Vertical scrolling shooters on the Commodore 64 are a dime a dozen. Unfortunately, most of the recent spate of shooters have come out from the SEUCK game engine factory, with most providing quite bland gaming experiences. Other than Galencia, Aviator Arcade II and Neutron, the quality of shooter releases for the C64 of late have been somewhat…Meh.
Released in 2018 by Clay Spoerri and Raphael Graf, Mono is an arcade style vertical scrolling shoot em up that introduces something refreshing to the tired genre, its health scoring system.
Mono only provides you with one life whereby your score is your life energy. You start with 0 points and when you kill an enemy you gain points. When an enemy hits you, you lose points. As long your health points are not in the negative, your game will continue. I really like this life energy system.
But Mono also has another trick up its sleeve. The game field wraps around in 4 directions, so exiting the screen from one end results in your re-entering from the opposite side. For example, if you exit the screen from the left, you come back in from the right or if you exit from the bottom, you come back in from the top. This is a nice little feature of the game that proved to be handy when trying to avoid enemies but I must admit that I find coming in and out from the top or bottom to be confusing so I pretty much stuck to wrapping around from the sides.
Mono features power ups for you to collect to increase the firepower of your ship but every time you sustain a hit the power level resets back 1 level.
There are 6 levels for you to battle your way through and chances are that you won’t have too much trouble getting through to the final level. Enemy waves lack sophistication, resulting in some less than engaging shooting play. It won’t be until you reach the 6th level that the challenge is ramped up as the level background becomes areas to avoid as flying over them will result in a rapid decrease to your life energy points.
Graphically, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. Your ship is well defined and well animated. The game moves around at a good speed. However, the background graphics do let the game down, despite having some interesting vertical parallax scrolling effect in place on a couple of the levels. Not only are the backdrops somewhat rudimentary but they lack cohesiveness overall. Enemy sprites also lack detail. This limited attention to these graphical area gives off a cheap feel to the game and detracts from what Mono does well.
The game soundtrack is strong especially if you enjoy trance style of music but at times it sounded like it would stutter or pause if things got too hectic on screen.
Overall, Mono is a decent budget shooter game that is able to pull a few tricks to make itself partially stand out from the crowd. But for every one thing that the game does well, there is another area that the game falls short in. It’s a pity as Mono definitely has the grounding to be a high quality release with a bit more passion and attention to detail. It feels like the developers might have compromised on their vision of the game.
Mono is only available in a physical cartridge edition at a price of 35 Euros plus shipping. You can order a copy of the game here.
A game of many contradictions. Some good game design features and responsive controls spoilt by the overall cheapness of the game production. Has potential to be so much better.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Runs the Retro Gamer Nation YouTube channel and is a contributor to RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Komoda & Amiga Plus magazine and various other publications.