This is the one hundred seventh entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
Our next random selection from the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality has tumbled awkwardly into position. It’s MONUMENTAL FAILURE, by Scary Wizard Games, and its tagline in the bundle reads:
A historically (in)accurate, physics-based, monument construction simulator!
As you may have guessed, Monumental Failure (sorry, I can’t keep the capitalization going) is about trying to build ancient monuments while fighting against a fickle physics simulation. There are six monuments to construct, each spread across ten individual levels, and every level is an absurd physics challenge. Things might start simple, with workers pushing a giant lintel stone up a ramp to cap one part of Stonehenge, but before long they’ll be planting the stones using jetpacks and a bunch of elastic bungie cords. Each level brings some new physics-based challenge, even sillier than the last, inevitably leading to hilarious failure. Brilliantly, after a set of ten levels is complete, the game offers a flyover view of the shoddily constructed monument, giving players time to shrug and mutter “good enough”.
Monumental Failure is genuinely hilarious. Individual levels are short, often under a minute, but there are a bunch of them and every one has some new, inane construction method to use. Push a piece of the Roman Coliseum into position while bouncing on pogo sticks. Drop a bit of the Great Pyramid of Giza into place from a giant hang glider. Try to steer a Moai head as it hurtles down a huge slide. My favorite challenges involve dragging things around with stretchy bungie cords, since whatever massive piece of stone is attached to them tends to careen all over the place, flipping over and smashing into everything. It’s likely to arrive at its destination upside down and askew, if it arrives at all. At which point one of the local gods will pop up to grade the performance, with applause or groans as appropriate.
A simple but confounding control scheme makes these trials work. In every level there are two groups of workers, one controlled with the WASD keys and the other with the arrow keys. In truth, only being able to move in eight directions felt extra awkward, and I wonder if the twin analogue sticks on a gamepad are also supported. There was no indication that they would be, but perhaps if I’d plugged in my gamepad I’d have seen new control prompts? Regardless, keeping track of both groups of workers at once is tricky and I often sent them in the wrong direction, knocking over the huge piece of stone I was trying to get into position. Sometimes workers get separated, so directing one to push might send their partner plummeting off of the ramp. I completed many levels with only a single worker remaining, her comrades having sacrificed themselves valiantly so a piece of the Roman Aqueduct could end up jutting out at a 45 degree angle. Good enough.
Monumental Failure does have some problems. Levels cannot be repeated on the first run through, which is frustrating when a monument piece topples off of a track right at the start with no way to recover. I also had a few crashes to desktop, one of which required restarting an entire monument over again (practice modes are only unlocked after completing a full monument once). Some monuments crossed the line from funny to annoying, with elements that actively resist players’ construction efforts. I don’t know why anyone would build a ramp for their construction project and then attach giant spinning blades to it, but here we are. When building the Coliseum, my earlier failures would hinder future efforts, which was frustrating. One piece was supposed to be placed via a gigantic pinball machine, but its target slot was blocked by an earlier, misplaced piece, so it was impossible to position it properly.
These things betray the small production budget, but they are not enough to spoil the experience. On the whole, Monumental Failure is a hoot, and it supports both cooperative and competitive multiplayer for those who want to share the laughter with others. I easily finished all the levels in a single sitting, but I certainly didn’t build successful monuments, so there’s plenty of room to replay monuments and try to make something that’s almost cohesive. I could see playing this a bunch of times with friends in local multiplayer too. This one was a pleasant surprise, buried as it is on page 45 out of 59 in the bundle. It’s funny, not as janky as one might expect, and even has some nice original music to go along with the meticulous construction projects. Just don’t expect historical accuracy — we all know that Stonehenge was actually built by one man: Duncan.
If you missed it in the bundle, Monumental Failure is sold for a minimum price of $9.99. That’s 107 down, and only 1634 to go!