Monster Dash: It’s an iPhone Smash

Geek Culture

Mummy enemy from Monster DashMummy enemy from Monster Dash

image: Halfbrick Studios

Some video game characters are destined for greatness. Gaming standards like Mario, Sonic, Samus and Master Chief have become veritable entertainment icons in their own right, with pop culture clout that far exceeds your 42″ LCD. But not everyone is cut out to be a plumber/doctor/go-kart racer/princess-saving adventurer. Some are just content to travel through time shooting evil right in its face. Barry Steakfries is just such a man.

Further mining the subtle genius that is its gun-toting time traveler, Australian developer Halfbrick has just unleashed another picture perfect iPhone mini-game on a waiting public. Monster Dash finds you running, running, ever-running through a number of monster-infested landscapes with only your wits and a steady supply of creature killing weaponry to see you through.

If you skipped Canabalt because it lacked the proper measure of ravenous monsters and dangerous gunplay, then Monster Dash is truly the game for you. Once again you control Barry as he blasts his way through hordes of supernatural enemies. But whereas the palette of fiendish cannon fodder was sorely limited in his PSN debut Age of Zombies, this time Barry takes on the quadruple threat of zombies, vampires, demons and mummies.

Scattered across four similarly themed environments — the post-apocalyptic Zombie Metropolis, the classically Transylvanian Vampire Kingdom, the Asian-flavored Demon Dynasty and the obviously Egyptian Tomb Town — these enemies are all that stand between Barry Steakfries and… whatever it is he is running toward.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. He also has to contend with treacherous spiked obstacles and the constant threat of falling to his death. Thankfully, a benevolent deity has seen fit to both favor him with preternaturally muscular legs and to litter his path with power-ups. These take the form of hearts, used to replenish Barry’s health, and bonus weapons. Much like Age of Zombies, the latter is where this title truly shines.

Sure, mowing down enemies with your default shotgun is satisfying, but sometimes you need a firearm with a bit more flair. This may take the form of the requisite sub-machinegun or the ultra-high caliber Pacifier, or more exotic fare like the Mr. Zappy lightning gun or the ridiculously awesome Machinegun Jetpack. (Yes, it is a jetpack that fires machinegun bullets down onto unsuspecting enemies.)

Controlling Barry Steakfries through this surreal horror show is a cinch; the lower left-hand corner of the touch screen controls jumping while the right controls shooting. The touch controls are quite responsive, meaning that you can choose to jump high and long or short and low as the situation warrants. As an added bonus, you can hold down the weapon trigger for some rapid-fire action. This works well with your basic shotgun, but depletes your special weapons’ finite ammo reserves quickly.

By its very nature the game is both incredibly straightforward and fabulously fast-paced. Barry runs from left to the right on his own, gathering momentum as his speed slowly builds. He blasts enemies and leaps obstacles along the way, and each 1000 meter benchmark sees him warped to another random environment.

Though you’d think the simple premise would grow quickly stale, the rare combination of attitude and mindless fun will likely keep you coming back for more. The title also includes OpenFeint support, which gives you full access to leaderboards and smartass achievements galore.

This game really is the whole (if diminutive) package. Background music is appropriately atmospheric and fits each world flawlessly. The character sprites are ironically cute and seemingly nonthreatening despite their obviously violent nature and the backgrounds are simply but skillfully rendered. And just as with their previous work, the Halfbrick team manages to provide genuine depth by adding in perfect little details. Spent shells fly from Barry’s shotgun, rooftop litter shifts in his wake and slain vampires explode in clouds of disoriented black bats.

GeekDad Seal of ApprovalGeekDad Seal of Approval

Nerd-Tested, GeekDad-Approved

Monster Dash succeeds by bringing in all the best that Halfbrick has to offer. It combines the attitude of Age of Zombies, the charming simplicity of Echoes and the highly addictive just-one-more-game nature of Fruit Ninja. It’s a must-buy for any iPhone/iPod Touch owner looking for the perfect on-the-go time-waster, and I am proud to present it with the highly coveted GeekDad Seal of Approval. Wear it with pride, Barry Steakfries, as you blast your way across the timestream!

WIRED: Great gameplay, nice use of sound, Openfeint support, perfectly blended quirky graphics and cartoon violence

TIRED: If you don’t like mindless running and gunning then this game has nothing to offer you, and also you are dead inside

Review materials provided by Halfbrick Studios

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