If I’m being honest, I haven’t personally been all that into the whole deckbuilding roguelike phenomenon of the last few years. The poster child here is Slay the Spire, but there have been countless similar games released on all platforms including mobile, and they all basically offer some form of strategic card-based battling with roguelike dungeon crawler elements baked in. On paper these are all elements that generally tick all my happy boxes, but for whatever reason, while I have enjoyed poking around in these games here and there, I’ve never really been “sucked in" to one like so many others seem to be.
Well, I’m happy to report I’m officially onboard the deckbuilder roguelike train with this week’s mobile release of Shiny Shoe Games and Good Shepherd Entertainment’s Monster Train, and yes, that pun was very intended. Monster Train features all the hallmarks of this particular genre, including dozens of cool cards offering various types of units, special abilities, and effects, as well as a whole host of creepy bad guys to battle with. Well technically, you ARE the bad guys, since you’re fighting to save Hell from a bunch of Heavenly goodie goodies. I love playing as the bad guys.
Monster Train’s big claim to fame is its multi-leveled battlefield which is made up of 4 floors. The top floor contains a pyre which has its own HP and must be protected. Enemies enter from the bottom floor, and if they aren’t destroyed in a round, they’ll move up a floor, eventually getting to and attacking the pyre. Battling is typical turn-based fare, but shoehorned into this almost tower defense-like setup. It is surprising just how much this makes things feel fresh and new. Monster Train has all the components of a top-tier deckbuilding roguelike already, but the multi-level battling and pyre defending kick things up to a whole new level.
One other thing of note is that Monster Train’s adaptation to the touchscreen is just fantastic. The Slay the Spire mobile port is notorious for being sort of clunky, but that’s not the case here. I’m really impressed with how nice everything plays with touch controls. Monster Train is a fully premium game at $9.99, and there’s an optional DLC expansion called The Last Divinity that’ll set you back another $3.99 and features a new class, new final boss, and more. That all might be “a lot" of money in the world of mobile, but after spending just a few days with Monster Train and imagining the many hundreds of hours I’ll likely spend with it going forward, it seems like a heck of a bargain to me.