I’ve been on a monster expedition for a few hours now, and I’m stuck. I’ve been stuck many times already, of course, because that’s the nature of puzzle games – but it doesn’t get stuck. It’s a killer: I’ve arrived on an island that looks a lot easier than most of the scores I’ve seen, but I’m somehow stuck in a micro one-way system that’s impossible – I say, ‘I’m telling you, Impossible – Get through. You first have to lower a tree in a certain direction – there is only one direction from which you can push it – and then you need to use that tree as a bridge in another way I need to go where I am going. But here’s the real problem: I’m not sure that’s the only way. There is a post box on this island. Post boxes allow you to travel faster than other post boxes (don’t think too hard about it) and I can say, there are many more lands on the other side of this small island. Maybe I’m thinking of resolving another island somewhere else, and getting to it the other way?
So I go, teleporting around the weird-not-so-small map of the The Mustars campaign without solving every last half-puzzle. One of them, I probably say out loud, maybe not, It has to be. For one of them I had to get on a raft, at the top, at the back, to another island instead of the post box where I was stuck to try it for a few hours and there could be no other way. Impossible. Inaccessible I’ve spent too much time on it and I’m not so stupid that I missed something here.
Reader, I will not tell you the solution but I will tell you this: if in doubt you are always a fool.
The joy of such a monster campaign! A good puzzle game is a reminder that you are always stupid – never a puzzle – and a monster adventure is a very good puzzle game. It’s the latest in Drokneck, a small indie team with a history of Sokoband’s great puzzler, Ad Good Snowman Hand to Build and Cosmic Express, and in the developer’s own words it’s a bit longer than the previous ones, but the spirit is the same. This time, you are a small monster with a great backpack, who has reached an island and of course rolls on small bridges to cross new islands and explore by bringing down small trees. Each island has its own condom, but every couple of islands you go through have little exposure to break things down: the long-awaited human world has a variety of items and descriptions of assistant curators that it never gets.
From that humble wooden stump Dragoncake created a civilization of brain teasers. The puzzles are, in fact, based on the Sokobon, a kind of block puzzle in Japan. You can notice the layout of everything from Pokemon: it’s the ice and rock-pushing puzzle of the Siphom Islands and similar concepts. It’s trees instead of little cubes of stone in a monster expedition. At first it is small, which you can turn once – but if you arrive from the right, if not blocked – or flip, go to the end, clearing the side of the island. It will soon expand into somewhat taller trees that cannot be flipped but obviously could bridge larger gaps between the islands and go beyond that to a somewhat mind-blowing raft system.
Somehow, it is. The brightness of a monster campaign is that the way you can play it is to think hard without really thinking about it, so you’re leaving, hop from one curio to the next. Back Brightness is a stroke of talent. One of the things that sets a Monster campaign apart is the “Undo” button. Throughout the game you can only press three things, in reality: the directional input of your left analog (no jumping or dedicated “press under the tree” button, you simply boshen it), a undo button and a button to reset the island you are on. The inclusion of these last two and their implementation – speed and simplicity and the ability to undo any food to undo multi-step tasks compared to Adobe or Microsoft – magic is suddenly all the weight and all the stress is gone, and you are free from excitement and shaking and testing. What if it goes here? What if I go that way? If not. It’s almost not always, but it never matters.
There are other things I love. Although the different islands of the world have originated, they are all divided into smaller continents with their own climate. The trees then have tops of different colors – autumn brown, tropical greens, deep greens, winter frost, flowering pink – and become a kind of personal shorthand when you get stuck somewhere and decide to go the other way. Must go back to pink. There’s little explanation for how systems work – it’s a systemic, in fact – you’ve uncovered the world a little bit earlier. Two trees next to each other will not tap each other, if you press one. However, if you tap a tree and it doesn’t fall, the leaf falls off, which you think – you’ve already used that technique in breadcrumbs where you have it and where you don’t, you know everything. But you will probably accidentally learn that if you hop next to a tree, it has leaves. Already Fell, the second tree fell to the bottom and so you get a key for another island lock.
That’s the way it goes. You accidentally learn a basic raft, and the earth will shrink through the fog, so you will learn another type of raft, using large trees, as a purpose, because you know that in theory it should work. A weird three-part raft and log-bit thing lets you get a different kind of distance. You learn to make angles – I’ve never been so excited about making angles out of blocks since I was about five – and you roll logs on top of big logs and small logs and move away from logs using other logs and send logs to rafts where they probably are Not to be outdone, and reset and do something else. Everything with a delightful etiquette and excitement and charm.
And that’s the last touch, really. The charm is easily overstated or considered, but it must already be in the element in some way to make it work. A monster expedition has it in the spade (a spade is a giant spoon, show me by the way). This is the way you can soak your feet in the swollen swollen water and still make some grooves – I’ll take a million “Can you stop your feet and”? “Dog pet?” For each of these, what’s the value of it – and the small coffee or popcorn stand that you find very rarely when making your own way.
Plus, it’s all in the mechanics, the game itself. There is no excitement, no direction to force, just curiosity and speed and a reward that feels like a sometimes welcome hug. Pop in and out as you like. A free show, slow Wednesday you stopped working without a message or a sniffy guide. If we get into its nuts and bolts, it’s in the packing: it’s a way to get out of a larger, longer complex forest that eventually feels like a broken one followed by a stuffy one or two freebies followed by usually a deep breath and A little joke, just to back you up.
Which is nice, really, because it’s again with a good puzzle the main thing: you fool – unless you are reminded, coffee, or exhale, or a game that feels like a hug, you don’t.