Listen up. No cute, stylized warrior ever cleared the land of monsters by dying for the spirit of their dead king. They did it by making other cute, stylized warriors die! Monster Slayers is the newest game from Nerdook, author of Vertical Drop Heroes! and others. This time around we're treated to a light and casual strategy/RPG game that puts you in charge of a highly customizable team of five slayers. Nerdook's last game was decidedly "vertical" in nature, this one is all about moving your heroes horizontally across the map. You have four commands you can issue: Fall Back for retreats, Defend for when you need to make a stand, Attack for when you're feeling bold, and Quick March when you just need to cover some ground.
The goal of most stages is to get from one end of the map to another, killing anything in your path. On others you'll just need to take down a boss. You can do story missions, but you'll always have a few levels to choose from if you're not strong enough to progress or if you just feel like taking down a tiger crab. There's not a whole lot of story to speak of, but as you progress you'll unlock more upgrades for your units, so no complaints there!
There are four basic units, each which you can spend coins to upgrade into one of two advanced units and then upgraded again. Upgrading won't always change your unit though, sometimes it just beefs them up a little. Sometimes enemies will drop hats which you can equip on your units to give them stat boosts. Enemies will also drop ingredients. Combine two ingredients and you'll get a summon, each one having a different ability that you can call on in battle.
Analysis: Strategy games appeal to that part of me that wants to be a great commander, but I'm not very good at making decisions packed with strategic savvy. Monster Slayer is a great pep talk for the tactically-challenged gamer like myself. With simple commands and even simpler goals, you'll run down your enemies with ease. This simplicity will likely turn some serious strategy fans away, but as far as casual strategy games go, this one's a definite winner.
There's quite a bit you can do with soldiers by way of upgrades and hats. The game gains a little bit of complexity in this area as you'll have to make choices like... should I sacrifice some attack power by turning this unit into a healer? There are some problems with this system, though. The biggest one is that if you decide to switch your unit from, say, an archer to a soldier, all the levels and upgrades that archer gained will be lost if you try to switch back. This puts a big damper on any grand plans of experimentation, but it does help from the perspective of balance. Plus, if your units aren't suited for one battle, try another one. There's very little to stand in your way.
In addition to the simplicity and the customization, another of the game's strong points is the quickness of each level. You probably won't spend more than five minutes on any given stage. While this doesn't allow for much depth it does keep the game rolling, allows you to get money and experience quickly, and it provides that "just one more level" factor. The levels don't have much variety, even though they'll have labels like Assist Mission or Revenge Mission, there's not much discernible difference. They do help keep the game from getting stale, though.
With other features like the summon system and multiplayer options that let you share your army and battle other players, there's a lot to like about Monster Slayers. That's without even mentioning the charming Nerdook art style. Overall, Monster Slayers is a very light and breezy kind of game. It's a lot of fun as long as you don't expect it to be challenging or deep. That's not to say you won't have to do any thinking, but you don't need to be a five-star general to make it through.