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Video Game / Monstrum

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Do you have what it takes to escape?

" sounds like the most demonic game of Pac-Man ever conceived."
— Dave Cook, VG 24/7

Monstrum is a combination of the Roguelike and Survival Horror genres developed by Team Junkfish. It was released for PC on May 20th 2015, with the versions for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One following on November 30th 2019. In addition, content themed on this game was released as DLC for Dark Deception: Monsters & Mortals in December of 2020.

It places the player on a derelict, procedurally generated cargo ship, where they must attempt to find a way off. Seems straightforward, except all the escape routes are missing components to make them work, and standing between you and those components, there are certain… creatures.

The gameplay is based around object-driven puzzle solving and escaping the monsters lurking within the ship, who will be alerted to your presence by any noise you make. The items you need are somewhere in the ship and may not even be present, forcing players to change their plans. The player and the creature are the only living things on the vessel, and that monster is hunting you from the moment the game starts. Each new file pits the player against one of three different monsters, but you'll never know which one you're facing until it finds you.

An Asymmetric Multiplayer sequel, Monstrum 2, was announced in early 2019 and launched in Early Access on Steam on January 28th 2021, with its full release having been on September 7th 2022. Taking place on an isolated sea fortress, 1 player takes the role of the monster while the other players take the role of prisoners attempting to escape.

One year later, on June 26th 2023, Team Junkfish announced that the game would no longer receive any updates due to the very low player count making further support not feasible. The Asia and US servers were shut down on July 11th, but one server remains running as of writing so that the game can still be played.

