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Monsters Rising

For: iPad   Also on: iPhone

Street fighting (horse-headed) man

Product: Monsters Rising | Developer: Nine Tails Studios | Publisher: Nine Tails Studios | Format: iPad | Genre: Action, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Monsters Rising iPad, thumbnail 1
Monsters Rising is an eccentric grab bag of ideas, one that borrows from real-time strategy games, Streets of Rage-style brawlers, and Chinese folklore in near-equal measure.

And its narrative setup is pretty exuberant to boot. Following a failed undead uprising, the grasping denizens of the underworld have tasked their monstrous military with subjugating the world above.

As such, it's your job to lead a squad of misshapen beasties in a campaign against humanity - destroying property, putting down armed resistance, and racking up the XP while you're at it.

Oh, that reminds me, Monsters Rising features RPG elements too, and in-between bouts you'll be levelling-up and studying skill trees.

But if the makeup of Monsters Rising sounds complicated, its gameplay objectives are reassuringly simple. Your job is to batter humanity, collect resources, and, well, that's about it.

Year of the fighting horse

The supernatural soldiers at your command are lifted directly from Chinese mythology, and as such the cast of playable characters in Monsters Rising is novel and varied. There aren't many games in which you can play as a horse-headed warrior or a chap with a face in his chest, after all.

Once you've selected your agreeably strange squad, commanding them around the battlefield is simply a matter of tapping onscreen and watching your hulking subordinates march towards their objective. Should a foolish enemy human blunder into their path, your team will automatically perform low-level attacks until the human foe is vanquished.

But to dish out real damage, you'll need to take individual control of a squad member, and use one of Monsters Rising's gesture-based commands to perform a special attack. Early on, this might simply be a horizontal swipe across your device's display, but more powerful moves demand more complex conjurations.

It's a pleasingly tactile system, but constantly switching back and forth between squad members in order to perform attacks soon starts to feel fussy. What's more, when your offensive manoeuvres are slowed down by missed inputs and pathfinding issues, that fussiness prompts frustration.

The grind

The missions themselves are a little disappointing as well. Too many adhere to a 'destroy humans, gather resources' template, and there's a dearth of variety when it comes to the battlegrounds on which you duke it out.

Mission objectives and environmental details do change from time to time, to be fair, but not before you've been wearied by long stretches of gameplay in which you're going through the same motions while looking at the same scenery.

It's a shame, particularly since Monsters Rising can be a bit of a looker at times. The cel-shaded graphics complement its light-hearted narrative, pleasant lighting effects enliven well-worn backdrops, and the genuinely inventive character designs make squadmate unlocks a treat.

So when the gesture-based controls are registering just right, and the number of onscreen enemies doesn't demand constant character-switching, Monsters Rising is an enjoyable arcade romp with a light strategic twist.

But the flipside of that coin is that Monsters Rising can sometimes feel like a flawed trudge - albeit a well-presented and inventive one.
Monsters Rising
Reviewer photo
James Nouch | 19 November 2013
Monsters Rising is eccentric, repetitive, attractive, and fussy - often all at once. It's interesting and often enjoyable, but flawed
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