A Monster’s Expedition
Genre(s): Puzzle, Adventure, Other
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 05/08/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
When A Monster’s Expedition, the latest release from the highly acclaimed developer Draknek, was pitched as an “open-world puzzle adventure”, I was hesitant; replacing the linear, building up of difficulty found in most puzzle games with a self-guided approach to level progression sounded like trouble just waiting to happen. But as I uncovered the outdoor museum exhibits of “Englandland”, A Monster’s Expedition instantly charmed me in ways few games do. Find out why this Puzzling Exhibition is worth going on in this Rapid Review.
On a Roll
You may be familiar with Bloxorz, a puzzle flash game that I spent far too much time playing over lunch breaks back in primary school. In this game, a rectangular prism had to be turned and rotated correctly to turn on switches and reach the final checkpoint. In many ways, A Monster’s Expedition reminded me of this old flash game but instead of a rotating cuboid, this indie puzzler uses rolling trees which create pathways to reach new islands and uncover the charmingly incorrect history of earth’s greatest inventions. Separated by a vast expanse of water, by pushing over and combining trees, I made bridges that formed island-connecting routes.
The simplistic premise of the puzzle mechanics in A Monster’s Expedition by no means guarantees easy-to-solve challenges. Whilst the game gradually eased me into the log-rolling mechanic, my progression soon opened up to the vast ocean of islands. Generally speaking, the further out the island, the harder the levels became. However, even when I was (tree) stumped by a puzzle, I never felt any annoyance towards the game. All the building blocks to solve the exit from the island were in my grasp, I just had to figure out how to join them together. The open-world approach to level design also prevented me from inching towards a tutorial as there was no set order for puzzle completion to refer to. Instead, I could simply return to a previously confusing puzzle by using the conveniently located postbox teleporters.
Turning a New Leaf
Discussing the variety of trees in a game was never an element I thought I’d mention in a review but here we are. As I encountered islands with new biomes, gradual innovations to the log-pushing formula were revealed. Taller trees meant that logs could not be stood back up and, without discussing spoilers, an accidentally discovered propulsion mechanic made me audibly gasp and allowed me to approach the game in a new light. It’s impressive for a puzzle game to introduce minor changes to the formula with a flair of subtlety due to the players own discovery. I never felt as if the game was instructing me on what to do and where to go and yet I never felt lost on how to progress due to the variety of opportunities available.
Basic Interdimensional Design Theory
Reaching new islands awarded me a look at the titular exhibitions: showcases from “Englandland” filled with wonderfully witty perspectives at British life from the point of view of a monster. Exhibit plaques questioned why humans didn’t understand basic interdimensional design theory when it came to designing backpacks or warned patrons not to hug the “fuzzy-looking leaves” of stinging nettles.
These beautifully incorrect descriptions offered plenty of humour and served as a real incentive to encourage me to advance and uncover the comedy. Design-wise, the soothing colours of the islands serve as a wonderfully accessible and casual backdrop for the puzzles to take place and an ambient tropical soundscape allowed me to have a non-stressful experience despite the frequent challenges of the puzzles.
A Monster’s Expedition retains its core tree-pushing premise throughout yet continues to innovate the way in which puzzles can be approached in an island-hopping adventure. Sit back, make yourself a cup of tea and bask in the glory of A Monster’s Expedition. This is one exhibition of puzzle talent you don’t want to miss.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can purchase A Monster’s Expedition for £15.09 on the Nintendo eShop
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.