There's a richness to Chinese Mythology that few games have tapped into. Hopping vampires, horsemen, and headless, face-torso'd cannibals are among the bizarre beasts from the East many gamers have never seen. Nine Tails Studio, Inc. decided to grab a pickaxe and dig deep into the unmined gold found in Chinese mythos to bring us Monsters Rising, a real-time strategy game for iOS.

Monsters Rising utilizes a mission-based structure. As the title would imply, you're in charge of an uprising of monsters as they travel the world slaying humans and gaining power. In fitting with the burst-oriented gaming found on iOS, most missions don't take long, and the lengthier endeavors are denoted by being stars on the mission select screen so you'll know what you're getting into before jumping in and spending twenty plus minutes on a single mission. During the missions, you'll have control over a team of monsters who fight their human foes in real-time. The human forces are neither especially varied, nor especially smart. For much of the game you can simply brute force your way through everything they throw at you, rendering the tactical advantages of the less brutish characters feeling moot. For those who like to have a large army, Monsters Rising gives you that capability... at a price.

You'll unlock a handful of monstrous minions by playing through the campaign, but to get more you'll need to spend shards, the in-game currency used to purchase not only minions, but temporary power-ups as well. The characters are pretty expensive to unlock, which makes you feel like you need to spend money to acquire more shards, but, seeing as how this is a game that already costs money at base, it's annoying that it pushes you so hard to keep spending.

The touch controls are mostly terrible, and feel as tacked on as the motion controls to a crummy Wii port. Manipulating the camera and moving your monsters around works fine, more or less, but when it comes to executing your monsters special attacks everything starts to fall apart. At the bottom of the screen are several buttons depicting gestures you need to execute in order to activate these special attacks, which begs the question as to why we can't just tap these buttons to activate the attacks rather than performing clumsy gestures (which frequently misfire). Touch controls are nothing novel at this point, so awkwardly jamming this in feels very counter-intuitive, not to mention frustrating when you're trying to use one of the more challenging gesticulations and the game refuses to read your motions.

There are many far better options for iOS strategy games, with prices going both ways. Monsters Rising's heart seems to be in the right place, at first, but the sloppy crafstmanship, uninspired combat, and aggressive microtransactions in a game that already has an upfront cost all lead to this being a dissatisfying experience.


App Store Link: Monsters Rising for iPhoneiPad | By Nine Tails Studio, Inc.| Price: $3.99 | Version: 1.1 | 372 MB | Rating 9+

6.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating