A Monster Ate My Homework
You spent all evening preparing your homework, carefully affixing the gold stars to the apples, and gluing a stack of books together. But you carelessly left it out on top of a box in some kind of floating void. You should have known a bunch of monster blocks would come in overnight and arrange themselves in complicated balancing acts with your precious work. It's a common scenario, and it can only be solved with a limitless supply of thrown balls. At first glance, it's a physics puzzle, but this time it's in glorious Unity 3D, and that ends up significantly changing the playing experience. A Monster Ate My Homework, by Geek Beach, actually ends up feeling more like a carnival game of skill than a typical phuzzle.
Throughout the 30 levels, you'll be using your mouse to aim (with a convenient crosshair) and clicking to toss a ball. To rotate the game field, you can use [WASD] or [arrow] keys, or you can click and hold to drag the field around. You will always have three pieces of homework in a level (either stacks of books or round apples), and depending on the level, you will have a number of monsters and scenery pieces. Monster pieces can be distinguished from scenery pieces because they have faces and like to grunt at you. All monster pieces must be knocked out of the level to beat it. Scenery pieces are usually impossible to knock off, and knocking them off doesn't count one way or another. Once all monster pieces are removed, you get one to three stars depending on how many pieces of homework you kept. There is no timer, nor is there any limit to the number of balls you can throw. The game does keep track of your best score in terms of number of balls for levels, but there are no achievements associated with it.
Analysis: Any player of regular phuzzle games has had this experience: you click right where the walkthrough says to click, but for some reason, a butterfly in Rio flaps its wings or whatever, and it doesn't work. And then you try it again and it does work. In 3D games, these little quirks of physics at least feel as if they're amplified. A Monster Ate My Homework seems to anticipate this. Rather than the usual 2D phuzzle approach, where your projectiles are precious commodities and extreme accuracy and precise timing are necessary, the level designs themselves often encourage hurling balls with abandon. It's like a messy no-holds-barred fist fight compared to a fencing match.
That's not to say that patience and a keen eye won't help, whether in brawling or in A Monster Ate My Homework. Especially in levels with bomb monsters, you'll want to think carefully before throwing, lest you have the bomb monster explode off all your homework at the last moment. Levels with moving parts also reward timing. But the limitless balls work in your favor, in that they can be used just as easily to push teetering homework back onto the playing field as they can to knock monsters off. All of this contributes to the messy, freewheeling, trial and error atmosphere.
When it comes to other definitions of the word "atmosphere", for A Monster Ate My Homework you're going to want to flip in the dictionary to "charming". The music and sound effects are controlled separately, which is a plus, because while the "sixth-graders pulling off a caper" music is nice, it can get a little old. Hearing the monsters gurgle when you hit them in the face with a ball never gets old, though. Take that, tongue-sticker-outer-er!
When I first described this game to some other JIG reviewers, I called it "a phuzzle game... but in 3D!" I really didn't do the game justice. A better one sentence summary would be "a carnival milk bottle game... only better and on your computer... and starring adorable monsters!" If only beating the game earned you an inflatable turtle or some oversized novelty sunglasses.