Last week, most of us were thrilled when Monster Burner launched as a free Xbox Windows Phone game. Surprisingly, a few days later Monster Burner is no longer free; it now sells for a dollar. The only other time an Xbox Windows Phone game has gone up in price (Angry Birds and ilomilo promotions excluded) was Miniclip’s Fling jumping from 99 cents to a too-high $2.99 last year.
Monster Burner was free on iOS before it got pulled and relies heavily on In-App Purchases. Now that it costs a buck, should you still get it? Read on to find out...
Destroy all monsters
Monster Burner’s gameplay has a simple but strong foundation. Enemies approach from the top of the screen and each one that reaches the bottom causes one heart’s worth of damage. To keep your hearts safe, you’ll fling fireballs at the baddies from anywhere on the screen. You can hold your finger down before launching the fireball to increase its size and thus hit more enemies. Ricocheting shots off of walls will burn even more foes at once.
That ricochet mechanic gives Monster Burner some technique. The more enemies you hit with one fireball, the higher your score and the more coin bonuses they drop. So bouncing fireballs off the walls in order to hit the most possible enemies will reap the best rewards. But the enemies come in different patterns and speeds, so you can’t always reply on a particular angled shot to get the job done. An if you’re in trouble, you might just have to flick like crazy instead of charging up big shots to richochet.
On the whole, Monster Burner lacks for enemy variety. You’ll mostly fight the same orange ‘Morglins’ throughout the entire game. Sometimes they show up wearing skull helmets, in which case they take two hits to kill instead of one. But at the very least, some palette swaps would’ve spiced things up a bit.
That said, a few completely different enemy types show up in some levels. Water-based Droolers are the most common secondary foe. Fireballs kill them but they also extinguish the fireball, ending a combo chain. The trick is to aim for as many regular enemies as possible before your shot hits the Drooler. When these guys start showing up in large numbers in harder levels, you’ll just have to flick away instead of worrying about combos.
Other enemies include fast-moving spiders, ghosts who disappear and reappear, zombies, werewolves, and a vampire bat. Bats must be killed quickly because they drain your life from a distance. But most of the baddies I just listed only appear in the Transylvaniac set of levels instead of throughout the game. They fit that level’s theme but the game would work better if they also showed up in other levels and modes.
Finally, princesses don’t fall into the monster category, yet they pose just as much threat as enemies. Whenever a princess runs by, you have to let her reach the bottom of the screen unharmed. Accidentally roast her with a fireball (very easy to do) and you lose a heart. I’ve dyed, I mean dieted... err, no, DIED quite a few times as a result of unintended princess barbecues.
Monster Burner offers several modes, but they’re spread around kind of oddly. The ‘Play’ button leads to a campaign mode that sadly lacks a story. It contains six sets of regular levels. Each set has a different number of levels within it – one offers only four while two of them have eight. And the High Plains set’s levels start their numbering at two instead of one. Truly there is no rhyme or reason to the level distribution.
Within that same Play option you’ll also find a set of bonus modes: Survival, Revenge of the Enchantress, Spider Lair, and Fright Night. Survival (which costs a bunch of coins to unlock) is a challenging stage that goes on for quite a while and offers potentially high coin payouts. Nobody has discovered how to unlock the other threee modes; maybe they're a teaser for a future update?
Outside of the play option, you’ll also find three more game modes on the cluttered main menu: Level of the Day, Gold Rush, and Four Seasons. Four Seasons is a set of four simple season-themed levels. I guess the point of them is to compete for higher scores with your friends. Note that even though the help text mentions global leaderboards, like other Windows Phone games this one only supports Friends Leaderboards.
Gold Rush adds an interesting time-based element. You can only play it every six hours, and the game’s Live title will even display a number one when it becomes available. (The Live tile has a spelling error though, as pictured a few paragraphs below.) Gold Rush levels change every week. They’re longer than normal levels and offer far more coin rewards than usual.
- The Children’s Mode advertised in the game’s Store description is NOT present on Windows Phone. Let’s advertise our games honestly, okay devs?
- The options screen has a Cloud storage backup option, which would be awesome... If it worked, which it doesn't. Let's hope Ubisoft fixes that with an update.
- No volume control options! Given Windows Phone's lack of independent volume control, developers should never forget to include sound options.
- The game crashes on start-up for some users. I didn't experience this, but it needs to be fixed.
Grinding for gold
Monster Burner started out as a freemium title. Even though the game costs a little money now, it still relies on the same IAPs as before. Basically, the in-game store sells single-use items (slow down monsters, speed up monsters, or draw damaging fire walls) and several permanent upgrades. The upgrades give you more life, make your fireballs bigger or reflect more, and increase firewall size. Because the campaign difficulty ratchets up super quickly, you’ll need to buy most or all of the upgrades to complete the game.
All of those cost coins, which can be earned during gameplay. Upgrades get super expensive, so players will have to either grind for coins or purchase them with Microsoft Points. The IAP prices (as with many Windows Phone games) don’t offer a terrific value for the money. But the permanent 2x coin multiplier for 160 Points ($2) is practically a must-buy since it cuts the grinding time in half. Our coin grinding trick will speed it up even more!
Spelling is hard, okay?
Many of the Achievements involve earning 100 percent efficiency ratings on levels by keeping fireball use to a minimum – usually not as hard as it sounds. Others require players to earn orbs from high scores on the levels. A few levels won’t give up their orbs without a fight, let me tell you. And one Achievement wears a shamefully incorrect description - the one for getting 93 orbIt actually takes 111 orbs to unlock it.
You’ll also need an overall leaderboard score of one million points. The problem is level scores don’t always post to the leaderboard for some reason, so you might have to replay levels several times just to get their scores to count. Ubisoft should definitely improve the leaderboard performance.
Finally, purchasing every upgrade will take a while. Use our fast coin grinding trick to get them in a hurry.
Monster Burner is built as a free game and it really should be free, so I don’t know why the price got raised to a dollar. But even I you factor in that cost and the 2x permanent coin multiplier, it still ends up being just three bucks total – a fair price.
The design of the game relies a tad too heavily on grinding though. The campaign difficulty spikes weirdly so that you’ll sometimes have a tough time until you buy another upgrade or two. And only certain levels are good for grinding anyway, so you end up playing those few levels or Gold Rush for hours and barely even visit the other levels. The game could use more even payouts and eight levels per set instead of some sets having fewer levels.
I don’t want to sound too down on Monster Burner, though. It needs more polish, but the core gameplay is fun and easy to learn. I love the art style too. If you can put up with a little grinding and like turning monsters to ashes, don’t hesitate to grab the game and the 2x coin multiplier along with it.
Monster Burner – 99 Cents - 33MB - Store Link