Review: Monster Burner (XBox Live)


Monster Burner could call itself a puzzle game. It could also call itself an arcade game. Or a coin collection freemium title. What is for sure is that it's a fast moving and addictive game that has a lot going for it. It's well suited to a mobile touchscreen, plays quickly, but is let down by some pricing decisions.

Author: Ubisoft

Version Reviewed:

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Your wizarding role is to defend the bottom of the screen from the approaching enemies and you do this by throwing fireballs. You're not actually represented on screen, your fireball will appear where you touch the screen, and a flick of your finger will set the direction of the fireball as it heads towards the enemies. 

You can increase the capability of your fireballs through an in-game purchasing system, and these power-ups stay with you once purchased, and you will need this extra capability as you approach later levels. Bigger fireballs, more destruction, and the ability to bounce off the side walls will all help to get through each level with a high score while collecting as many coins as possible.

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You also need to avoid hitting the princesses and let them reach the bottom of the screen, and remember to pick up the bonus coins and notes by touching them as the drop down the screen. There's a lot to consider in a relatively small game area, and I'm glad to see that what you need to do is easy to see, even if the 'how' will take some thinking.

The key to gaining a high score is to wait and take out as many enemies as possible with each fireball to complete a level efficiently - and you will need to work on getting the three 'success' orbs on offer for a well played level, as these will unlock later levels in the adventure mode.

Alongside the main mode, you also have a 'Daily Challenge' level that will let you compare your score on a global level for bonus coins, the 'Four Seasons' which allows you to compete against your Xbox Live Friends, and a kids mode that simplifies the challenge for a younger audience. The menu system does feel more complicated than it could be, and I'd like to see this simplified with clearer buttons and UI elements.

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It's also nice to see that Monster Burner can be played without any further purchases if you don't want to spend more money. Yes, you can go ahead and accelerate your earnings with some in-app purchases of more coins, but sensible play will earn you enough coins to actually enjoy the game.  That's helped by the Gold Rush mode - you can only play this style of game once every few hours, but it is designed to have a significantly larger haul of coins while playing than the other more frequent levels you play.

The design of Monster Burner is geared around keeping you coming back each day to play just a little bit more, rather than go through the entire game in two or three marathon sessions. That's more suited to mobile play, and the in-app coin system helps this goal rather than hinders it. Even if you do buy in all the coins in the world, you're still limited to the timer to open up new levels. The other purchase you can make - a permanent 'double your coins' booster - feels the closest to 'buy this game' because of the help it gives you in collecting coins.

I do like the idea of a 'cloud save' of your data, and especially the coins you have, either earned or through purchasing, allowing you to restore them to your device after a reset, or if you have to exchange handsets. This really should be part of the Xbox Live api, but I'm glad that Ubisoft have implemented this.

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I'm less impressed with the pricing. Monster Burner was a free download when it was released last week. Now the price is up to 99c / 79p, there are a lot of people wondering if the app is still worth the money. I think it is, but the lack of a free trial option is going to have a dampening effect on downloads - and the raising of a price after the launch does leave a bit of a bad taste.

It might be a low cost to try, but it is still a cost, and gamers on mobile devices are used to free trials. This is a shame because Monster Burner is a good game that deserves to reach a wider audience. Unfortunately, the attempts to get as much income out of the game as possible have, once more, damaged the prospects of a promising title.

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