Blake Commagere and AJ Olson’s series of “Monsters” games – Vampires, Zombies, WereWolves, and Slayers – are the biggest kids on the block when it comes to popularity. They exploit the cultural obsession with the supernatural, use a subject that lends itself to viral spread (vampirism, lycanthropy, zombism), take full advantage of the Facebook platform, and make the game as deep as an RPG while as low maintence as an arcade game.
Jump into the game and you’ll know what I mean. The main menu includes a “My character” tab, a “Rank” tab, a “Fight!” tab, a “Blog” tab, a “Coven” tab, a “Ruse/Feed” tab, and a “Store” tab. That’s a lot of options for gameplay.
The games operate slightly differently but have similiar economies and playing styles. You get points for spreading the game to your friends by “biting/slaying” them. You can use these points to upgrade your character or you can fight others of your own kind and get dollars that way. These dollars can be used to purchase upgrades like weapons such as silver bullets or chicken suits (don’t ask).
The blog provides a sense of community within each application and the Rank tab lets you know how strong you are compared to other people. You can fight your friends, you can bite your friends, you can taunt your friends on their boards – this game is a great vehicle for staying connected with people while using your friends to make you stronger.
If you don’t have many Facebook friends, there are plenty of opportunities to fight random strangers (the game will show you several people near your level that you can fight) and you can get bucks by not only fighting and inviting, but by rusing/feeding and taking part in partner offers.
Many social games suffer from low-quality graphics, gameplay, or a sloppy interface. The Vampires, WereWolves, Zombies, Slayers games have uniform pictures of the different levels that speak to staff artists and/or a similar set of sources for all of their pictures. This gives the game a clean look. The applications each exploit various pop-culture references to make the games funny and clever as well. The Store has a “Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart” slogan attached to it, which is a great reference to the zombie-slaying “The Evil Dead” series.
You can excel in the “Monsters” games in a number of ways, and they can be as deep as you want them to be. Friends can challenge you to fight and resolve these battles while you’re not even online. The game plays itself if you want it to – you can succeed if your friends who you invited also succeed. The developers take full advantage of the social networking abilities of Facebook, giving players the option to invite (“bite”), ruse, fight, or taunt.
However, there is of course room for improvement. My criticism for a lot of social games is that while they allow anyone to succeed no matter their previous experience, they also don’t have the option for players to succeed by skillful playing or strategy. Sure, there is some strategy to which friends you invite, what weapons you upgrade, and the like. But, if I’m to point out how I’d like to see these games improve (and I’m paid to do so) – I’d like there to be an emphasis placed on roping in not just casual gamers. Converting the fights to Flash animations that may require a bit of strategy, skill, and reflex would not disrupt the balance of the game and would provide another layer of fun for players.