A Monster’s Expedition by Draknek & Friends
There really is nothing quite like a good puzzle game. While the genre might be overloaded with poorly-programmed time-wasters, when it hits right, it hits hard. You end up with zen-like experiences that test your brain more than your reflexes. I guarantee you’re picturing at least one game that falls into this category as I say this. Well, here’s a new one to add to that list.
Here There Be Monsters
A Monster’s Expedition takes place across a charming world of islands that apparently once contained humans. As a lone, cute little monster, your goal is simple: explore and see what you find. To do this, you push trees over. Seriously, that’s the core mechanic. You push trees over to gain access to new islands.
It might sound like I’m joking here, but believe me when I say that this singular mechanic is great. What starts as simply needing a log bridge to the next island quickly escalates into something more. The game introduces new uses for the trees very gradually (combine two to make a raft, put one over a stump to make a bridge, etc.).
This might not seem like much, but you’ll very quickly start having to combine these new techniques to solve increasingly challenging puzzles.
At the same time, the game never makes a solution feel outside of your reach. The tiny islands usually contain only one or two puzzles to solve, and often you can take a different path if you get stuck. There’s also a fast-travel system you unlock, making it easy to go back to areas you skipped later on.
It maintains a calming level of “challenging but not difficult” that reminded me of Mars Power Industries, another puzzle game I adored. Add in the number of hidden museum exhibits for you to find, and it feels like a full experience despite how simple it is.
Hook the Monster
Equally important to the game’s calming atmosphere is the production design. The simplistic yet colorful 3D graphics are legitimately charming and a joy to look at, with enough variety to keep things interesting. Similarly, the music, while maybe not the most memorable, is calming and pleasant, and most importantly, doesn’t start to grate as you sit there picking at a puzzle.
There’s also plenty of friendly quality-of-life features included, like the ability to rewind your moves or reset the level you’re on entirely. It makes for a game that doesn’t hold your hand but also doesn’t make things obtuse or arduous to deal with either.
A Monster’s Expedition is an essential puzzle game up there with the likes of Baba Is You.
It’s gorgeous, it’s smart, it’s fun, it’s relaxing, it’s just flat-out great. Unless you’re someone who needs fast-paced action first and foremost in their games, you owe it to yourself to play this.
A Monster’s Expedition is available via Apple Arcade, Steam and itch.io.
Watch the trailer for A Monster’s Expedition below: