Published on January 6th, 2016 | by Matthew Hung0
Monster Castle Review
Back in the dark days of my excessive Clash of Clans play, I had a friend who inexplicably felt the need to also burden himself with the likes of Boom Beach and Age of War on top of his clan duties. After seeing him for a few months surrounded by uneaten food, clad in visibly unwashed sweatpants, spending hours of every day tapping collectors, timing build schedules and optimizing raid armies, one could not help but feel a bit ill. It was an eye-opening physical manifestation of what these games are, deviously constructed operant conditioning machines that turn men and women into wretched beasts. At the time, Clash of Clans was new and exciting but something about the need to play a handful of what was essentially the same game was the moment of intense revulsion that prompted me to slowly neglect my village and kickstart my recovery.
Sensory aversion to a game like this after such a revelation was tangible when booting up Monster Castle. The game bold-facedly rips off established contemporaries like Clash with heartless efficiency. So many elements are unabashedly stolen or replicated that there’s essentially nothing that isn’t just copy pasted. What’s bewildering is that the developers managed to make the things they copied much worse than the original. The visuals on this game are bad, not stylized: jagged and unpolished models make everything look vaguely blurry. The animations are worse, with tiny motion loops and jerky robotic movements making you feel like you’re in charge of an army of poorly drawn automatons. A well-made time sink game like Clash takes definitive steps to make each unit feel like a unique entity, from the wandering eye of the barbarians to the spirited exuberance of hog riders. Without this kind of effort and the lack of any visual style or appeal drains the life from the game, making play feel like more of a chore than a game.
Design laziness lingers throughout the experience like a bad stench. As mentioned, the game has no qualms lifting what works from other games. Everything from the UI, the quest and daily reward system, the unit types and function, the collector/resource system, social elements, defensive structures, multiplayer raid system, all make for a loathsome patchwork mess. While in the process of changing enough visually to avoid infringement, the devs also managed to make everything less user friendly, strip all the character out and stick it into a visual style akin to a small child arranging scraps of construction paper. The only semi-unique element is the tower system, which swaps out defending a village from an invading army to defending a castle (tower more like). While I’ll cede that this is a wrinkle to the formula, functionally it’s nearly identical, and since units follow a linear path, there’s much less depth than having to defend from 4 sides.
What we have here is an opportunistic infection of the mobile market. As with many forms of media, after looking enviously at the vast piles of money created by a big hit (in this case Supercell, the Clash of Clan devs) makes, inevitably there are shameless groups of creators who would look to fart out a barely finished product to capitalize on those looking for a comfortable fix. To me, an “Android strategy game” like Monster Castle exposes the ugliest side of time-based habit forming mechanisms which are at the root of what these “games” are really about; where the gameplay is there merely to try conceal that fact. I’m glad to report me and my decrepit friend have since been cured of this sickness, but I don’t think the pox has been eradicated by any means. So assuming that this is indeed a chronic consumption, we as consumers need to at least reward those games which bring new elements to the table or those which execute cleanly and in a way that tries to shift the reason why people play to fun, artistic enjoyment of gameplay rather than manipulative psychology. Monster Castle however is one of many pus filled boils which needs to be lanced before healing can begin.
Not at all.
A botched Clash of Clans clone with pretty noticeable deficiencies. It adds nothing to the market other than mutated features to gawk at like a sideshow