Monster Dash Review

Last year’s Canabalt introduced gamers to the simple pleasure that could be found in the word “run.” Now Halfbrick Studios, the team behind the much beloved Fruit Ninja, are looking to use that same formula to show you how much fun the words “run ‘n gun” can be.

Monster Dash takes the simple running and jumping formula of last year’s Canabalt and mixes in another simple idea – shooting. Players will tap one button on the left side of the screen to jump and one on the right to shoot. And why would a runner need a gun? To defend themselves against the zombie uprising, of course!

Monster Dash

Offering four different locations with four different monsters, Monster Dash tasks players to survive as long as they can in the face of an undead army. The on-screen character, Barry Steakfries, will keep running on his own, requiring you to only jump and shoot on his behalf. The further he goes, the faster he gets.

Everytime you reach a distance of 1000 metres you’ll be teleported to a new scene featuring new monsters. An Egyptian level with mummies, an urban level with zombies, a Transylvanian level with vampires, and the Great Wall of China featuring demons. Along the way Barry will find crates of weapons that will give him a better arsenal to work with, with wacky guns ranging from “Mr. Zappy” the lightning shooter to a machine gun jetpack that lets you soar high above the platforms while raining hot lead death down on the monsters below.

As you can probably gather from a character named “Barry Steakfries” and weapons like machine gun jetpacks, Monster Dash has a silly sense of humor about it. Then again, when you’re a game with the tagline “in a world filled with monsters and without public transportation, one man is running,” it’s pretty hard to take yourself too seriously. Some of this silliness even carries over into the game’s OpenFeint achievements, with awards like “Mario” for jumping on the heads of three monsters without touching the ground.

Monster Dash

From the first moment you enter the world of Monster Dash, it becomes abundantly clear that a great amount of care went into getting the visuals just right. Vampires explode into bats when killed. Birds fly past in the background. Leaves rustle and raise from their resting place as you run through them. Halfbrick Studios has managed to breathe life into even the tiniest aspects of the game.

The art style is equally impressive, with both foregrounds and backgrounds lovingly crafted with a great attention to detail. The backgrounds use several layers of parallax scrolling, giving the game a sense of depth and polish not seen by many of its competitors in the bargain-priced world of endless survival games. From the brickwork on the Great Wall to the lights in distant skyscrapers, the look of Monster Dash never fails to impress.

There’s a good deal of accomplishment to be found in the sound design as well. While there’s one theme song that loops over and over, a different rendition of this music occurs in each of the four stages. While fighting demons in China, the sound has a classically oriental vibe to it. In Transylvania the feel is more symphonic. While battling zombies on urban rooftops, it sounds like a rendition right out of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York – or at the very least a dancier remix of such a song. It’s a soundtrack that manages to make each environment sound truly unique.

Shooting weapons adds a great new element to a formula we’ve all grown accustomed to over the last year, and while Monster Dash may not really add much more than that, it’s not a game that needs to. Battling cartoony renditions of classic monsters never gets old, and despite only offering one game mode, the ever-changing environments keep things fresh game after game. If you’re looking a fun new twist on the Canabalt formula, you can consider Halfbrick’s latest release 99 cents well spent.