Monty and the Mugwumps is the first iPhone offering from Jatzan, and I’m not really sure what to make of it. When I saw the screen shots I wasn’t impressed, and when I started playing the game my suspicions were confirmed. The more I play the game, however, the more I realize there’s just a bit of genius to the whole thing. It’s not like I have to say that either, because I certainly have enough other action / puzzle games to play. Despite the game’s amateurish audio and visual elements and rough interface, there’s a rather addictive game lying underneath.
You are Monty, and it is up to you to traverse 90 levels of dastardly mugwumps, nasty lasers and other things, rescuing all the little Montys and escaping to safety. This task won’t be easy, as Mugwumps love eating Monty for any meal of the day, and if you or the little one gets too close you’re dinner. There’s also a pesky time limit once the escape portal has been opened before the air runs out and you must start again. Every once in a while they even throw in an extra little quirk like the entire level being timed or you only having a certain number of moves to complete a level. I actually wish there were more of the latter type of puzzle, though I could certainly do without any more timing obstacles than I need.
To move Monty you tap him and then drag where you want him to go. Once you lift your finger Monty is off, and he can’t be maneuvered again until he stops. One problem is that if you don’t tap just right then you don’t get hold of Monty, and this can either waste precious time or prevent you from getting out of the way of an enemy quickly enough. Also, it’s hard to be completely precise with this method of movement, which can cause issues when trying to navigate narrow areas. You also have the ability to jump by tapping on Monty, but again if you’re off just a bit he doesn’t jump, and that’s not good when you’re headed towards a laser. Finally there are power ups you can pick up like a speed boost and high jump. You just run over them to collect them, and then you tap on them before your next move to use them.
The level designs are interesting. Most every level has a bunch of coins you need to collect before the portal will open. Some levels have doors which require keys to open, others have lasers you need to avoid or jump over. And of course there are the different types of Mugwumps you need to deal with. I’ve only played about a third of the game so far, but I’d imagine (or at least I’m hoping) that there might even be a few more things in store for me. Part of my problem at the beginning was that the level designs seemed pretty ridiculous, but as I continue to play I realize just how good some of them are. There are some that are pretty silly, though with this many levels that’s to be expected. The important thing is that it’s clear the level designer tried to be as diverse as possible when designing the different levels.
The interface could stand to be cleaned up a bit. Level selection is cumbersome to scroll through, and sometimes hard to pick the actual level you want. When you die it should give you the option to retry the level, instead of making you go back to the menu and select it again. A reset at the top of the screen that can be executed at any time during the level would be nice as well.
The graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. Monty looks like a big yellow asterisk with eyes, which is actually kind of cool. The monsters are kind of cheesy, but they still look half way decent, and I love it when their mouths open up to eat Monty. The walls and lasers and stuff look pretty basic, which when combined with the overall interface give the game a bit of an unpolished feel. The sound effects work pretty well. I particularly like the sound of a mugwump eating Monty and the different noises Monty makes in response. The music is nice to listen to, while not really standing out from the pack. At least there is background music and it’s tolerable, though.
Monty is definitely one of those cases where you shouldn’t judge the book by its cover… or more appropriately, the game by its screen shots. The cool part is that you can get a full third of the game for free by downloading The Story Begins, so you can see for yourself what the game is like without spending any money. I think you’ll find that it’s worth an extra buck to get the remaining 60 levels. Monty isn’t my favorite puzzle game in recent months, but it certainly merits spending some time with.