Today I Found: Monolith

Monolith is a 2D roguelite shooter which I came across the recent days while I was browsing the new releases on Steam. I didn't bought the game (yet), but I watched a bunch of Let's Plays and wanted to share what I found interesting about it, from an indie developer's perspective, which means this is not a review.

Monolith Gameplay

The gif above is recorded from the developer's Twitter feed @MonolithDevs.

As you can see, you are playing a little spaceship traveling from room to room and floor to floor and fight enemies in a bullet hell fashion while upgrading both your ship and your weapons and starting over when running out of health. It reminds me of The Binding of Isaac (bullet hell) mixed with Downwell (gameplay structure) in a dystopian sci-fi setting, made with a lot of love. What's interesting about it:

  • It blends two perspectives: while the ship is shown from the top and navigates in a top-down way (being able to move in all directions equally), the level and enemies are shown from a side-view.
  • A single level is quadratic and fits the whole screen. This allows the player to parse all the relevant information (player position, enemies, bullets, important level parts) very fast. The quadratic nature structures the level into a center and a border area, with the border area being equal in size around the center. If the level would have used the whole screen (bigger width than height), you would have short border areas on the top and bottom and very big border areas on the left and right; this would result in a level feeling like multiple levels put in place from left to right, making level generation and complexity unnecessary cumbersome. It's also harder to scale for different resolutions. With the quadratic level structure, the player's movement is either in the center or in it's close peripheral area: the level parts feel more connected and intervened as in contrast to the complicated example mentioned previously.
  • A color fading effect shows the shapes in multiple different colors like red and blue before finally appearing respectively disappearing, which feels futuristic for whatever reason. This effect is also used on the text shown during the intro, like you can see in this Let's Play on YouTube. The intro cutscene is well made and atmospheric for a text-based introduction.
  • The bright green interface has that nostalgic retro-feel like the Fallout games are utilizing. There is a CRT effect available in the options menu, too.
  • Color coding: the level itself uses different shades of darker blue, slightly desaturated, while player, enemies and important level parts (like the locked door shown in the gif above) use brighter colors.
  • I'm a bit irritated by the choice to display the health with two numbers rendered on top of each, with a small offset. As far as I know, the green number represents the maximal health, while the yellow one the current health, but I'm still curious why the developers didn't went with a common "10/10" or a health bar. Also: why is the "G" of the money display yellow (highlighted) and the actual money number not?
  • The game costs 7.99$ and was released without a launch discount. I think they could have set it to 9.99$ with a launch discount between 10% and 20%. The game looks both well-made and like long-term fun. "9.99$" still looks cheap (I think there is some threshold where a price feels far more expensive when it starts to enter the two digits 10+ like 10.99$ would), so taking these two bucks and having more room for future discounts would have been useful. Launch discounts further motivate sales as people browse lists of currently discounted games and having a limited offer adds further motivation to buy it now.

That's it.

'Today I Found' is a little series of games, pictures, articles or anything else where I think other game developers (or, to some extend, other gamers) could find it interesting or inspirational. If I am in some sort of relation to the game or its developers, I will state that.

Best regards,
Steven