The age of men is over. The age of monsters is now.
Like most media, video games are a “right place, right time” thing. For myself, spare time has dwindled as my children get older and it gets eaten up by kids’ sports and work. I’ve come to appreciate games that respect your time, give you small, achievable goals, and plop you into a well developed world. A Monster’s Expedition charmed and delighted me with how well it fit that mold of what I’ve been looking for.
A Monster’s Expedition consists of bite-sized puzzles, each on individual islands. The goal is to create a path for your monster to cross by knocking a tree down and pushing the log where it’ll create a bridge to the next island; at least that’s how it starts. As you progress, the puzzles become harder, and the end goal changes—still to reach the next island, but by different configurations of those fallen trees. Eventually you’ll run into islands with a cylindrical, trash can-looking item. These bins let you fast travel to different islands with the same landmarks.
The puzzles are airtight and islands slight, meaning there really is only one solution to each island. Different landmarks like rocks and tree stumps often play into the solution, having to roll, flip over, or in the case of larger logs, shove them into the water to bridge the gap. Because of the micro nature of each puzzle, it sets up small little victories each time you reach the solution. It’s a great cascading effect where each win made me want to try just one more, and because of how brief they are and the way it saves your progress at the island, this design allowed me to stop when I got stuck and pick up when I left off to try again.
Even better is how A Monster’s Expedition leverages the world built within and music to accent the experience. Visually, it isn’t an ultra-detailed world, but that simplified, colorful style serves it well by eliminating distractions to draw focus to the puzzles themselves. They’ve done a wonderful job on the music front—a minimalistic, calming sound track—and it does my favorite thing of having every move you make play a small musical note. Another great choice is the small exhibits scattered across the land that are dedicated to learning about human civilization. An example of this charming bit of world building is a line queue, whose plaque suggests humans lined up in them for the pure fun of it.
There’s something really special about a well-crafted puzzle game. The difficulty has to be just right—taking mental equity to solve but not so easy as to be dull. There needs to be a clear logic to the puzzles throughout that acts as a foundation for each sequential one to build off of. What elevates it even further is world building and music design that sews it up into a tight, cohesive experience. A Monster's Expedition’s quick hits of small puzzles passes all of those criteria with flying colors, and you owe it to yourself to give it a look.