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3rd December 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
The game stars a being by the name of Dum Dum, who can be described as this game's version of the ever-popular bounty hunter role. The back story is of a meaningless sort, involving a kitten who has been abducted by a race of curious-minded aliens and the prompted response in Dum Dum retaliating against those who have disrupted his peaceful life. Showing no signs of a worthwhile conceptual backing, the objective of the game can be summed up in two words that connect back to the concise name: shoot monsters. It's either that the game is intended to be taken at face value, or the developers simply weren't able to put into words and effectively verbalize the unique qualities that their game is adorned with. First impressions would indicate the former.
Viewed from an overhead perspective, Monster Shooter is an action-based construction, where the sole objective of vanquishing alien threats is assisted with the implementation of certain weapon systems, but not to a degree that would denote an elevating level of depth. Before getting into that, however, it would be good to cover details concerning the central shooting mechanic. To fire your weapon, you'll make use of the face buttons, with each of their positions corresponding to the path your bullets follow -- which is to say, X and B are for vertical shots while Y and A are for horizontal ones. With this in mind, controlling movement with the Circle Pad in accordance with the direction you wish your shots to travel is important. If you press a button opposite to the way you're currently facing, this may, depending on the weapon of choice, get your character to stop shooting, turn around, and then resume fire. While diagonal fire is possible (with better results achieved when using the Circle Pad over the +Control Pad), radial effects aren't as easily produced, which ultimately puts you in a vulnerable situation where your back is constantly exposed. You can, however, hold down two buttons simultaneously and release one of them as necessary so as to influence a more responsive range of fire. But the general feeling on the control mechanism is that the aiming can be inconsistent and the reaction time isn't always to a reliable swiftness.
Minimizing the amount of robotic movements is the automatic lock-on system attached to all weapons. This too is unreliable, due to the fact that it doesn't distinguish between enemies that are behind environment props and objects, nor does it immediately shift from far-away enemies to those in your immediate bubble. So what often happens is the system will, for instance, target enemies directly below you while you have your weapon aimed to the bottom-left, but at the same time there may be another mob coming your way from the unprotected area on the right. Seeing as there's no option to make it manual-only, this is something you just have to live with. Truth be told, it's not a major gripe insomuch as the concerns with the base controls are more of a concern, but it does affect the way you play and evidences that the overall fluidity with which these shots are carried out is off.
Now to address the overall setup. Three basic enemy types are present, identified by different colours: blue for normal; red for monsters with the most health; and purple spots for those that move in zigzag patterns. There's also a bulky unit that explodes upon final impact, and one that likes to roll around using its shell -- much like an armadillo, but one that only has a linear line of sight. When enemies do get close to you, they'll get all slap-happy and, in a rather wimpy display, wear your health down by waving their tentacles. Landed hits will produce a green aura around the sides and corners of the 3D Screen to indicate, not only the successful damage, but also the slowed movement that Dum Dum will subsequently experience for a short time. All entities are loyal in their movements and can thus be manipulated in ways so you aren't backed into a corner by your lack of foresight. At the same time, though, they don't always display the most intelligent behaviours, something that is particularly true of the default enemy set -- and by that I don't just mean that they're an ill-equipped force. It's not uncommon for them to get stuck in front of parts of the environment as they try to get to where you are in the center of the screen. Of course, this can be exploited for a few seconds at a time when you find yourself in a bind, but in all honesty, given that they have little weight when they assault in small groups, it would've been better for the overall difficulty if they had more smarts.
Rather than dropping power-ups on a gradual or as-needed basis, they are made available from the get-go. These come in the form of health pick-ups and a special attack mode known as Vengeance that will momentarily grant you unlimited ammo and a faster rate of fire. There are other collectibles dropped by fallen enemies, though -- those being orbs and piles of money. Nonetheless, this overall openness is very much welcome as it gives the game a strategic element that otherwise would've been lost. By that statement, you can definitely gather that there are other means by which the game tries to infuse the action principles with a bit of detailing, if you will. Predominantly this is done through the way the arenas are arranged. There are twenty missions to participate in on three different planets, with maps changing slightly from time to time. As I mentioned earlier, there are, in addition to natural walls, objects placed to provide cover. You can't shoot through them, so it's best that you take advantage of these while you're on the run, as opposed to placing your back against a prop and setting up a station of sorts. Players should study the map in early waves so as to know how much wiggle room is actually made possible when you're being bombarded. On that note, there's also no visible indication as to how many waves there will be in a given mission, so that's the other way in which strategy is attempted to serve as a point of leverage.
