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Review: Monster Mayhem - Zombie Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

September 13, 2010

The Overview

My doctor says I need to stop playing this game but I can't. My wrist is sore, the tip of my finger is numb and I have those magnetic bands on my arm trying to keep my tennis elbow from aching so much. Monster Mayhem is such a frenetic and demanding arcade game that I can barely type this review. And I don't want to write this review. Not because I don't want to share how much I adore this game with you. No no no! I want to gush about how much I love it! But I also don't want to stop playing...I only have a few more things to unlock! About the game, itself: Monster Mayhem is a Castle Defense style game. As usual, your base is on the left (why don't these games have an option to flip sides for Lefties?) and the enemy approaches from the right. Since the theme of the game is monsters, your base looks like a cemetery gate and all the approaching enemies are things that go bump in the night: zombies, mummies, werewolves, devils, etc. To stop the monsters, you purchase and upgrade various weapons ranging from a simple knife (in my opinion, your best weapon and one of your top two priorities for upgrades) to guns, grenades, and atomic bombs. Then you frantically tap and slash at all the incoming monsters (well, except Weedy, that little bastard). Different monsters have different vulnerabilities to different weapons so make sure you upgrade the knife, at least one projectile weapon and the flame thrower (trust me....when you get swarmed by lower level monsters it REALLY comes in handy).

The Features

Monster Mayhem includes 20 different monsters plus 6 bosses (well, 5 stage bosses - one of whom transforms into a bigger version after being defeated). Monster Mayhem has seven sections denoted by tombstones. The first five have six stages - five normal ones plus a boss stage. Finishing the first five tombstones unlocks the sixth: Boss Rush. Defeating all the bosses - again - unlocks Endless Mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. MM spouts three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, and Madness (Madness must be unlocked by playing through in Normal mode).

The Breakdown

The Good What can be better than be attacked by monsters so cute you want to take them home? (Seriously, when you defeat Rabid Ron the Werewolf he turns into the most adorable little puppy!) So the graphics are great as are the sound effects. The music isn't astounding but it is completely unobtrusive (which for many games with repetitive background music is saying a LOT). The action is addictive and intense... In a lot of tower/castle defense games, I look to see if there is a way to hurry up the approach of the next wave after I have defeated the current one. In Monster Mayhem, I was glad for the slight pause between waves so I could stretch my fingers a bit.  The flipside of this is that I found myself losing to the iPhone itself. That is, I was touching and swiping the screen so much it lost sensitivity. I'd have to pause the game and clean off the screen and my fingers to get the device to recognize all my input again. This was really felt while fighting the first incarnation of The Devil...get to this fight and you'll understand what I mean. The Bad The biggest complaint from most people involves the knife. In the 1.0.1 update, Taplay changed activating the knife from a "tap, swipe, lift - repeat as necessary" motion to a continuous swiping effect. The power of each swipe was lowered slightly to offset the fact that you can continuously swipe a lot faster than the individual swipes. I don't have an issue with this probably because I started with the 1.0.1 version. But I know how people prefer to continue the method they first learned and that it is especially frustrating if a weapon feels like it has been nerfed. There are two ways to deal with this: petition Taplay to add an option to use original vs continuous knife or just suck it up and deal with it - like everytime Blizzard nerfed your favorite character/ability in Diablo II. Since MM was published by Chillingo, it uses Crystal for its online scoring and achievements. While this may sound fine, it pokes and prods at one of my biggest aggravations with iPhone games: multiple player accounts. Argh! when will all developers get it together and make sure that different players using the same phone can have different game accounts? Crystal remembers each player's score and achievements. But whatever has been unlocked by anyone is unlocked for everyone! And all players share the same upgrades and cash! My son and I have different weapon preferences and he has spent all my precious savings on stuff I didn't want! Grrrr.... A lot of players have complained about crashing. Considering the amount of time I have put into this game, I actually consider the number of crashes I have experienced (2 to be exact) to be very low. But I can still see how might raise some people's ires compared to other games of similar length and style such as Plants vs Zombies which I have never had crash. Monster Mayhem's Achievements are rather lame. There are no secret ones, none that involve doing anything challenging or bizarre. They are all simply "You have killed X number of Y monster." Since you have to kill all monsters thrown at you to continue (with minor exceptions), these achievements are just milestones in play progress. Not that there is anything wrong with milestones but I would prefer something more interesting like "Plants Over Zombies: Suicide with Weedy while having no other monsters deal damage to you" or "Boom Goes the Dynamite: Survive a wave using only grenades, atomic bombs and thunder attacks."

The Verdict

If you've read this far, you already know I think this is a great game with only a few flaws. The major one involving multiple players on one device. If you liked the humorous feel of Plants vs. Zombies but want something that moves at a much faster pace, get Monster Mayhem. For $2, it's a steal. And upgrade you knife quickly - there are too many important monsters that are ONLY hurt by the knife. Otherwise, get your gate upgraded quickly. Even though it won't be breached by low level monsters, all the extra hit points it has gets translated into gold at the end of every wave, meaning upgrading pays for itself very quickly and allows you to upgrade everything else that much faster.

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