Age of Monsters – Rock Paper Scissors is about as much fun as, well… Rock Paper Scissors

If you’re at all familiar with the world of comics, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the name Jeff Matsuda. As an artist, Jeff has worked on everything from X-Men comics to The Batman animated series. Matsuda has a great visual style, and it’s something we’re always delighted to see more of. So when we heard that Jeff decided it was time to take a stab at game design, we were understandably excited. Once we got our hands on Age of Monsters – Rock Paper Scissors though, our excitement was quickly deflated.

Imagine, if you will, a world populated by terrifying monsters like zombies, aliens, and web developers. Now imagine that the only way these creatures can settle their differences is not through fierce battle, but a best of three Rock, Paper, Scissors match. That, in a nutshell, is Age of Monsters.

The monsters themselves are dripping with personality. No two look alike (we weren’t kidding about the web developer), and they all have well-written, smirk-inducing bios that accompany them. What’s more, the art – as you’d expect from a Jeff Matsuda project – is downright stunning.

But things quickly fall apart once you look past the game’s gorgeous exterior. Actually, they fall apart even before that. Despite how well-drawn the art is, Age of Monsters isn’t optimized for the iPhone 4’s Retina Display. As a result, everything looks kind of fuzzy, as if you’re playing with a touch of glaucoma.

The main push of the game is playing Rock, Paper, Scissors asynchronously with your friends. The problem, though, is that you can only play with your friends. There’s no way to play with strangers here, so you’ll be forced to convince people you know to download the app if you ever want to enjoy the multiplayer content that’s at the center of this game. There’s also a training mode, which essentially serves the same role as the multiplayer, but instead lets you battle against an AI opponent.

The gameplay itself is ridiculously simple. You’ll select the actions for three rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors all at once. Once your opponent does the same, you’ll be treated to an animation showing the results of each round. Each character will have their own animation for “rock,” “paper,” and “scissors,” but it’s still just monsters making the classic hand gestures. Nobody turns into a giant pair of scissors or hurls an enormous rock across the screen. For a game with an extreme fantasy element, the animations themselves – while pretty – are incredibly dull.

Age of Monsters - Rock Paper Scissors

Age of Monsters - Rock Paper Scissors

Ultimately though, it’s the core concept that really makes Age of Monsters – Rock Paper Scissors such a misfire. The reason asynchronous play works so well in games like Hanging With Friends and Kard Combat is that players need to use their brains to outwit their opponents. That will never happen with Rock, Paper, Scissors. What’s more, these experiences keep players captivated round after round. The very nature of Rock, Paper, Scissors makes it a one and done affair.

We love to see Jeff Matsuda’s artwork grace our video game world, but with the game beneath that art being so subpar, Age of Monsters becomes a difficult title to recommend. Hopefully Mr. Matsuda will lend his considerable talents to something a little more substantial in the future.