Build your own haunted house in Monster Mansion

Monster Mansion is a new iOS game from Meridian4. It’s available now as a free Universal download from the App Store.

Monster Mansion is a horror-themed tower-building sim in which players must construct the titular mansion, fill it with monsters and then attract humans in order to “scare” them. This, in turn, generates income, which allows for the construction of further rooms and expansion of the mansion. There is no particular long-term goal save for “make as much money and expand as far as possible.”

In terms of execution, Monster Mansion is almost identical to a variety of other, similar games, including EA’s Monopoly Hotels and Pocket Gems’ Zombie Takeover — although Monster Mansion lacks the latter’s lightweight combat element. Players have a limited space available to construct rooms, and various different rooms are different shapes and sizes. Some are a single “tile” in size; others might be wide or long, so part of the supposed “challenge” is in organizing one’s rooms efficiently — though said challenge is somewhat undermined by the fact that rooms can be picked up and moved at any time.

In order to generate income effectively, players must construct rooms that house monsters and rooms that attract humans. Once both have been completed — and both take varying periods of real time to build — the player must then watch for humans entering the “scare rooms” and then tap on them to unleash a monster. Successfully scaring a human generates income, and the player may then reward their monster by throwing physics-based cookies at them, with additional bonuses for “interesting” shots such as flicking them over the monster’s head.

That, essentially, is all there is to Monster Mansion. There’s a supposed “social” component in which players can visit the mansions of other players, but when doing so there is no means of interacting with the other player or indeed knowing who they even are, making this aspect feel tacked-on and redundant. There is also a series of uninteresting Game Center achievements for players to chase, mostly of the “have [x] number of [y] in your mansion” variety.

Monetization stems primarily from the game’s use of advertising — an ad pops up each time the user starts the game, and also every time they tap on an innocuous-looking icon depicting the game’s “assistant” character at the side of the screen. Occasionally, this icon acquires a “star,” which means tapping on it rewards the player with a shower of soft currency, but an ad still appears. Ads may, however, be removed for a $0.99 in-app purchase. The game also has a hard currency — initially, this only appeared to be purchasable when attempting to acquire an item the player could not afford, but closer investigation of the in-game store reveals that it is possible to acquire both hard and soft currency via in-app purchase — the relevant options must be scrolled into view on the pop-up menu via rather unintuitive sideways rather than vertical scrolling, meaning that it’s entirely possible for some players to miss the currency purchasing facility entirely.

The game feels rather unpolished, too. Animation, particularly on the human characters, is very poor, and the background music is repetitive, dull and badly edited, cutting off sharply before its “loop point.” A strange bug also means that if the “build” menu is popped up and then dropped back down again quickly, it becomes impossible to scroll the screen back down to the mansion’s ground floor and the interface becomes invisible (but still functional). Combine these issues with the tedious, predictable gameplay and you have an experience that will probably be skipped past by most players.