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Monster Train – a hell-raising, deck-building gem

Developer: Good Shepherd
Price: $9.99/£8.99
Size: 558 MB
Version: 1.0
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Monster Train

Monster Train is a deck-building roguelike game that earned plenty of accolades on PC, with its recent iOS port making it even more accessible.

You’re tasked with protecting the last dying pyres of Hell across a frozen wasteland of monsters and magic, battling Heavenly foes across three vertical floors of the eponymous Monster Train. You’re quite literally raising Hell. You do this by strategically deploying cards across those playing fields, with smart placement and timing the keys to success.

Being a roguelike, each run is different and you’ll start afresh after every success or failure. This gives players a chance to learn from their mistakes, adapting tactics and making smarter decisions when choosing which randomly-produced cards and artifacts to accept on a given attempt. There are a mind-boggling number of ways to succeed, and it’s really fun seeing what kind of creative combinations can work.

Hearthstone is probably the most well-known and successful deck-building game out there, but despite being free-to-play, it demands real cash for card packs and pricey thrice-a-year content updates if you want to keep up with the ever-evolving “meta”. Those looking for something with a similar vibe are in luck here.

Monster train is single-player, so there’s no pressure to keep up with other players, and it’s a roguelike, so there are no card packs to spend money on. It’s half the cost of the PC version, with one expansion DLC included free and another available as IAP.

There’s still plenty to collect, but it’s done through play, with six clans and twelve heroes to unlock – each offering a unique play style and a different kind of challenge. That, plus the random elements that pepper every run, means Monster Train has a ridiculous amount of replay value. There are also special mutators, buffs, challenges, and leaderboards that spice things up further once you’ve exhausted the regular gameplay.

Though a full run can take up to an hour, individual battles are short enough that you can easily dip in and out, making it a great fit for a mobile device. But if you like this kind of thing, you’ll be here for hours and hours.

It’s not a perfect port, however, with some of the touch controls a little unresponsive on iPad and a handful of players complaining about iCloud saves not syncing across devices. But we’re sure the developers will iron out these issues before long, and it doesn’t mask the quality of the underlying gameplay.

Until now, Slay the Spire was perhaps the best way to scratch that premium deck-building itch on iPhone or iPad – but Monster Train certainly gives it a very good run for its money.