One-Handed Geometry Wars: Death vs Monstars

By Alec Meer on March 10th, 2009 at 3:39 pm.

While I may devour them in vast quantities, I am not, I fear, an especially skilled player of games. If a game requires reflex, or quick-thinking, or high manual dexterity, you will almost certainly be better at it than I am. See how I run should someone challenge me to Streetfighter IV, see how I cower if they ask me what my best score in Geometry Wars is.

Shmups especially are bittersweet for me. I want to play them because I want to shoot things in a spaceship, not because I want to be tapping buttons quicker than I can think, not because I want to watch a number on the top-left of the screen slowly increase, not because I want to feel the stinging challenge to self-betterment when I’m killed and thrown back to the start. Because I am a lazy coward who wants to watch things blow up. I enjoy the mechanics of something like Geometry Wars, but when I play it I sometime feel like I’m being punished and mocked. Oh boo-hoo. So! Lovely free webgame Death vs Monstars is pretty much ideal for me.

It’s the same arena-based shmup formula as Geo Wars, but essentially it replaces punishment with reward. Killed? No worries, you get to keep all the credits you earned (to be spent on gloriously effective upgrades) and then to jump straight to whichever level you last played. Shot a few times? Yeah, you can handle it – and your health gradually recharges. Can’t afford a given upgrade? Just repeat any level as many times as you like to raise more cash. The new weapons carry descriptions like “don’t really have to aim with this one” and “It just simply tears EVERYTHING apart. That is guaranteed.”

And yet it’s far, far from being a skill-free game. All this stuff just serves to make you enjoy the explodey, exaggerated experience that much more – you still have to react and think pretty quickly. The amount and toughness of the Monstars increases dramatically across the half-dozen levels, and the end-boss (which is a tribute to a certain rope-burning meme) is ridiculously difficult. At the same time, you’re spraying mega-bullets, feeling increasingly powerful and generally having a grand old time. Failure is an opportunity to go cheerily blow up more stuff, not to grimly attempt to beat your own record. Though that option is unlocked if you complete the game. It’s a shmup for people who don’t care about high scores, and don’t care that they’re playing it a little hamfistedly.

The controls are superb too – the WASD + mouse, Robotron-derived system is rethought as a one handed, click-free mechanic. Just move your guy around with the mouse, and the gun will fire in the opposite direction to your travel. Inertia and arcing means you can nail a whole load of stuff almost indirectly, but for more precision you can hold down the left button to lock the targeting reticule in whatever direction it’s currently pointing. Your other hand, meanwhile, is left free to pick fluff out of your belly-button, stroke a cat, throw shadow-puppets or display the bird to imaginary persecutors. Throw in bullet time and a mega-bomb and conquering Death vs Monstars becomes something of an art after all – just one in which you can mess up a few times without winding up ultra-dead.

Plus, it’s cute as a button and oddly spectacular with it – you’re a cartoon Death blowing up dozens of space monsters at a time. If I were to put a gentle boot in, it’s to say that you end up unlocking everything a little too soon, leaving cash-collection in the later levels pretty much purposeless, and that it could really do with somehow auto-pausing on those moments where you accidentally lurch the cursor outside of the little Flash window. Other than that, this was as fine a waste of my morning as I could wish for.

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31 Comments »

  1. Yfel says:

    Ads by Google fail on the right. It’s suggesting I purchase various books such as “What happens after death” and the “bible”, which it deems relevant to this article.

  2. Ian says:

    Ooooh. Funs. :)

  3. ordteapot says:

    After last week’s “Space Phallus” and the first half of the headline, I was hoping for a breasts-based, masturbation-oriented shmup.

    Am i coordinated?, she asks!

  4. Colthor says:

    Woo, that was fun!

  5. Helm says:

    Yeah this is easy if you like any actual bullet hell games. Besides the boss no enemy throws any pattern blast at you, it’s all just moving in a circle and leading bullets while adjusting your line of fire… I beat the whole thing in one go, I only noticed there’s a slowdown button after I was done.

    Heh I don’t know if it would be the same if I hadn’t but the game telling me ‘I rock. Seriously.’ after the way I casually destroyed it felt a bit, um… like empty flattery.

  6. bobince says:

    > It could really do with somehow auto-pausing on those moments where you accidentally lurch the cursor outside of the little Flash window

    THIS. Can we not have a standard border area for all Flash games please? Half the challenge of some mouse-based Flash games is Don’t Mouse Outside The Box, and it’s not fun.

    (DvM is very nicely implemented otherwise, although a bit short.)

  7. Inanimotion says:

    All our base are belong you to.
    For life.

  8. Lorc says:

    What a marvelous little creation.

