Published on January 22nd, 2015 | by Lee Davies
Monster Combine TD
Format reviewed: 3DS eShop
Other formats available: Exclusive
Developer: Collavier Corporation
Publisher: Collavier Corporation
Website: Monster Combine TD
Collavier seem to be ramping up their localisation of their Japanese Nintendo content for release on western platforms recently. We saw 3 games released from them last year, the functional but flawed Workshop games (Painting Workshop and Comic Workshop) and 1 DSIWare title that we reviewed very poorly, My Aquarium: Seven Oceans. Monster Combine TD is their first release of the New Year. So, it was with trepidation I approached this magical/mythical monster Tower Defence game.
The story is short and the point. You need to rewrite history and save the world, well actually a school, from a tragic fate by travelling through a magic portal and fixing past bygones! By becoming a summoner, you are tasked to protect a prestigious school of wizardry and witchcraft (hmmm! Sounds familiar), that has a Principal named Professor McKellan (hoh, another fantasy reference). You soon find help in the form of your new companion Katrina, spell caster extraordinaire, and the school janitor, dreadlocked ex-professor, and ex-stoner by the looks of him, who provides all your tutorial assistance.
Monster Combine TD, the TD if you haven’t worked it out yet stands for Tower Defence, is typical of its genre. The locked school gates stand on the left-hand side of the field of play, enemies, weird-looking creatures coming from the old tales and mythologies, on the right. If you stand by idly the enemies encroach to the point of breaking down the gates and sacking the school, game over! So, how to prevent the evil forces from pillaging the school? It all comes down to the art of summoning through the use of magic cards. After the tutorials are over you’re left to your own devices of how to organise your deck and Katrina’s magic abilities.
The cards are split into 2 categories, Monsters and Elements. The Monsters are all the same, a small weak Goblin type of creature that stands no chance even against the weakest enemy. The tactic is to power up your Monster with an Element card. These abilities range from attack boosts (an Orc), defence (a shield carrying Toad), long-range Elf bowmen, flying abilities to traverse dangerous territory, and other such Tower Defence staples. By dragging and dropping any Elemental card in your current deck onto the field of play and having your Monster collect it evolves that Monster. It is great to evolve your weak Goblin into an attacking Orc with a huge cleaver that attacks one space, but use a second Elemental card on that newly evolved creature to make it evolve further and become even more powerful. A shield defence card on that attacking Orc will turn it into a huge Goblin with incredible defensive and offensive abilities. Weak flying Goblins become shielded Griffins, and so on through 35 possible combinations of Elemental cards.
During play you have 4 cards that you can place at any one time. Once a card is dragged and dropped onto the field of play a spawning timer starts. This must be completed before another card will replace that now empty slot. It certainly adds a tactical side to the action, and makes you think more about which randomly appearing card would best suit the situation at hand.
Before even delving into this action you must select which cards and magic abilities to use throughout one level. The trick to the start of each level is to select an appropriate amount of Monster cards and Element cards for the terrain and enemies at hand. During the first few levels there isn’t much to this as you are limited in how many cards in total you possess in your deck. Levelling up by playing through the levels and collecting award gems is a way to unlock the ability for more cards in your deck and faster spawning of those cards. The same can be said of Katrina’s magical abilities, too. She has access to eight different types of magic from lightning enemy zapping attacks and healing allies, to offensive and defensive stat boosts. Leveling up Katrina gives you access to a different number of spell types, a greater amount of spells per level to use, and a faster spawn time between uses. For example, at the start of the game Katrina has the limited use of only 1 spell cast per level, with a 30 second spawn wait. At the end of the game she can use 8 spells per level and only have to wait 20 seconds between each use. The same happens to the card deck for your Monsters and Elements.
The drag and drop mechanics work solidly, but require persistence and patience to implement sometimes. The last thing you want in the heat of a closely fought battle is for the card you’ve dragged quickly across the screen to not register at the point of drop off because you’ve used a fraction of a second too little for it to register within the drop-off square, and then watch that card fly back to your deck and the school fall into the wrong hands, or for the Goblin you’ve just deployed to walk straight through a pit of lava instead of around it. This is a small niggle though, that with patience is easily overcome. Other niggles are also small, but noteworthy, such as the grammatical and spelling errors throughout the dialogue, the bad cast of annoyingly clichéd characters, and when replaying a level to grind and add extra gems to your collection for unlocking purposes, you will be faced with watching the entirety of the Story Conversation again, let me skip it please, no you can’t, please watch all the drivellings of the stoned Janitor 50 times.
These really are small misgivings in an otherwise solid Tower Defence game, that tells its story over 40 levels, 20 training and 20 in an alternate dimension, with multiple choice dialogue, and the piece de resistance the use of QR codes to obtain new levels after the main story mode is complete. Sure it would be nice to have local co-op implemented, but as a cheap eShop download, Tower Defense fans should have at least 4 hours of play out of this solidily put together short-lived game.
The 8 additional QR code based levels can be found at this web address http://www.collavier.com/en/3ds_mctd/exstage.php
Monster Combine TD
Summary: A solid Tower Defence game that is well worth the asking price, but only if you can put up with a short lived experience with a few niggles like the annoying characters and ever so slightly imprecise character control.