Monster Blast
| Monster Blast

"Ah ha ha, I loooove to count," said Count von Count (otherwise known as The Count) repeatedly throughout episodes of Sesame Street when this generation's twentysomethings were but table-high rusk-munchers. The Count clearly had a talent for numbers but was much less boastful about his after-dark activities which, given that he was a vampire, probably involved him sinking his fangs into poor Bert's neck and draining him of life-giving Muppet fluids (probably why he always had such a deathly yellow pallor).

The monsters that feature in Monster Blast (one of which bears an uncanny resemblance to the purple faced Count of Sesame Street fame) are presumably much less fond of numbers, seeing as it's numbers you must use to dispatch them.

Taking the form of a straight-up shooting gallery, Monster Blast is anything but. The set-up is very straightforward: a series of enemies move through the range, each with a number over their head. All you have to do is key in the number in order to shoot them. Every time you miss a monster and it escapes from the range, you lose some health. Lose it all and it's game over.

As you progress through the four levels (each of which is comprised of three stages and a boss encounter) the enemies get more varied in type and frequency, and a blind knowledge of the layout of your keypad is a must if you are to succeed. After each level you're awarded cash, with bonuses given for killing every enemy, failing to waste a single shot or achieving combo kills.

This cash can be spent on bigger guns, dynamite, health packs and ammo amongst various other small wares that prove useful when tackling the undead, mythical beasts and other creatures of the night.

Each of the boss fights pits you against a new monster that can only be felled after a deluge of digits have been punched in. To make things worse, various other monsters still roam the screen and all to the tune of a ticking clock.

That's pretty much all there is to Monster Blast, but the game is so more than the sum of its parts. Just like an arcade game should be, it's great fun, challenging and has 'just one more go' permeating all aspects of its nature.

The polish has certainly not been spared, either. The shooting ranges are bold, colourful and sport animated details. The monsters, meanwhile, are nicely drawn and stand out prominently from the backgrounds as they make their way past the firing line. And backing the excellent visuals is great sound, with a kitsch spooky organ number setting the tone and short snippets of amusing dialogue bookending the stages.

There is something so uncannily arcade-like and pure about this title that it makes you think the coders really did spend their youth down at the arcade, pumping 50 pence pieces into their games of choice. In many ways, it's a welcome slice of retro gaming.

Unfortunately, it's also this old-skool influence that's behind the game's only real flaw. You are granted but one life to play through Monster Blast with and whilst you can sustain three hits before dying, it's a very harsh limit to impose, particularly as there is no save function.

This means that even on the easiest difficulty setting (of which there are three) there is a strong chance you'll have to endure a frustrating return to the beginning before making it to the end. You can buy medikits that allow you to sustain more damage but their presence doesn't quite off-set this grating foible.

Still, Monster Blast is as polished as they come and if you like a challenge then you'll certainly find one. There's enough charm and fun here to forgive this game its only design drawback and amongst the countless puzzlers and ham-fisted action titles out there, Monster Blast's apt mobile take on the gallery shoot-'em-up is a breath of fresh air.

Indeed, we've lost count of the number of times we've played it.

Monster Blast

Exceptionally presented and offering excellent fun, Monster Blast is only undone slightly by dodgy difficulty issues