  9. Calabi says:

    It is a fun game and well designed. The controls should at a glance seem to be counter intuitive but they make it easier for you to handle all the mayhem because it orients to the immediate threat you are trying to avoid.

  10. Larington says:

    Yeah, mouse out of bounds is really annoying, so is this final boss, I mean, sheesh.

  11. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    Not being good at bullet hell games, I enjoyed this thoroughly. Of course, cool audio/visual design, a reference to Burn The Rope, and the audacious “You Rock” pun may have contributed. =P

    Thanks for the link Alec!

  12. Nero says:

    Yeah I had fun with this game. First I thought the controls felt weird, but just after some time it felt superb.

  13. Larington says:

    Hour later, I’m finally past that boss, can I have my life back now please Mr Meer? ;-)

  14. CG says:

    But the boss is hard. I’m still working on it, I’ve unlocked everything but he still eludes me.

  15. Baris says:

    I think I actually prefer this to Geometry Wars, the writing in it gave the game a great feel.

  16. JohnArr says:

    Up with this sort of thing!

    One of the more satisfying bosses in any game; it operates within roughly the same rules you do, it doesn’t have any cheap wipeout attacks and victory is based on your skill in the core game. Splendid.

  17. Logo says:

    For the boss just stay back and blast away at him until he does his beam. When be beams activate your rage and get close (for more damage). You can rage maybe once every other beam and avoid most of the damage that way.

  18. Ben Abraham says:

    Good Lord, I just lost my morning to this time-sink!!!

    Bastard oranges with teeth! And that end boss! What a draaaag. So couldn’t be bothered trying to beat him, even with everything maxed out.

  19. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    For the Boss:

    Stay as far away from him as you can and abuse the Strafe function (hold leftclick). Hammer bombs and bullet time if necessary.

    If you do it right you can get him in one try.

  20. Pantsman says:

    The final boss was pretty easy, I thought. Other levels took me forever but I downed him on the first try. Weird.

  21. Eschatos says:

    It’s good, but I thought it was quite easy. This is saying something as I usually suck at shmups.

  22. Sahana says:

    “Unlock everything too quickly”

    This depends on the player.

    On the final boss I didn’t have berserk mode and berserk time maxed, so, if you are including stats as well as weapons in your ‘too early’, what you are really bashing it for is unlocking things earlier to players who take more tries to complete the levels. Which I think is silly.

  23. Lunaran says:

    Fun, but clearly far too easy a game because I beat it, and I’m awesome. I played through the entire thing in one sitting and beat the boss on the first try before I even realized you could upgrade the weapons, and I didn’t use any bombs either. And, I was leaning on my arm funny so it was kind of falling asleep the whole time.

    All in all a total cakewalk and I consider myself personally insulted that Alec even posted this trifling fare. I’m never reading RPS again and also I’m moving to Greenland.

  24. unique_identifier says:

    the control scheme is interesting – the “aiming where you’re moving away from” mechanic reminds me of warning forever – although that had keyboard driven controls, and to aim you had to press a button, the opposite of here, where you press a button to stop aiming and lock a direction.

  25. MrFake says:

    It just needs more. More everything, really, but I’d settle for more bosses at least. All the design, art, gameplay, spirit, and whizzbangs are there … but it just needs more.

    I kind of wish more indie devs, even solo devs, would take the time to really stretch their creativity to the limits and put out more World of Goo-quality product based around their simple and unique ideas. Also, make them free. And while I’m wishing, put my name at the top of every high score list, even though I’d never break top 100.

    But seriously, I fear that these mini- and micro-games, as great as they are (or can be), will be carried off in the flood of cheap, free, web-based games, only to be preserved as fossilized bookmarks on ancient, archived hard drive backups.

  26. Wedge says:

    I feel bad for those that actually find the game hard. I mean I can’t touch a bullet hell shmup for the life of me, but between the the instant movement of a mouse cursor and a bullet time mode I don’t know how you could have any trouble (well, other than the mouse cursor rubbish which got me killed a couple times).

    I do like that adaptation of the GW/Robotron/etc control scheme quite a lot as well.

  27. Kyr says:

    That’s good one. But Geometry Wars is way harder in every aspect, that’s why I like it.

  28. Ian says:

    Well I’ve beaten the last boss but I’m not a score-monkey so my whirlwind affair with this game is probably over.

  29. Scott says:

    “It can move up to 1000 stuff on-screen with ease on a decent pc.”

    My ass, this lags worse than many other flash games I’ve played. Still, it’s fun enough that made it to the boss. Then, however, the flash frame lost focus and I pressed space for bullet time, page downing me so I couldn’t see the game any more. So I died. And then stopped. :P

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