So now we come to the systems hanging over the mechanics; that being, the arsenal of weapons, permanent and temporary upgrades, and the use of items. You can head to the Shop to exchange accumulated funds for new devices or to improve their functionality after they are purchased. Stats vary, with fields including damage rate, clip size, and fire rate. While it is done automatically and does not require that a button be pressed, the process of reloading your weapon can be disruptive to the flow when you think about the existing troubles with the control mechanisms. In such situations, having a supply of weapons you can jump to (using L or R) can prove helpful in the heat of battle. Similarly handy is the use of grenades, motion-sensitive mines, and rockets, all of which can be purchased from the Shop or the Pause Menu during play.
Underneath the health meter in the top-left corner of the 3D Screen is an XP bar that relates to the upgrade system. Once filled, an icon will become active on the Touch Screen that, when pressed, will open a menu of five perk selections that change each time you level-up. These include an increase in speed, longer time to use Vengeance, and more effective recovery. All of these are only temporary and limited to the level you're in at that given moment. There are three permanent upgrades that can be purchased from the Shop, but that's not where the emphasis is. The forced method of having to move your thumb from the face buttons to the Touch Screen to tap on a selection -- whether to bring up upgrades, use items or pause the game -- is impractical. The many times that you have to do this only gets you to question if there was a better way of doing so, to which I'd suggest the R Button could've been used for this purpose so as not to inconvenience players nearly as much.
In theory, tinkering with these systems should enhance the overall quality of the experience, but that isn't always the case. Although the perks specifically do help minimize the degree to which the irritating activation method overshadows the core experience, there are still somewhat pronounced reasons that will give players enough reason to withdraw. Some of this stems from what I said above about the methodology of activating these systems, but it more has to do with the controls and the roles that they serve in trying to apply a layer of depth, often done with mixed success. Evidencing this is the fathomable levels of repetition that, surprisingly, aren't stamped out by the elements that are built upon the foundation. This could stem from the fact that the foundation itself is in keeping with commonly-held ideas and doesn't do enough to present anything alarming. But for all intents and purposes, Monster Shooter comes off as a standard model, one that doesn't try to be witty, embolden its roots, or build to a place of security. This would ordinarily be a good thing if it were not for the fact that it too readily blends in with the crowd, and rather than excelling or displaying proficiency in what it does, it feels as though the game has been negatively boxed-in by its autonomous design. Things are in place squarely for function sake, and whether it is for a lack of strong-willed delivery or bolder conditions, its routine measures of growth are dictated by haphazard, overly-familiar building blocks.
Presentation is a bit interesting in that the effects of the cartoony art style they've tried to play with here are made bland as a result of all the spewed contents coming from enemies. At the same time, the variety that can be seen in the weapon selection brings with it a degree of excitement that other parts don't effectively convey. The environments aren't cramped for room so they work as they should, and there are some little details here and there that show they are also of the right look and feel. The animations are also of good quality and the framerate is almost always consistent. You might as well do without the 3D, though, because aside from some slight effects produced by the flamethrower gadget, it doesn't do much for the graphical style. Music is hardly the focus, especially in light of the raging sound effects, but when you tone those down you might find it to be quite effective.
Unlike Gamelion's last title, Crazy Kangaroo, mission objectives work well here in connection with the rankings and go along with some of the other systems in trying to create depth. There is a Survival Mode whereby players can engage in more thrilling situations, but the impact is a bit weak and it could do a better job in its position next to the main mode. One final red flag that may get you to think twice about getting involved is that this is priced at $7 while also being free on other platforms. How this version ended up with such a contrasting price tag, I have no idea; and regardless of how you look at it, it's not worth paying that much for a game that you won't play more than a few times.
There's no mystery here: Monster Shooter is about as transparent in its intentions and impact as can be. It's a capable, action-directed shooter, but there's quite a bit to find fault with. What's most fretting is the price tag, which, even if the game was available for the same price elsewhere, is hard to justify.
19/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Controls aren't the most ideal, lock-on system isn't completely reliable, certain elements should've been reworked for better flow
Presentation 7/10 - Environments and animations are of a good quality, effectiveness of the art style doesn't stretch very far, suitable music
Enjoyment 3/5 - Upgrades help with the repetition but still might bother some, default items bring a strategic element, familiar building blocks
Extra Content 3/5 - Mission objectives add a touch of depth, Survival won't be visited much, being available for free on mobile platforms hurts it
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System