Oh looky, another graduate from the School of Running Really Fast From Left to Right and Occasionally Jumping. No criticism though, it’s an academy that’s churned out such delightful students as Dino Run, Solipskier and Canabalt and somewhat recently Monster Dash.
In Monster Dash the world has been skull-fucked by a greatest hits collection of videogame monsters. These creatures have colonized earth and ushered in a wave of special segregation with no room left for humankind. Zombies have settled in the imaginative Zombie Metropolis, vampires in the purple dusk of Vampire Kingdom, Yetis in Yeti Heights and demons that look vaguely like dragons have gravitated toward China. Obviously.
The fate of mankind now rests in the hands of a dumpy gentleman by the name of Barry Steakfries who, despite the family name, never demonstrates an iota of allegiance to French cuisine.
As for the game, you know the drill. Barry sprints instinctively from left to right, gradually gaining impetus leaving you in charge of launching him across gaps in the world by tapping the left side of the screen. Fail to keep Barry from freefalling into the chasms and it’s game over. You’re scored based on the distance ran before Steak and Fries breathes his last meaty breath.
But what’s the point in all the monsters if you can’t smother the cruel new world with gore? Luckily Barry’s the proud owner of a shotgun, one that handily never exhausts its reserve of ammunition. You fire the shotgun – or whichever weapon you’ve picked up – by tapping the right side of the screen, clearing the runway of any nearby demons.
Which is all well and good but the shooting and the running mechanics don’t gel with much poise, each would work aptly alone but brought together they’re the source of some disgruntlement.
For a start leaping over the various flavour-of-the-month enemies is instinctive, particularly when you’re bolting along at express speed, yet it’s a routinely punishable offence. Barry’s shotgun doesn’t fire ad infinitum and even the half-second gap between shots is enough to prevent you from letting loose precious rounds in time to save yourself from being slapped by a yeti. And so naturally you’ll resort to leapfrogging them.
But too often last-ditch hurdles result in Barry nose-diving into the inky void previously hidden off screen. Too often death feels like a result of unscrupulous traps rather than your own inadequacy – a feeling the best games in this quasi-genre evoke with ease.
As it is though, the two mechanics gift it its USP but fail to merge cohesively. Monster Dash might surface from the same academy as Solipskier and Dino Run then, but it’s departing with pedestrian grades its contemporaries will sneer at.