When games like Monsters University release alongside their cartoon-movie counterparts, the expectation is approachability and a core of familiarity for mass appeal. In part, this is good because this assures at least a fair amount of fun and engagement. However, the fun can only go so far when the gameplay lacks any creativity or ingenuity.
It is almost impossible to not to compare Monsters University to other auto-runners. As you control your character, you swipe left to go left, swipe up to jump, swipe right to–well, you get the idea, especially if you have played Temple Run, Subway Surfers, or Mirror’s Edge. Swipe controls allow for your character to dodge obstacles and collect coins. Collecting coins and leveling up allow items to be unlocked, including invulnerability, coin magnets, and speed boosts. The unlocks are intended to help curb the difficulty, but when the difficulty is rather easy to begin with, these boosts are of minimal use.
Monsters University is an auto-runner, but not an endless runner, meaning your character runs automatically with the goal being to cross a finish line, rather than running as far as possible. There are two game modes that put the focus on completing each level before time expires. Unfortunately, just because there are two modes doesn’t mean either are distinct. In fact they are quite similar. The first, Catch Archie, has you racing to catch and ride Archie (a pig-like monster) before time expires. As you compete against the clock you will encounter obstacles, and simply swiping the screen will help avoid any obstructions. If you happen to hit an obstacle, the game is not over. Rather, you are slowed down, but are given a chance to recover and wrangle Archie. If you are able to catch Archie before time expires, the level is completed.
The second mode,Toxicity Challenge, is yet again a race against the clock. Aside from swiping and dodging obstacles you are also tasked with avoiding poisonous balls, hence the “Toxicity Challenge” title. As with Catching Archie, running into obstacles doesn’t end the game, only slows you down, however if you hit three toxic blobs then it’s game over. This game mode does offer a little more challenge, but not on a level that will cause a hefty donation to the swear jar.
Usually with games based on movies, anything and everything about the movie will be used ad nauseum. Monsters University is oddly devoid of the personality of the Monster characters. Mike and Sully are the main characters in the game as in the movies, but Disney fails to showcase their humorous and amusing traits in the game. The characters simply run with no injection of personality, which is truly a missed opportunity.
Monsters University is an easy game to critique. It’s another endless runner that adheres to the status quo, rather than being creative. It definitely won’t melt the hearts of game critics and will probably be forgotten in month or two, but if you buy Monsters University it definitely won’t be your worst App Store purchase. To most I would say this is one game you can live without, but if you love auto-runners and enjoy Monsters Inc., it’s worth your consideration.