Mobile Monday: Microchip Monsters
You were once one of many. A proud working clan, you made sure that your great city ran smoothly, and stayed safe. But one day, invaders appeared. Evil entities, driven by a thirst for death and chaos, they slaughtered your clan. But death was not the end for you. Your spirit, a vengeful shade made flesh by unknowable arcane forces, has returned to the city it once loved. Populated by the gruesome horde that took your life, your singular purpose is to wipe out every last one of them. Oh, and did I mention all of that takes place inside a smartphone? That’s the setup for Microchip Monsters, this week’s Mobile Monday review.
OK, so I might’ve embelished the setup a little bit. But stick with me, OK? In Microchip Monsters, you play as the Ghostbot, the spirit of a nanite charged with purging a smartphone of the nasty viral infection that wiped out you, and all your nanite friends. Part Arkonoid, part Bomberman, part Sonic Spinball, the game is a mashup of styles and genres which, while instantly playable, is a bit tricky to explain, But I’ll do my best.
Each level of the game represents a microchip which must be cleared of infection. The Ghostbot enters at the bottom of the chip, and slowly creeps its way up the screen, launching probes at the viral orbs it encounters. The probes act like pinballs, hurtling through the map, ricocheting off of walls and obstacles in an energetic yet predictable way. The probes don’t actually knock out the viruses, though. Instead, the probes drop mines which remain where they’re dropped, and explode after a set amount of time. The trick is to drop a mine close enough to a virus so that it is destroyed when the mine goes off. The probe will keep bounding through the microchip until it reaches the end, or you use up its five mine capacity. At which point, the camera will return to the Ghostbot to launch a new probe.
While it’s relatively simple to take out a stationary virus, most of the little buggers don’t stay still. Some spin around in circles, some streak back and forth across the screen, some even orbit eachother like tiny viral planets. Dropping mines in the right place, at the right time, becomes more and more difficult as the levels progress. The levels themselves play a large role in either helping or hindering your quest. Being a ghost, you’re naturally able to pass through walls, but at a price. While in an obstruction, you can’t fire probes or move at a normal speed. Further complicating matters are wormholes and blackholes, hazards which can redirect your probes or fling them to distant corners of the level. How those celestial entities came to exist in a circuit is never explained, but… you’re playing as the ghost of a murdered nanobot. It’s best not to focus on logic too much, or at all, while playing.
Produced by indie developer Peculiar Games, Microchip Monsters is an engaging piece of genre-bending fun. It combines many classic elements into a new form which feels both refreshing and familiar. The game has a minimalist but vibrant artistic style which is easy on the eyes and a joy to look at. The fun is further enhanced by a wonderfully retro soundtrack which would be right at home on an NES cartridge. The game’s 60 levels provide an ever increasing challenge, but rarely cross the line into frustration. Factor in the game’s Rogue mode, which presents randomly generated levels, and the game has a healthy amount of replayability. The touch controls are easy to learn, and very responsive. The only issues I encounted while playing had to do with the game’s forced scrolling. Your Ghostbot is constantly being pushed through the level, from bottom to top, but the camera always follows your probes. Depending on how long a probe is active, you might return to your Ghostbot buried in an obstacle, or worse, passing by a missed virus.
The game is equally enjoyable in five minute samples or hour long marathons, and at only 99 cents, would make a great addition to anyone’s mobile collection. The game is available from Google Play in both paid and ad-supported versions. It earns an 8 out of 10.