Friday, December 9, 2011

Monster Bark

Monsters. Monsters are such jerks, aren't they? They're always trying to eat people and take over the world. And stuff.

God. Monsters.

The monsters of Monster Bark are, fortunately, not quite so evil as that. They just want to steal your stuff. Granted, that includes your friends, so... okay, maybe they're a LITTLE devilish...


Monster Bark has a fairly light-hearted story, all things considered. Barky, the adorable puppy shaped like a jelly bean depicted above, is having a nice day with his friends - until a gang of evil beasties appear from a mysterious portal and steal everything of value. Barky needs to get these items back... including his now-imprisoned friends. Time for an adventure!

Slim story, yes, but who cares. It's a good enough premise to get Monster Bark on the right path, that of a complex team puzzler. Barky has to romp his way through 39 eagle's eye levels, overcoming numerous puzzles, collecting his stuff and freeing his pals on the way. Get all the missing articles on a map and you warp to the next.

At first, Monster Bark isn't that interesting. You're a little bean dog running through blue mazes. That quickly changes, however, when you start freeing your friends, eventually resulting in a team of tiny teens who work in tandem to escape the monsters' realm:

Each character is uniquely suited to a particular task. Dude with the baseball cap can move blocks and jump; nervous girl can tip toe around enemies, and wail to stun them; the beefy boy can roll into a ball and press down buttons; and the bespectacled lad can connect electrical cables and slip between narrow gaps. (Can you tell I can't remember their names?) Barky himself can fit in tiny holes and move faster than anyone else. You typically need every character to get through each level, to the point that none of them feel wasted or unnecessary. That is a HUGE plus in my book.


Monster Bark is exceedingly simple to control. Use the arrow keys to navigate the maze, and the space bar to activate your character's special power, where applicable. Whenever you need to change characters, hit the number key corresponding to their face on the side of the screen:

It's a good system, one that's easy to remember with a bit of practice, and crucial to memorize since you do have to contend with monsters that will squash you if you don't move your butt in time.

My only complaint? Some characters don't move especially fast, and they don't ALWAYS react exactly as you'd like when hitting the arrow keys. I got killed a few times from uncooperative characters. This, fortunately, doesn't happen too often.


Monster Bark is one of those games that looks a lot prettier in motion than it does in screencaps. The motion of the characters is so fluid that you'd swear you were watching a cartoon, not playing a video game. I particularly liked the expressiveness of each character - you'd swear that little girl is going to have a nervous breakdown at any minute.

My major graphical quibble stems from the game's environments. It's kinda boring looking. Some quick palette swaps to at least provide different coloured mazes would've been preferable.


I love the music in Monster Bark. The song sounds like it crawled out of the soundtrack for the Addam's Family, or something else appropriately camp-creepy. And I REALLY would've loved it if they'd included a few MORE songs in this vein, but, ah, you get the same tune throughout the game. It's a bit of a letdown when you adore music and then get sick of it from hearing it too many times.

Challenge Rating

Monster Bark strikes me as a good puzzler for beginners, because it's not very hard. You can beat this game in an hour or two, no problem, and though some of the puzzles take a while to trounce they aren't difficult to solve on the first go. Only the last handful of levels should prove terribly difficult, and even they won't last too long. You'll only run into serious danger if you try to guide the wrong character into the wrong situations, as they'll probably get gobbled by monsters in seconds. Think before you do anything.


Monster Park is a prime example of a puzzle game done right. A little on the easy side, yes, but it's otherwise a fantastic addition to the online pantheon of browser games. And, hell, how can you not like Barky?


Damn right, puppy.


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