Monstrum

Monstrum is a game that is built around its environment, and monsters entirely dictating what experience you will have.

By Artemis, Posted 30 May 2015

What do you do when you're stuck on a boat with no one left to turn to but yourself, while three evil creatures are after you? Hide in closets of course! Monstrum is a game developed and published by Team Junkfish. It's a procedurally generated survival horror game with roguelike elements. By forcing you to restart your campaign to escape forcing you to face a completely different monster every time you die, since the three main monsters in the game switch when you're killed. Making you come up with a new strategy every time you play. The only things that remain constant are the locations of the escape routes; the helicopter, submarine and life raft, all of which have different items you have to collect while avoiding being mauled by monsters. It is very likely you will be killed though, but dying is a big part of this game, so don't worry too much if you can't beat the game within your first hour of playing. If the achievements on Steam can be believed, not a lot of people have beaten this game.

The entirety of the game takes place in a boat, a particularly old one at that; all of the rooms are rusty and in varying states of decay. Obviously something happened, but your character has no idea because he has amnesia and has to piece together just how he got there and what happened on the boat. There are no cutscenes to introduce the story—the game just drops you in and lets you to figure it out. The player has the option of just running through the game without picking up a single piece of story and beating it. The story isn't conveyed as much as it is implied by the various pieces of paper scattered across the area telling you just what happened. While they do give you helpful hints, they aren't needed to complete the game. Following the story isn't required, all that's required is gathering up the items and not to be killed by one of the many beasts in the game. Think of it like a sadistic scavenger hunt, where if you don't find all of your items in time, your face gets melted off by a lava monster.

Monstrum Lava Face Monster

Each enemy's design is unique, ranging from the lava faced Brute, the purple-veined ethereal Fiend, and the gangly sharp limbed Hunter. They all have different styles of tracking you down and killing you whenever you do something important or if they just feel like it. The AI makes them attack at random times, so there could be a long period where you don't see them at all, only to suddenly hear them down the hallway. You have to run fast in order to escape into the safety of a locker, cupboard, or under a bed. If you aren't well hidden enough, they'll find you and rip you out of your supposed safety. This is why it's important to pay attention to where you're hiding, and if you have something in your hand that could alert the creatures of your presence, like a flashlight that's turned on towards the door.

On occasion the AI does do some random things. At times they'll linger far too long in the room, which does a wonderful job building tension, but hiding in a cupboard for a round five minutes or so can get boring. All you'll hear is them messing around in the room, sometimes getting stuck on objects to the point where you may have to leave your hiding space and run so they can get off of it. It's a silly bug that doesn't happen often enough to completely destroy the experience, but it does warrant laughter in a moment that's supposed to be scary.

When the chases occur, the environment of the ship often plays to the game's advantage, which gives the player a highly disoriented feeling while they're running from the monster. A lot of areas on the deck you're on look similar, so while you're running you may find yourself running in a circle out of panic. This plays to the game's advantage because it gives you a chance to be scared by not just the monster but the game's environment.

Monstrum Corridor

Finding the items isn't easy. It requires you to be aware of your surroundings at all times and may cause the player to take notes on where everything is, including hiding spaces. Since walkthroughs don't help you when playing a game that's randomly generated every time, you'll never have the same experience twice. The items you found before will be in a completely different spot, making them easier or harder to find depending on how lucky you are for that particular run. A good strategy for those who are playing the game for the first time is to pick one escape route they're shooting for and only pick up items relating to it. As tempting as it may be to pick up the blow torch, if you're not working on the submarine than all its doing is taking up inventory space, which, in a game like this where inventory space is limited, is not worth having.

Everything you accomplished gets logged into a book your character has, and it acts as your objectives and as the place where you read the notes from the game. The problem with this is that it presents itself in such a way that it can be disorienting for unsuspecting players. They tried to make it have a realistic approach to it by having it be an actual book that you hold rather than a menu screen. This does come in handy when you're reading over the notes of the previous people that were on the ship, giving you a sense that you're the one that's putting all of the pieces together. However, if you're looking downward when you try to access the menu, it jerks you upwards or you're required to move your characters head to look up at the book that has his stuff in it. This gives an interesting mental image of a man holding a book perfectly upright while he's staring at the ground. Sometimes the book even makes you scroll sickeningly slowly upwards in a way that's disorienting for the player especially in a first-person perspective.

Monstrum is a game that is built around its environment, and monsters entirely dictating what experience you will have. While it doesn't have the most original of starting points and there are some elements of the game that don't always work, it's still a fun ride if you love being challenged in your horror titles. When playing Monstrum you'll get genuine scares and a frustrating challenge that'll make you keep coming back for more as time goes on.

Angelina Bonilla, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information

Monstrum

86/100

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Indie
Developer(s): Team Junkfish
Genres: Survival Horror
Themes: Horror
Release Date: 2015-05-20

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