Monsters and Monocles is a top-down retro shooter in which you, and up to 3 of your friends if you have those at all, defeat enemies in various 8-Bit environments and with a large array of weapons at your disposal. Aesthetically and in how the game plays Monsters and Monocles isn’t breaking any new ground here, this retro revival of the past few years has seen many games with not only this look but of this genre. However, this game does provide players with some unique elements as well as what I found to be a fun and at times challenging gaming experience.
The game gives you the choice to play between four characters: Rupert Killingsworth, Lady Cannonhail, Monobot and possibly my favourite in both name and appearance, Baron Von Dogface, a quirky array of characters in a vibrant Victorian/Steampunk world in which you seek out adventure defeating the forces of evil, traveling from location to location in your airship. I found the characterization stylistically with these four characters to be great, they all looked very unique from one another but I feel that more could have been done to bring out their individual personalities a bit more, even if this was done briefly in the introduction to the game. This is something that I feel was done very well with the game’s enemies however. Monsters and Monocles does have a large array of enemies that stylistically are all very separate from one another and also have unique ways of moving and attacking. This was very well done, and certainly made the experience of playing not only more challenging, but more enjoyable.
An aspect of the game I also enjoyed was the overtly Britishness of the characters and world. Things like their airship being called the HMS Scone, the characters using cups of tea to replenish their health rather than boring old pixel hearts and of course the dreaded weapon known as the Crumpet Canon do help in giving this game its own identity within the genre. However, there were times when playing this that I wondered whether this was truly enough to set it apart. The truth is, although on a story level this game does set itself apart, both visually and particularly in gameplay there are many games like Monsters and Monocles. That isn’t to say this game isn’t a fun experience, because I would definitely say this was a fun game. However, there was not enough in Monsters and Monocles to really set itself apart and make a name for itself within the genre.
The game does a lot of things right. The game plays great with very fluid controls, the worlds you play in are unique from one another so as to prevent monotony, and the original score by Hyperduck Soundworks is fantastic in not only complimenting the game but standing alone as a great piece of music as well. My main issue is that from a mostly gameplay perspective this game doesn’t offer anything new that hasn’t been shown before in the genre, from games like Enter The Gungeon and Nuclear Throne. It is a genre that has a lot of titles, and without having a stand out element in how the game plays it is at risk of being just “another top-down shooter.” That being said, I do want to stress that my experience with this game, disregarding any other games of the genre, was a fun one, and stylistically this game was a visual treat. The studio Retro Dreamer certainly have an eye for characterization and visual flair, and I do see this being a fun experience playing with a group of friends online that you can return to.
Overall, I would rate Monsters and Monocles a 6.5/10
You can visit their Steam page here!