The App Store is home to some seriously weird games. Whether you're playing a bear driving a car around the forest in Enviro-Bear 2010 [99¢] or a cat inside a ball shooting at a giant cup of noodles in Meow Meow Happy Fight [99¢/HD], there are many strange experiences to be found on the iOS platform. The latest one that I've come across is called Font Monsters [$1.99/Lite] from Japanese developer Muu Muu, who have previously released the similarly strange and generically named Block Guy [$2.99/Lite] to the App Store. Font Monsters is a text-based shooter (literally, you shoot text) that has a really wacky style, with interesting character designs and catchy music, and it requires some fast reactions to engage in its challenging gameplay. It's also completely unlike anything else available on the App Store.
In Font Monsters, a series of monsters comprised purely of different keyboard characters come marching towards your first-person perspective. You defeat the monsters by shooting fonts at them one by one using your keyboard until there is nothing left of them, and the text characters you shoot must be the same type that the monsters are made up of. If you shoot a character at them that's not a part of the monster, they will fire back a random character at you that must be quickly typed to shoot it down before it hits you. If the monster gets to where you are then he (or she?) starts beating on you mercilessly, deducting life from a gauge at the top of your keyboard.
It's a totally odd concept, but also satisfying and fun to play. There are 5 levels to play through in Font Monsters, each one more difficult than the last. In each level you must defeat a certain number of monsters in a row to complete it, from 15 in the first level all the way to a whopping 50 in level 5. If you fail to beat a monster and they deplete your life gauge to zero, you must start the entire sequence over again. The monsters also become more difficult with each level. In level 1 they approach you in a fairly straightforward manner, allowing you to inspect them pretty easily to see what font characters you should shoot at them. In later levels they start to flip, stretch, and skew all over the place making it much harder to tell what fonts they are made up of.
You earn a score for defeating each monster which goes towards a cumulative score at the end of each level. Although it's not explained in the game, it appears that the quicker you beat a monster the better score you earn. Unfortunately, the top score for each level is only saved locally, as this would be a perfect game for online score tracking using Game Center.
One of my favorite things about Font Monsters is how cleverly designed all the enemies are using just font characters. There are 60 different monsters in the game, some fairly basic and some quite complex but all of them are interesting. A very cool feature in the game is a catalog that lets you view all of the different monsters that you've faced and even select them individually to do battle against them in one of the 5 difficulty levels. The catalog is definitely a nice touch and gives you incentive to keep playing and “collect 'em all” for future practice or admiration.
One big problem with Font Monsters that is kind of unavoidable is that as you keep playing you start to recognize what font characters make up the different enemies. Once this starts happening, the game can be a bit easy as you face these monsters over again. I was originally pulling my hair out shooting “O”s and “I”s at a particular monster before I finally figured out it was actually the percentage sign (%) I should have been shooting. Remembering this the next time I faced him, he was much easier to defeat. It's still a challenge to figure out the monsters the first time you face them though, and even if you recognize them they can be difficult to kill on the later levels.
Font Monsters is one of those quirky titles that must be experienced to really understand. Luckily there's a lite version so there's no risk in at least checking out the game to see if it appeals to you. I found that I was having way more fun playing the game than I though I would after just watching the video, and players in our forums are liking the game as well. Sure, it could definitely use some kind of online high score mechanism, and possibly even a greater variety in monsters. What would really be cool is if you could create your own monsters using the available keyboard characters and have them be added into the regular rotation in the game. But even as it stands now, Font Monsters is a totally unique experience that offers a good challenge with plenty of content.