We can’t stop here! This is monster country.
As my kids would no doubt agree, there are two kinds of monsters: the scary kind that cause nightmares, and the friendlier kind that you see in kids’ movies and TV shows. Here Be Monsters deals more with the latter than the former, combining a lot of things you’ve done in previous Facebook games along the way. Surprisingly, it actually turns out to be pretty fun.
Set in the real world but at some undetermined time in the past, Here Be Monsters turns you into a newly appointed Trapper. You also appear to be an elf of some sort, which is handy since both magic and monsters are real. The monsters have been overcome by the Corruption, a mysterious force that makes them more ill-tempered than usual, and the only fix is to capture them. It’s a social rehabilitationist’s dream come true!
The tutorial provides you with your very first trap, which is essentially a large pit. It turns out the monsters are magical but not very bright. The idea is that you combine the right trap with the right bait in the right location, and voila: you’ll snare a couple of beasts. Once you set and bait a trap, you can check it on a regular basis (eventually every 15 minutes) and see what you’ve got. Sometimes you get the monster, other times it escapes with the bait. Over time, you’ll be able to build better traps to hunt for more physically imposing monsters.
The Ministry rewards you with coins and experience points for any monster you catch, but much of the action is driven by quests that will have you hunting for specific beasts. But there are plenty of other things to do at the same time, all of which support your trapping in some way. Back at your homestead, you can farm (of course!), cook and craft items. Out in the world, you can mine, forage, fish, and collect butterflies. Components you find in one activity are needed for something else, and all of it works together in a very organic way.
There’s a downside to the gameplay in the form of the dreaded Energy mechanic, but it’s not as bad in Here Be Monsters as in most other Facebook games. It’s a bummer that it takes so much Energy to travel from one location to another – except for London and you homestead, where you can always return for free – but there are many ways to restore it on your own. Just whipping up some roast squash and roast potatoes to eat can give you a few points back, and both dishes require just a single ingredient that you can grow on your farm in a few minutes.
You can also get by with a little help from your friends, and in this case, I’m using the term pretty loosely. The game enables you to buddy up with any players you encounter whether they are your Facebook friends or not, so quests that require you to ask others for materials don’t necessarily make you bug your non-gamer acquaintances. In the same vein, there’s a premium currency called Banknotes that you can buy for real money, but it’s certainly not a must, and if you’re patient enough, it seems very possible to play into the high levels without ever spending a cent.
Really, the only things that interrupt your play are a few minor glitches. The action will hang up in the middle of an activity from time to time, though never in a way that makes you miss out on any resources. Another frustration is that your Trapper can teleport, Nightcrawler-style, to traverse long distances on screen, but otherwise takes forever to run from one spot to another. You’ll also sometimes find that objects get stuck behind each other in the typically cutesy graphics, as if some of the zones are a little too crowded.
To be blunt, there’s nothing in Here Be Monsters that advances the art of Facebok games in any fashion, and some gamers won’t be interested in it for that fact alone. Yet even though it doesn’t color outside the lines, it deals with a lot of the issues of similar games in an intelligent way. Gamesys might be better known for its gambling titles, but it shows here that it knows how to apply some lessons from social gaming history to good effect.