, there are four available to play. Each has 15 levels and a secret level, unlocked when you obtain every star in the cave. The levels all have stars that can be collected for score in the more out-of-the-way areas of the level. Though they may be inconvenient to get, you can usually obtain all the stars on your first try, if you don’t meet a cheap death/end-level-too-quickly trap.

Your goal in every level is to guide the bugs you “play as” to Monstaaa‘s mouth using gravity and physics. The three stars which you collect are simply bonus points. There are two different bugs to deal with.  The red bug, is a generic ladybug that has no gimmick and comes in several different sizes to fit the level, and the blue bug, which grows over time. This adds strategy to collecting the stars, as some alcoves the stars are in are too big for the bug to get them.

The levels in Monstaaa! are very basic, as they are designed with several bumps and cracks to house the stars. There may also be colored keys that have corresponding blockades to unlock. The challenge comes with the plethora of instant death obstacles. These include spikes, periodic flames, cannons that shoot fireballs, and crushing, usually caused by blue bug growth in an inconvenient place. Later, in the yellow cave, you control rocks with the same gravity control, which can also crush bugs.  These instant deaths can become increasingly annoying in levels with about 10 or so tiny red bugs. They are all controlled by the same gravity, and you are forced to keep track of all of them. Furthermore, if exactly one dies, you have to start over. Certain levels also have wind currents, extremely strong ones, which usually lead to a trap that you need to counteract with physics.

For the most part, the controls works. There is a little arrow around each bug that shows the gravity, and it is accurate most of the time. However, in several instances, it may become unresponsive. This is not the type of game to play during a car-ride, because bumps can mess up the sensor just enough to send you into a nearby spike. Also, the game forces you to be extremely careful, as the physics are accurate and you can’t change direction immediately. As a result, while slowing down from a sharp turn, you will most likely run into something if you tilted too harshly.

Another thing that is a little annoying is the rocks that I mentioned earlier. As they are controlled by the same gravitational input as the bugs,  they also go at about the same speed. If you are trying to get a rock out-of-the-way of a bug, you will have to get lucky with the bounce physics, unpredictable as they are. And being too hasty and impatient will cause your death by crushing.

In conclusion, Monstaaa! is a weird mix of being cheaply hard and extremely easy.  I 100 percent-ed it in a day, but the ride was nerve-wracking and gameplay is not polished enough to be any more than short boredom relief.  The level design is hit or miss, because certain levels I found extremely fun in comparison to the rest.  It’s too bad, because the problems present afterwards will eventually get you cursing at the device.  As an “extra” after the game, there is a random stegosaurus puzzle, that I never figured out because it has no interface. Long story short, you can find plenty of better games for free, instead of buying this game.

More information on Monstaaa! can be found on their official website. The iOS version can be downloaded at the App Store, universal for iPhone and iPad, for $0.99.

[review pros=”Easy to complete” cons=”slow control, annoying/cheap obstacles” score=55]