iPad Game Review: Monster Trouble: Dark Side (Universal) Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Monster Trouble: Dark Side is a reverse tower defense game where you control the baddies and attempt to overwhelm the goodies.
Monster Trouble: Dark Side (MT) attempts to flip the tower defense genre on its ear by placing you in control of the monsters instead of the good guys. This is a great premise, and has tons of potential. Unfortunately, the implementation here is a bit of a disappointment in that the only control you have over your troops is deciding their spawn points and buffing them occasionally with power-ups. When the game begins, you are immediately thrust into the first scenario and cheerfully advised to begin the assault. Unfortunately, doing so immediately results in the death of whatever you just spawned. At this point, you realize that there are multiple spawn points, and that you probably need to try something other than a frontal assault. This will likely result in another quick death at the hands of the heavily fortified villagers because sending single units from any direction is a recipe for failure. The art of MT is in selecting the correct spawn point, selecting the correct monsters, and timing their deployment in order to overwhelm the defenses of your enemy. Once you figure this out, the clouds part and the fun begins. That is, until you learn that your troops have a mind of their own, and cannot be directly controlled.
As I said, Monster Trouble: Dark Side has great potential. When I launched it the first time, I desperately wanted it to be a sort of mini RTS featuring small tactical assaults on fortified positions by specialized and varied units. Technically, this is actually what MT is; unfortunately, it's the AI that gets to have all the fun because your job is to sit back and watch from the bench. While you are given direct control over several buffs and power-ups throughout the game, success almost completely hinges on divining the correct formula of when and where to spawn your monsters. Now, I know what some of you are thinking... a pure tower defense game has exactly the same limitations (in reverse, of course). I recognize this, and perhaps I'm being unfair. However, as I played through the game, I never lost the desire to be able to control my units directly, and the fact that I couldn't do so left me feeling more than a little let down. There are 24 missions, 10 maps, and 10 different monsters for you to deploy so there is plenty of content here, especially considering all the restarts that will be needed before you learn how to beat each scenario. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you know going in that, like many tower defense games, Monster Trouble: Dark Side has more than a little bit of a puzzle element to it. Game Center Leaderboards are supported, although achievements are not.
The graphics of Monster Trouble: Dark Side are excellent. Fantastic 3D landscapes, realistic weather effects, and eye-catching animation makes MT a visual feast, especially among strategy games.
Much like the graphics, the sound effects and music are very high-quality, and exude a feeling of polish and attention to detail. I even found myself enjoying the soundtrack, which is frankly rare for me in regards to video game music in general.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Monster Trouble: Dark Side contains no IAPs of any kind.
Monster Trouble: Dark Side is a beautifully looking/sounding game for your iPhone and iPad. The fact that you can't directly control your units once they spawn may be off-putting for some (it was for me) but if you know and accept this going in, you are likely to enjoy the gameplay for what it is: A true reverse tower-defense game.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Very good graphics; this is a beautiful game by any standards. Sound: - 4 - Very good sound effects and music that show great attention to detail and polish. Controls: - 5 - The controls worked perfectly. Gameplay: - 3 - A true reverse tower-defense game. You don't have direct control over your units once they spawn, which was a real let-down for me. Your mileage may differ.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Zoom out and look for all potential spawn points before you start formulating your attack. Expect to restart scenarios often until you figure out the formula for success. This game is brutally difficult at first, but gets easier as you learn the subtleties of army placement and timing.