This game contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Advancing Boss of Doom: You have no way to kill the monster. You can only avoid it, lure it away, or stun it via items like the Fire Extinguisher.
  • Always Close: The ending cutscenes always show you narrowly evading the monster in the vehicle of your choice.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: One of the collectible notes indicates that the ship fell to the monster in 1977, although whether or not that's the year the game takes place isn't established (given that the protagonist's notes state he showed up on the ship without explanation). Certainly, you don't find any items or technology that weren't around in 1977, other than the standard video-game automated security cameras (which we don't even have now). Monstrum 2 indicates that it takes place 50 years after the original game, which most likely implies the first game does take place in the 1970's, though it could also mean the sequel occurs in a dystopian near future.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: One of the monsters, called the Hunter by the developers, primarily uses the ship's vents to get around and ambush the player.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: The Brute can force its way through anything, including power-locked doors.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Hunter is meant to evoke this in its design. And holy crap, does it work!
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The Brute is the most straightforward monster, being an Almighty Idiot of pure physicality, unlike the Hunter and the Fiend, who use more complex tactics and abilities. However, said physicality still makes it a terrifying Juggernaut.
    • The Life Raft ending. While the Helicopter and Submarine ones involve cooler vehicles, the Life Raft one takes the least steps to complete, and doesn't automatically make you play a final Protection Mission against the monster.
  • Breakout Villain: The Brute is the monster used most prominently in promotional material and the only monster returning in the sequel.
  • Color Motif:
  • Complexity Addiction: Unlike the Brute and the Hunter, the Fiend prefers to Just Toy with You before going for the kill. Justified, though, since its Mind over Matter is a Story-Breaker Power; and if it wasn't playing around, it could easily snap the player's neck without them being able to do anything about it.
  • Creepily Long Arms: The Hunter has very long arms combined with Creepy Long Fingers that are better described as talons, which means it doesn't have to be physically strong to kill you.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: All of the endings involve the monster ambushing you… and failing utterly.
  • Excuse Plot: You wake up on a ship with no memory of how you got there. There's a monster on the ship with you. Escape. That's the entire extent of the game's plot. Scattered notes found around the ship provide some background flavor (such as establishing the year the ship fell to the monster as 1977, and possibly hinting that the monsters are wildlife or humans that were injected with an experimental healing serum derived from deep sea jellyfish), but don't present an over-arcing story.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Being in first person, the player never sees their face, though they are wearing a shirt with S-SV13 written on it. Even in the old game over screens depicting the protagonist, their face is obscured, though they are a light-skinned male. The death screens were removed in the latest version of the game, possibly for this reason. According to the Dark Deception: Monsters & Mortals DLC tie-in, the player is someone named Prisoner Borisov, possibly implying that he was captured and dropped onto the ship as an early version of the human testing done in Monstrum 2.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The three monsters could be seen as operating this way.
    • The Brute is the fighter, extremely fast and extremely strong, but mindless and stupid.
    • The Hunter is the thief. It's physically weak, and the player can outrun it, but it can skitter through vents and ambush the player and is described as a cunning predator.
    • The Fiend is the mage. It's the slowest monster in the game with relatively low strength, but is supposedly more intelligent than the player. It also has a wide array of telekinetic abilities and is meant to invoke a feeling of powerlessness.
    • The sequel follows the similar pattern with its monsters. The Brute is still the Fighter, the Bhagra is the new thief with the ability to crawl on the ceiling and track survivors by their scent trails, and the Malacosm is the new mage, able to teleport through the use of small sentry creatures it spawns and track survivors by psychically seeing through their eyes.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The game has several, but one particularly common bug is that the longer you play the game, the taller your character becomes. The time it takes varies, but by the one-hour mark, you become so tall you clip through the ship, making it virtually impossible to traverse.
  • Ghost Ship: The game is set on an abandoned cargo ship. The only living things on it are the player character and the monster who is trying to kill you.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Brute and The Fiend both have these.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Whatever mysterious organization whose agents are responsible for conducting the initial genetic experiments in the first game, and who presumably runs the prison in the second game where prisoners are tested against unleashed monsters. Monstrum 2 identified them as the Honsha-Miller Corporation.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The various roars of the monsters. Also, the alarms that let said monsters know where you are.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Fiend is an emaciated gray humanoid with an elongated head, tiny glowing pupils, and telekinetic powers that it uses to freeze the player. It floats through the air due to its legs ending in stumps.
  • The Juggernaut: The Brute plows through any doors in its way during a chase and sprints just as fast as the player character.
  • Jump Scare: When the monsters pop up right in front of you, particularly when the Hunter emerges from a vent or an egg sac. The steam pipes in the Lower Decks also qualify (yes, the steam can kill you!).
