Monstrum, developed by Team Junkfish, is a jump scare game at its core. But it goes for something a little different, using roguelite elements of random level generation instead of going the route that previous games like Alien Isolation and Outlast do with the fixed storylines. This allows the gameplay to be simpler, find objects and take them to place before big bad monster wipes the floor with you.
Before we get to gameplay, lets mention some bits about the game itself. It’s a Unity game, so all graphics options and resolution settings are done outside the game. But don’t expect FOV sliders and silly amounts of graphical settings just yet. One of these graphic settings, which is something I love the idea of, but sadly cannot test, is Oculus Rift Support. Games within this type of genre work wonderfully with the Rift, fully immersing you within the games environment and making the scares that much more real, and probably more horrifying as you get stamped on.
The gameplay can be boiled down to get items and escape the boat. The way it happens is nowhere near as simple, and it’s pretty tough. You begin in a cabin of a ship, and after a bit of poking around you find that you’re the only one left, as everyone else got out of dodge and away from something that was killing everybody. So your goal is to do the same, and there is a few different routes as to how. So far I’ve only found the life raft and the sub, each requiring specific parts that you have to go find to make them sea worthy and able to make the escape. I assume there are other ways due to various other random parts I’ve uncovered, but I’ve yet to find them.
One of the best things about this game is the whole exploratory aspect, which is further helped by the procedural generation, meaning that items will not be in the same place every time, requiring careful checking and walking around every single time the game played. Building from this is the lack of it being hard to memorise your way around the lower decks, as like in a real ship it all looks the same, riveted doors and walls surrounding you as you try to evade whatever is behind you.
Another idea this game brings to the table to freshen up the genre is different monsters. The developers plan to have a choice of three monsters hunting you down, with only two currently available in this build. One of these you can see a lot within the game’s promotional material, a large, glowing monster. It stomps around the ship, and comes barrelling towards you upon sight in order to swiftly end your life. You do have methods of avoidance though.
Items you can pick up can serve as distractions and noisemakers, such as bottles and coffee cups. You can, again going back to Alien Isolation, hide in a locker in the hopes it’ll miss you. Or activate some of the various steam valves dotted around to deter the beast, although you can get easily killed by these yourself if you’re not careful.
So where do the developers want to go from the game’s current build. As mentioned, a third monster will be added into the fray, as well as a whole new area of the ship, the engine room. Having these two things will fulfil the promises the team made, according to their Steam Store Page. Then post release, they want to add support and builds for Mac and Linux, as well as add complete support for Oculus Rift. If they choose to build form that, they could add more escape options, more varied monsters and more areas.
The amount of enjoyment you’re going to get out of the game, in its current form or full release, will all come down to personal preference. The game does a great job of keeping you constantly on edge, looking for parts while trying not to die or get ambushed, but that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The longevity of the title isn’t really a question, which is a glaring difference from titles like Slender: The Eight Pages, and other games within the genre, which is all due to the randomisation of the locations themselves and the items within, as well as the differing monsters that can be chasing you.
This is an early access title, available for $14.99 or £9.99, so there are issues with things such as monsters getting stuck in certain areas, items clipping through walls, and death animations freaking out sometimes, but they’re to be expected when the game isn’t set to come out for months down the line. It’s got potential, and it’s trying new things in a niche genre that’s pretty stale at this point, which can only be good for the game and the genre as a whole’s future.