Monster Mayhem (v1.5)

psydex » , , ,

It seems our love affair with monsters and zombies is still as strong as ever, as there seems to be no let-up on these apps appearing on the AppStore. Well, at least Chillingo thinks so, releasing Monster Mayhem [AppStore] — a castle defense game which seems a mash-up of MonsterKill, Zombieville and even a dash of Plants vs Zombies.
The game begins by introducing a horde of monsters rising from the graveyard over which you are custodian and heading for the gate to the outside world. Naturally, this grave keeper has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal (don't they all?) to prevent this from happening, and that's about all there is to the story. Monster Mayhem plays a lot like MonsterKill, but instead of enemies coming in waves down the screen, they use the horizontal screen real estate to stage their charge. The whole game has a great look that closely resembles the aforementioned PvZ.
At first, Monster Mayhem seems much like other castle defense games. Though you don't have to flick characters around in finger-seizing fits typical of the genre, there is still the need for endless swiping, particularly as you begin with a knife. Here it draws parallels with MonsterKill, where knife attacks are effected by swiping across an enemy. Unfortunately each swipe seems only to hit one monster, only worsening the inevitable digit agony.
Fortunately, the gameplay offers a reprieve of sorts by introducing firearms that are all tap-tap-tap. It means that your finger isn't being worn to a nub by tricky gestures, instead going back to a simple shooting range gameplay where your finger is the trigger. Having said that, you'll be faced with a lot of mad tapping, where finger soreness is still a reality (indeed, a likelihood), something that may still turn people away but at least is a step in the right direction for the genre.
There are 7 different weapons on offer in Monster Mayhem from handguns to flamethrowers and then the ol' room-clearing nuke. Each of these can be upgraded several times, which changes the type of weapon to a more powerful variant (think an Uzi to an MP5). It's nothing amazingly original, but it's still a nice touch to see. What's more, each weapon handles a little differently; grenades are lobbed at the screen for instance, whilst flamethrowers are waved around to devastating effect. Chances are though, you'll stick to powering up and using only a couple of these, as shotguns don't scatter as expected, and the more powerful weapons cost a heap to keep supplied with ammo.
As far as cannon fodder goes, there are 20 different types in Monster Mayhem, from frankensteins to creepy crawlies and 5 additional, huge bosses to defeat. Every time you encounter a new enemy, you get a cool little scorecard that details their strengths and weaknesses, and what weapons will not work on them, and it's all stored in a Monster Handbook available from the menu. It offers a light layer of strategy as you consider what weapons to use on what enemies and which monsters to engage first. Special mention has to go to the use of the old-school Chinese vampires too, which are creepy even in their cute PvZ-like form.
There are over 30 levels to mow through here, with some really gory-but-cute combat spread over 6 different worlds. After completing the game, you'll unlock the Madness difficulty, a self-explanatory Endless mode and a Boss Rush Mode which includes waves of boss-only monsters. The latter is an interesting addition that is unique to Monsters Mayhem.

On the face of the game is a simple looking castle defense game, but peel that back and you'll find more of a gallery shooter than the flicking frenzy of other castle defenders. The various game modes included should keep you engaged for a while, particularly as the campaign mode's high score is recorded on Chillingo's Crystal platform (which also includes a nice selection of achievements). We did encounter a few intermittent stuttering bugs during our play on the 3GS device (where the game pauses for a brief moment) which we're hoping will be remedied in future updates, but other than that Monster Mayhem is a great monster mash that should get castle defense fans thoroughly excited but may still prove too prohibitive to those protective of their fine motor skills.
Be sure to check out the developer's trailer above for your own look at the game, and have a look at our forums to see other users' impressions.