Monsters and Monocles, a new Steam Early Access title from Retro Dreamer, Inc., is a roguelike top-down shooter with changing stages, lots of guns, enemies, bosses and most importantly, tea. It’s also procedurally generated, as is all the rage these days. So let’s dive in my good chaps and have a biscuit with Monsters and Monocles.
That’s right, Crumpet Gun !
You’re dealing with a somewhat cliché art style in Monsters and Monocles, as it is an 8-bit game filled with bright colors. That being said, it is not a bad thing. The colors are engaging and fun, especially when you’re are blunderbussing your way through a mob and the explosions are rampant. Plus, the nostalgia of having an 8-bit, top-down shooter does invoke memories of a long gong gaming era.
The mobs are also, for the most part, unique to the world you have chosen to explore. For example, when in the “Tomb” world, the mobs are based off of desert creatures. “Tomb” features giant cobras, snakes with the head of Anubis, assassin mummies, and for a final boss a giant Egyptian crab.
Each world comes with a distinct color scheme and set of enemies, so it helps to add diversity to the game. Finally, each stage comes complete with its soundtrack to help fill in the silences between you shooting your way through demons. As the player, you have your choice of four different characters: Rupert Killingsworth, Lady Cannonhail, Baron von Dogface (my personal favorite) and Monobot.
In terms of design, Monsters and Monocles is a great game so far. I don’t see any need for improvement; there are vibrant visuals, enjoyable soundtracks, characters and to top it all off, the best tea slurping sound effect!
As for plot, there is little to go on. What I gathered from the intro is that some old codger was messing around with a demon-shaped vase and released a bunch of evil-doers. There’s a lesson here, kids: don’t mess with demon vases.
As the Monocles (that’s my self-proclaimed nickname for the group) are drinking tea, Rupert sees in the paper that the demons are running rampant. So he calls the group into action and sets their airship for danger as the Monocles get ready to save the world. The rest is up to you; when I play I pretend that Baron von Dogface is fighting to prove that, despite his dog face, he is a real and proper human.
The core gameplay of Monsters and Monocles is quite simple; venture to a world, defeat two stages (randomly generated of course), kill a boss and repeat. You must do this for all the worlds with only two lives. To defeat each stage, you must complete a goal which can vary from killing a set amount of enemies to just simply making your way to the exit. The variety in goals helps keep the game feeling fresh as you can complete different objectives to progress through the game.
Another core mechanic of the game is the weapons themselves. You must find a weapon combination that works best for you. Baron and I favored the “spreadshot” and the missile launcher to slay our hell spawn foes. Now, I am sure there are numerous weapon combinations that work well; I am just saying that I needed to find my own before I was able to make some serious progress through the levels.
One of the different challenges, blasting a door open with a keygun
What you may or may not have surmised from the trailer/screenshots of the game is that Monsters and Monocles is quite difficult. I have logged countless hours on roguelike shooters, most notably 1000+ on Binding of Isaac, so I am not new to the genre whatsoever. However, that didn’t stop the game from handing Dogface’s, and I’s rear to us for a solid couple of hours.
This difficulty stems from a variety of different avenues; the first difficulty is the sheer size of mobs. There are some times when I would walk into a room and simply could not shoot enough enemies fast enough to avoid them swarming me and killing me. Secondly, getting yourself a new gun, at times, can prove to be a real challenge. Baron starts off with a standard pistol which does the job for smaller enemies, but the larger ones can take a beating. A few runs I would die because I was not able to find another gun in time to save our behinds.
BEHOLD SOME BOSSES!
I played this game solo; there is space for three other players, and the game feels like it plays better with two people. The addition of any other players would solve a lot of the mob size problems. The most important thing is that any of the difficulty I am having with the game is not stemming from poor mechanics, just straight up the difficulty.
After about four hours of playing, I did not die once to a bug or glitch. Despite this being a pre-release game I was quite taken aback with how polished the game is so far. I am excited to see what the final version has in store.
How I should have been playing, with others.
So what’s the verdict? Seeing as Monsters & Monocles it is still in Early Access, I expected a larger number of bugs and glitches than normal, but there were surprisingly few. Even in this early stage, it is a fun and challenging shooter that, for its simplicity, managed to hook me. So if you’re looking for a game to usher a little choas and high society violence in your collection, I would recommend this one for sure!
This preview is based on a pre-release copy of the game provided by the publisher.