Reiner Knizia’s Monumental, yet another offering from the genius behind Robot Master, Roto, and Knights of Charlemagne, has been released by Conlan Rios in the app store. As usual, a clean interface mixed with “simple to learn, hard to master” rules is a recipe for a fun, cerebral puzzler.
Dr. Knizia’s latest takes place in a Mayan setting, with a pair of 3 x 4 grids. A solid column separates the grids. This column fills with rectangular stones, which must be shuttled either left or right into the grids. Each stone has a distinct color and number of symbols upon its face. The goal is to fill rows on either side of the center column that match as many distinctive features as possible. Ideally, you would want to have three red stones with one bird on each, for example. This would earn an excellent score for matching colors, symbols, and number of symbols. Of course, it will be rare to match across all three elements. If you can place stones with the same symbols in a row, even if these are a blue, red, and yellow stone, or two stones with two birds and one stone with three birds, these still qualify as symbol matches. You also score points if you match an identical pair in a row, regardless of what is contained on the third stone. Broken stones without symbols will appear, too. These can only match by color.
When you slide a stone left or right, it must go to the end of the row. There is no scoring or bonuses for anything matching in columns. When a stone is moved, all stones above it drop down one row. Therefore, once a stone reaches the bottom of the center column, it has no where to go but in either side of the bottom row. Planning ahead is key to avoid being stuck having to place stones in certain spots. There is but one way to “fix” a mistake such as this. You’ll notice a small jeep in the bottom left corner of the screen. Each move propels the jeep a small step closer to its base camp. When it reaches base camp, you are rewarded with a stick of dynamite. This dynamite can be dragged onto any one stone, blowing it up and removing it from the board. This dynamite can be used right away or saved for later use. You can even have more than one bundle in your inventory at the same time.
As you progress further into the game, more colors and symbols will appear, as well as greater numbers of symbols on some stones. This greater variety typically serves to make matching more difficult, requiring even greater care in the placement of stones. When a row of three is completed, it will indicate its point total, but will not add it to your overall score just yet. Rows remain uncleared until the bottom row on both sides is full. That full row will be cleared and any others in sequence above it until there is an empty row or a row that is not completely filled. As rows are cleared, their scores are added to your overall score. If the entire bottom row does not incur any points, the result will depend on the game mode that you are playing.
Monumental offers two modes of play: Challenge and Action. Challenge is untimed, allowing you to carefully plan your moves. The trade-off is that as soon as neither side of the bottom row scores points, the game ends. Action mode is a bit more lenient, but you are timed, limiting your ability to plan your moves. The face of the Mayan god at the top of the screen is surrounded by lighted dots and a timer in the upper right corner is drained while you decide which stone to move. Moving the first stone starts the time, and moving any subsequent stone resets the timer. If the timer runs out, one of the lights around the Mayan god is extinguished. Failing to match stones in the bottom row extinguishes multiple dots. Once all of the dots have gone dark, the game ends.
The graphics are appealing, with a great Mayan theme and bright colors. The sounds add to the experience, with cool gong noises and other effects occurring during the course of play. Music from your own library can be played as an alternative. Controls are simple, utilizing dragging to accomplish your goal. There is a quick how-to-play section in the form of a few pages of an explorer’s journal. As with many Reiner Knizia games, the explanations often sound confusing. Everything tends to click within the first couple minutes of playing, so have no fear if you have had trouble following along.
There are local leaderboards, as well as country-specific and global leaderboards to which you can submit your scores. These, along with intelligent, addictive gameplay, add to the replay value of the game. The game also autosaves and allows you to resume your last game, making for easy pick-up-and-play. Monumental will set you back $1.99, a fair price for this 5-Dimple strategic puzzler.
Reiner Knizia’s Monumental gets our AppSmile 5-Dimple rating: