"Once upon a time in Curly Valley a giant pickle attacks!"

Oh no! Not a giant pickle! The heroic villagers of Curly Valley manage to fend off the initial attack in Monster Mash, but it’s up to you to help them protect their towns from more invasions in the new tower defense game from Sandlot Games.

Tower defense games such as Monster Mash involve placing a series of defense towers along a predetermined path in order get rid of the enemies before they are able to get to the village, castle or fort at the end of the path. Combining strategic placement of the defenses with powerful upgrades makes sure the enemies are taken out quickly.

In Monster Mash, the idyllic storybook villages are under attack from a series of odd monstrosities such as Hideous Horripickles, swarms of Fishquitoes, and speedy Leggy Egmos. Beware of boss monsters such as Bonzar the Boiler, a gourmet chef whose recipes are all cream soups – Cream of Children, Cream of Grown-ups, Cream of Football Team! The bosses can devour several of your poor villagers at once if not stopped by your defenses.

Each level takes place in one of 11 storybook settings that contain a village and a long, winding road leading to the town. You can save the townsfolk from the horrifying beasties by building defense towers along the roads that lead to their quaint villages. It’s not as easy as it sounds however, as the monsters are quite tenacious and you have to face obstacles such as underground tunnels and mountain passes.

You are given some time at the beginning of each level to build a few towers before the first wave of monsters arrives. A villager that races toward the town in an attempt to outrun the mob precedes each monster wave. Each villager that reaches the town without being eaten will be added to your total population.

Simple game controls allow you to place the towers with a point and click mechanism. Click on the style of tower you want to build and then click on the path where you want it to go. Upgrading or selling towers is equally as easy: just click on the tower and select the appropriate action from the option bar.

The first few levels are very easy with only one or two tower types to choose from and rather harmless monsters. However, as you progress you’ll have to pick your defenses and their placement strategically in order to maximize your fortifications and manage your budget. Each tower costs a fixed amount of gold, both to build and then to upgrade with more powerful reinforcements.

You can earn gold by defeating monsters as they head to the town as well as cash bonuses at the end of each wave – provided you don’t allow the beasts to gobble up the townsfolk!

There are two main types of monsters: those that walk on the ground and those that fly. The first tower option is a large stone turret that will attack both types of beasties, though it is not very strong. The second tower is a ground cannon that can deal a decent amount of damage and also hit more than one monster, but has a very short range. This tower is more expensive to build and also more expensive to upgrade, which makes placement very important. If you place a tower in a location that proves ineffective, you won’t be able to move it but you can sell it for gold and rebuild elsewhere.

Additional towers will become available to build as you progress through the game, such as the lightning tower that will strike flying monsters and a bubble-gun tower designed to slow monsters down, giving your other defenses more time to attack. You will also be able to upgrade your towers further later on in the game, increasing their attack power and range.

Certain scenes have clickable objects within the backgrounds that can help along the way. For instance, the very first level has a scarecrow that you can click on to scare the monsters, causing them to stand still for a short time, allowing your towers to weaken them significantly. Another scene has a large cannon on the wall of the fort that you can click on to shoot at the monsters yourself. I found this aspect of the game both original and fun – and very, very useful!

Power-ups are gained from defeating the monsters within each level. They will drop tokens that will grant you extra gold, speed bonuses, attack power increases and other useful boons. Click on the tokens and several of the villagers will bravely run out and collect it and carry it back to the village. Every so often there are bonus levels thrown in as well, in which you can earn additional power-ups that will help fend off the monsters.

Monster Mash kept me entertained with hilarious monsters and storybook settings, although I was a bit disappointed to see how tiny the monsters were on screen – especially after all the work that went into designing them each with their own look and backstory.

The game also isn’t much different from other tower games, aside from an original storyline and artwork and new twists in the form of bonus weapons. When compared to Garden Defense, for example, Monster Mash doesn’t quite live up to the same production quality, high replay value and tower options.

All of that aside, however, Monster Mash is definitely worth the download for any fan of strategic defense games.