I have a new addiction on my iPod Touch, and it’s called Monster Dash. I almost bought Canabalt at one point, but thankfully I decided to try the flash version first. While the visuals were dynamite, the game play was just like all the rest of the run and jumps. Like any other genre, new iterations of this style of game play need to have something a bit different to remain interesting. Along comes Monster Dash, and suddenly we have that something different – weapons and monsters to take the brunt of those weapons. Amazingly, it’s a simple addition that makes all the difference in the world.
You take on the role of Barry Steakfries, and your mission is simple. Run as far as you can and take out as many monsters as possible before your demise. You will not win, but you can have a whole lot of fun in the process of dying. You’ll travel between four realms, fighting vampires, mummies, zombies and demons every step of the way. You’ll also have the opportunity to collect a few weapons including “the Pacifier”, which shoots a bullet all the way across the screen, and the machine gun jet pack, which literally propels you in the air as you rain bullets on the bad guys below.
You’re constantly running, so all you have to worry about is jumping by pressing on the lower left corner of the screen and shooting by pressing on the lower right corner of the screen. Initially you’re shown buttons for these two actions, but I think you can hit anywhere within the general location of each button to perform the action. You’ll automatically pick up weapons when you run into them. Your main gun is limitless but doesn’t have a very good range, and all the rest of the weapons have a small amount of ammo. I would encourage you not to horde, however. It’s much easier to get rid of the monsters whenever possible so you have more room to jump around.
There are two ways to die – fall down a pit or lose all your hearts. You lose a heart if you get hit by a monster or run into the various traps protruding from the ground on occasion throughout each level. Every level has a heart on it to replenish one hit, and if you’re health is full when you hit that heart you’ll actually get an additional heart added to your health meter. Your score is based solely on how far you run, and each 1000 meters you’ll be teleported to a new world. The game uses OpenFeint for leader boards and achievements (there are 25 altogether), and you can also post scores to Facebook and Twitter. The one thing I’d like to see if they do some updates is a couple of new worlds. I love the ones that already exist, but more variety is always good.
The graphics are great. The overall style reminds me of an updated version of an old Apogee shareware game. The characters look cool and each has their own death animation. My favorite is the vampire, which looks like it bursts into a bunch of bats upon death. Even your own character crumbles into a pile of bones when he dies. The special effects are pretty slick as well. When you get hit the borders of the screen go red (I know it’s an old trick, but it still looks cool). When you use Mr. Zappy everything goes dark and you can temporarily see your skeleton. The backgrounds are very nicely drawn too, and each had nice little touches to represent the creature of the land, like pyramids on the mummy level.
The sound effects are a perfect compliment to the visuals. Every weapon has a unique sound, and there are enough little ambient noises that the world doesn’t feel dead (though for all intents and purposes it is!) The only thing missing are some amusing quips from the hero. I could easily see Barry being the next Duke Nukem with some creative catch phrase. The music is quite catchy and really helps get the adrenaline pumping.
There’s no question in my mind that Monster Dash is the premiere run and jump game on the App Store right now. The visuals have a “modern 80s shareware” look to them, the audio is very well done, and the game itself is just plain fun. I just wonder what the next run and jump developer is going to have to do to kick the genre up a notch again.