A smashing good time.
The Steam early access community is a place full of many highs and lows. Gamers can get their eager hands on titles still in development while supporting the developers making them. This, in theory, leads to a steady source of income for the devs to continue work. Early access, however, can also be a money pit of disaster. Numerous games in the early access queue are trash – from concept to execution. Too many of these games are purchased with minimal to no content for the consumer to consume. Monsters and Monocles, a top down shooter (with up to four players) by indie developer Retro Dreamer, gives gamers a strong outing in its earliest of stages – thankfully avoiding the aforementioned disappointment.
Monsters and Monacles tells the tale of a group of sophisticated gunmen and women (and dog…man… and Robot… you get it) who are seeking to rid the world of evil. From their airship, the classy heroes can choose a world from a designated hub to assault. Once the world is chosen, players are teleported to the scene, where they become quickly overwhelmed by a plethora of enemy forces. But worry not! Monsters and Monocles gives the players access to a large amount of weaponry in order to battle their plentiful foes.
Perhaps the best part of this early access game was its weapon selection. I mostly played as Baron von Dogface, who begins each stage with a revolver (as each character seemingly does). Each character can hold up to two weapons that can be changed with q. Enemies and destroyable objects can yield coins, weapons, and health, so there is never really an option to run out of armor/weapons (health comes at a premium, however). Each level (there are three base levels open to begin with) consists of a few ‘levels’ in which you must complete an objective to move on. Between each level, there is an item shop, where you can purchase a new gun, some health, or a power up. Each of the levels consists of unique enemies and fairly different visuals, though the level layouts are fairly similar (though, it could just be the top down, 8-bit graphics).
The biggest draw for me with Monsters and Monocles is its fast paced and hectic gameplay. If you recall, I’ve been a huge fan of games like Leap of Fate and Full Mojo Rampage, both separate but unique top down, frantic, twin stick shooters. Monsters and Monocles follows this style but adds its own flair to the group. The 8-bit aesthetics, retro music, and classic play style suit this game with immaculate precision. And not only this, but the game itself is fairly difficult. I died early and often, but the enjoyable gameplay kept me coming back for more. You get a couple lives before it’s game over, at least early on, so be careful; bullets, bombs, and various projectiles will surprise you and await you in each room or corridor.
Now, I really have enjoyed my brief time with Monsters and Monocles, and I look forward to its finished state. To this point, however, my biggest complaint is in regards to its lack of narrative. Yes, the game opens with a man accidentally unleashing waves of evil monsters from his curiosities building, and then we’re transported to the airship where our four heroes, each with a punny name and humorous look, decide it’s time to clear up this mess. None of this is actually put into words, as a retro-looking flash cinematic sees the characters expressing their desires by pointing and looking. Perhaps as the game is fleshed out more, the developers will continue to add narrative pieces to the gameplay. Still, the game is enjoyable without any solid exposition, so any additional material will improve the overall experience.
When looking at what Monsters and Monocles is and what it can become, I’m pretty excited. I enjoy the base game pretty thoroughly where it’s at. I haven’t noticed many gameplay issues outside of losing my crosshairs (with mouse) in the scenery. I tried this game with both the keyboard and mouse combination and a Steam controller, and I found the keyboard and mouse to perform significantly better. It is to my understanding, however, that the game is designed to be played with an Xbox 360 controller, which I imagine would work the best for me. I love twin stick shooters, and I think this would be fun to play with a good controller. As of now, the multiplayer function isn’t performing where it should, and I had a forewarning from the developer on this; therefore, it won’t negatively impact my score. My hopes, however, are that they fix the multiplayer issues soon and have a large enough fan base where I can play some online games. If you’re a fan of top down, twin stick shooters with visuals similar to Bro Force that’s filled with wit and hectic gameplay, take a look at Monsters and Monocles.