Monster Train is as fascinating as it is super stupid

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Monster trainMonster Train Screenshot: Shiny Shoe / Good Shepherd Entertainment

Every Friday, the AV Club staff start our weekly open thread to discuss fixtures and recent successes. The real action, however, can be found in the comments where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What are you playing this weekend

Have you ever seen a game with a premise and some kind of glorious self-seriousness that was so stupid you just had to love it? Let’s call it that Darksiders Effect: an obsession with demons, rippling biceps and the design aesthetic of a Meat Loaf album cover from around 1977 that is so unpretentiously in love with lava that it shorts out all sorts of critical objections. So it is with Monster Train, the game that asks the question, “What if Snowpiercer took place in hell? “Then has the audacity to tie one of the best deck building games of the last time to such a stupid, constantly burning skeleton.

Monster Train was developed by Shiny Shoe and burst out of Steam’s Early Access in late May, like something out of something. Riffs on mechanics previously popularized by Mega Crit Games’ also excellent Kill the towerTake the “slowly add new, hypothetically better cards to your deck” ideas that have become popular in the board game world over the past two decades, then merge them with a very video game spin in turn-based combat. (Even all of those rogue, run-based, slow-building progression systems that have become part of the way indie titles have kept player addiction in recent years.) Instead of controlling the actions of a single adventurer, Monster Train hires you to die Control over the entire crew of the titular boneshaker and fending off attacks from killing angels after an apocalyptic battle literally freezes hell. (It’s okay to roll your eyes at this point.)

As if those weren’t enough modern video game buzzwords, there’s a strong tower defense vibe here too. Your train will carry a piece of Hell’s barely burning heart, and your goal is to field teams of demons (mermaids, plant monsters, sentient candles, etc.) strong enough to keep the intruders from reaching the top floor and it to damage. Where it gets interesting though – as if “demonic versions of Skimbleshanks The railroad cat Fighting the Breakaway Forces of Heaven “wasn’t interesting enough – was in the way the game continually presents ways for you to empower your horde. After each fight, you have two options for your train to go down. Both are full of upgrades, health boosts, and other coveted extras. Choosing which way (and then using the powerups you get) is the clunky choice that great video games are based on, and the agony of wondering which of the two top notch options you will have to take. Monster Train offers this type of selection with a regularity and intensity that contradicts the sheer number of spawn comics that its developers have so clearly consumed, and that’s why it has become a staple of our gaming PCs lately.

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Plus: Shiny Shoe just added a mode that gives every creature in the game shaky, goofy eyes, and how the hell are we supposed to refuse that?

Illustration for article titled All aboard the monster train, toot tootScreenshot: Shiny Shoe / Good Shepherd Entertainment


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