  • Lord British Postulate: There are certain exploits that allow you to trap some of the monsters in certain areas of the ship using certain pushable objects, allowing you progress through the rest of the game unmolested.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The difficulty of a play-through depends heavily on the random spawning of the escape vehicle components, as well as which of the three monsters you are assigned to face (the Hunter is generally agreed to be somewhat easier than the Brute or Fiend).
  • Magma Man: The Brute, combined with Rock Monster.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Getting caught by one of the monsters treats you to a first-person death animation of them killing you in some way relative to how they found you, such as the Hunter pouncing on you and devouring your head or the Fiend violently twisting your limbs with its power.
  • Mascot Villain: The Brute is typically the monster used for game covers and the like, and the only monster to appear in both games.
  • The Mole: The collectible notes reveal that at least two or more passengers or crew on board the ship were part of a secret operation to gather mysterious "specimens" from the Pacific Rim region. The implication is that the specimens may have hatched or matured and become the monsters, though the notes are extremely vague and this may or may not be the case. New notes added in the 2016 patch seem to suggest the specimens were deep-sea jellyfish, which were used to create a serum that unwittingly creates the monsters.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: Bordering on Humanoid Abomination for one monster in particular.
  • Multiple Endings: There are three different ways to escape the ship, each with a unique ending cutscene. Additionally, each cutscene varies slightly depending on which monster was hunting you during that playthrough.
  • Neck Snap: The Brute's preferred method of killing you. The Fiend can do this with telekinesis as well.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The Hunter is another brand of horror because the player can't get away from the damn thing. It is using all the vents in the ship to keep up with you, and outright crawls up the side of the ship if you make too much noise on the deck. It'll even pop out of the many eggs it lays, and those can be anywhere onboard.
    • Datamining shows that the game specifically spawns the Hunter outside the submarine room if you start the submarine activation sequence, to ensure a final confrontation. This is not true of the other two escape types or monsters, though they will most likely be drawn in by the noise.
  • Permadeath: Once caught, that file and world is lost forever, and the player is forced to start over fresh. The game goes so far as to lack any kind of save feature completely, so your only options are to win or die in one sitting.
  • Power Floats: The Fiend's Mind over Matter lets it compensate for its lack of feet.
  • Rock Monster: The Brute is a massive Golem type thing that looks like cooled lava, complete with Glowing Eyes of Doom that can give you a warning that he's nearby — if the stomping doesn't tip you off.
  • Roguelike: While the general layout of the ship and the location of key areas is the same every game, the exact interior rooms and corridors do change from game to game. Your spawn location and the location of items is different in each play-through also.
  • Shout-Out: The ship the game takes place on is named the Hisa Maru, run by a company owned by a Mr. Kobayashi, a shout out to the Kobayashi Maru from Star Trek.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The three monsters that antagonize the player (though only the Hunter has any interest in eating you). Fortunately, only one of them will appear in each playthrough. Unfortunately, you won't know which until you encounter them. They are:
    • The Brute: A hulking, fiery golem. Physically the strongest of the monsters, able to knock down doors when pursuing you. However, it's also by far the noisiest of the monsters, allowing the player to hear it coming, and its Glowing Eyes of Doom creates a red light wherever it looks that warns the player if it's just around the corner.
    • The Hunter: An almost skeletal entity with elongated, clawed fingers. It travels around through the ship's vents and can scale up walls. It is much quieter than the Brute, and the poor lighting of the ship means that by the time you see it, it may already be too late.
    • The Fiend: A wraith-like demon that levitates instead of walking (it has no feet). It has supernatural powers like shorting out lights whenever it is near and possessing telekinetic abilities. It "plays on more malevolent tropes like serial killers and the supernatural". Oh, and its inclusion to the game was veiled in the patch notes, catching most players by surprise when they encountered it for the first time.
  • Universal Driver's License: The protagonist is able to competently drive both the helicopter and the submarine (vehicles which require an enormous amount of training to operate), and can fly the helicopter well enough to pull off a complex, risky maneuver (scraping the monster off on a passing cargo container while it's hanging off the landing struts).
  • Walking Techbane: Or floating, in this case. The Fiend will cause any lights, including your flashlight, to flicker when he gets close, shutting them off entirely if he's close enough. Thankfully, the lights resume function when he leaves and this effect is not strong enough to interfere with any of the systems you need to escape.
  • Was Once a Man: The new notes added in the 2016 patch reveal that the Brute and the Fiend were created in medical experiments where two injured "test subjects" were injected with a regenerative serum derived from deep-sea jellyfish. The test subjects may or may not have been the two injured crew members that are mentioned repeatedly in the notes and audio logs.
  • A Winner Is You: Originally, beating the game resulted in you being shown a picture of your escape method with the words "You escaped" on it. A later update made winning a bit more meaningful, as you now get a cutscene of you escaping in whatever vehicle you used and narrowly fleeing whatever monster was present at the time.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: The protagonist seems shocked to be on the ship, and doesn't know how they got there. That said, it's not the driving question, seeing as your main priority is to get off the ship to escape the abominations chasing you.
    • It's left vague as to whether the protagonist is one of the two crewmen who are mentioned in the notes as having been unconscious during the initial attack due to earlier injuries and has amnesia, or if they're an entirely random stranger who has been transported to the ship by unknown means. Neither possibility is ruled out by the game.