Game Review: Monster Meltdown – Lemmings-ish? Yes please.

Allan Swann
March 8, 2013

Ambient Studios
Apple iPad 2 or greater

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What could be more exciting than a UK studio made up of former Lionhead, Criterion and Media Molecule staff (responsible for Fable, Burnout and LittleBigPlanet) producing a game for iPad fans?

We are rapidly seeing a transition in the games industry which sees the heavyweight publishing studios engage in a mild panic as mobile and tablet based gaming takes over. The scalability of mobile is obvious – smaller budgets, tighter projects and simpler gameplay mean overheads are lessened and the barriers to entry removed. Hence, the rapid creation of many new studios all trying out the platform.

So how does Ambient Studios’ first game stack up? Pretty well actually, especially if you’re a big fan of classics such as Lemmings.

Don't worry, most of the levels are far harder than this

Don’t worry, most of the levels are far harder than this

Monster Meltdown tells the story of Yuri, a clumsy janitor who spills his slop bucket on the controls at a monster creation facility. Donning a protective suit, Yuri has to use its teleporting capabilities to lure the escaped monsters back into their cages (or in gamespeak to ‘the goal’. It’s a puzzle game that will definitely test your grey matter – Yuri not only has to ensure he doesn’t get eaten (or zapped, or gassed by the environmental catastrophe he’s unleashed), but he also has to ensure the monsters don’t endure the same fate (including eating each other).

Some monsters will chase Yuri, some will run away, and some will blindly walk in one direction regardless of his presence (a la Lemmings) – the trick becomes teleporting in a way that unlocks doors, allows monsters to collect food (radioactive orbs) and ‘bounces’ the monsters off walls and platforms into the goal. As mentioned, some floors are electrified, and Turi can’t enter any gas clouds. He also can’t teleport where he can’t see, adding another tricky dimension to proceedings. By the time you get to the later levels you will be juggling monsters (and Yuri) left and right while frantically dabbing the screen… before calming sitting down and then pulling out your hair in frustration. Yes, it is addictive.

The presentation of the game is also wonderful, it has some lovely retro art design (I particularly like the old-school CRT flickering to the screen – it feels like you’re watching Yuri on a security monitor). The theme music also has a great little Russian jingle to it – very Tetris-esque, but which adds to the atmosphere of the title.

Patented hair removal device

Patented hair removal device

But most of all Monster Meltdown works because its controls are so damn simple (you don’t control Yuri running around, simply where he teleports to – the game happens ‘around’ Yuri’s simple movements), but the level design becomes nice and unforgiving by games’ end – as mentioned earlier, it has that old school Lemmings-vibe to it, with the unforgiving difficulty to match. Especially if you are trying to ensure the monsters eat all their radioactive orbs before hitting the goal (which gives you a maximum completion for each level). The later levels also have a limited number of times you can teleport, further increasing your stress levels.

There are plenty of levels, but it does get a bit repetitive by the end – but the game scales up the difficulty nicely so you will be an expert by the time you hit those trickier levels near the end.

More games like this please.

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