Escape from Age of Monsters is the latest title from Massive Joe Studios, published by Ayopa Games. It’s an endless runner set in the same monster infested world that was originally introduced to us through Age of Monsters – Rock Paper Scissors. The presentation and cartoon art is off the charts awesome, and while the gameplay is pretty awesome too, it definitely has some issues of its own.
You play as Gizzard, the surrogate older brother of several orphan children. After being backed into a corner, two mysterious and powerful gauntlets, one red and one blue, present themselves to Gizzard, who is desperate and stupid enough to use them. He then begins fleeing from the monsters, punching out red and blue colored walls, enemy monsters, and other obstacles while leaping from one building to the next.
The game controls are simple enough, with a left tap to strike with the red gauntlet, and a right tap for the blue. The orphan children that follow you act as your lives, and every time you miss an obstacle or enemy, one of them is taken until Gizzard is the only one left. If you’re able to punch with the right timing, you’ll pull off a perfect punch worth twice as many points. Three of these in a row results in Turbo mode, which gives you a temporary extra life and a massive score boost as long as you can continue your perfect punches. It can be very hard to initially learn the timing of these punches, as the window is very small and not very clearly indicated by anything, but after a bit of practice you get used to it and pull them off with a good frequency. Random items will fly across the screen fairly often, and you simply swipe across them to collect or activate them. These range from collectibles to coins to extra score to various kinds of power-ups.
The endless runner gameplay is unique and well done. The progression of the game, however, is straight up Tiny Wings, with three distinct objectives to achieve in order to unlock a special monster item, a higher base score multiplier, and more objectives. Heck, you even leap from building to building like the bird leaps from island to island. Also, Xbox Live Arcade fans will likely notice that the sense of humor of the game belongs squarely in the ‘Splosion Man school of random noises, yells, and pop culture references. Gizzard’s run even looks a lot like one of ‘Splosion Man’s running animations. The game is quite original despite all of it.
The cartoon art style is so well done that you’ll think this is based on some pre-existing Saturday morning cartoon show, but the extremely detailed monsters and animations are all original creations. The sound design and heavy metal soundtrack definitely set the right tone. This chaotic game can be a lot of fun, but it’s also very challenging and requires intense focus. I love a good challenge, but here it’s taken so far as to be detrimental to the whole experience. The coins you earn in game can be used to give temporary power-ups, but the most useful power-up, being the permanent addition of Kenji, the third orphan and extra life to the group, is ludicrously expensive. In-app purchase coins are, of course, available. Game Center leaderboards are supported too. I really like this game over all, but there are some definite flaws to iron out. Escape from Age of Monsters is available for one dollar at the time of this review, and the iPad version of the game is separate but also one dollar. What is this, 2010? Meh. At least they’re the same price. Most people will probably enjoy this one, though many others will likely be very frustrated with it.