Bitsummit 2023: Unboxing the 3D puzzle-fighting game Monstabox
Bitsummit is a wonderful event that showcases games made by indie developers both experienced and new. One of the best experiences of walking around the expo floor is stumbling across a game you've never encountered before and meeting a developer who radiates excitement and passion about the project they are bringing to life.
Our exploration of the event led us to indie developers showcasing their games at Bitsummit for the first time — and even some showing to the public for the first time ever, such as Monstabox!
We couldn’t help but want to share with the world the enthusiasm these devs had for their craft and their debut title. We hope that in writing this you’ll find a new game to add to your wishlist. So let’s check out Monstabox, a unique puzzle-fighting game by atKombi!
Developer: atKombi Genre: Puzzle-Fighting Platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch, mobile
Twitter Website We were perusing the Bitsummit floor for the first time when we got stopped by Bruno, inviting us to play his puzzle-fighting game Monstabox. It would be the second demo we’d play that day, and one that left a very clear impression on us.
This versus game takes the genre in a fresh and fun direction. It uses a box, monsters, spells, and a playing field to deliver a unique flavor of fighting game.
To begin, you choose a monster and a few spells. The game places all these elements and your attack and defense skills on each surface of a box before placing you on your board, a 5x3 grid of squares. You have a limited amount of time and number of movements each turn to execute your attack, defense, and spells, and collect mana points and coins that you'll need to carefully manage and spend in battle.
Across from you is your opponent’s board. Your goal is to beat your opponent to zero health, but your game doesn't end there. A KO will make the star appear on your board, and you must try to reach it and activate it before your opponent gets you back or manages to destroy the star.
Here are our first impressions of the game!
I am generally not a fan of versus games, and I was hesitant to start. But I gotta say, it was fun! Strategizing when to activate spells or when to keep your mana points was a fine balance, and your choice of monster definitely affected how you played and when you activated them.
Chibicula, my monster of choice, was definitely OP for the choices provided, as recovering one health point while attacking was a valuable skill. Plus, the bonus of potentially making a comeback if your health hits zero kept things intense.
But the monsters we played were only three of the expansive roster that players could already see in the game, so who knows what else is in store!
The graphics were cute, the animations were solid, and more importantly, so were the controls and the overall gameplay. The game could be as casual as you make it, or as in-depth and strategic as you like. I could easily see the potential in this game, and even at this early stage can recommend it to anyone looking for a good time.
Monstabox was a very interesting one-versus-one game, and I haven't seen anything too similar to it before. The limitations in place cause the game to be extremely strategic despite graphics that might imply a faster-paced action game.
Players need to be very mindful of both sides of the board as well as how they expect their opponent will move in order to succeed. Numerous characters and selectable die sides will prevent matches from growing stale or too similar.
Matches are snappy despite the turn-based nature. That said, the game is much more suited to people who enjoy more thoughtful and strategic games than action-packed affairs.
At the end of our play — we both got the chance to play twice — it was an easy decision to get an interview to try and gain more insight into the game. So let’s get right to our conversation with Bruno Leni and Francisco Demartino from the development team!
VGG: Please introduce yourselves and your game.
Bruno: My name is Bruno Leni. I’m originally from Argentina but I’ve lived in Japan for the last ten years, and this is our first game development by ourselves. We go by the name atKombi, and this is the first time at Bitsummit, so I encourage everybody to come and test the game! It’s a lot of fun.
I’m the game designer and created all the visuals.
Francisco: Hi! I’m Francisco, I joined Bruno in making Monstabox, and we’ve been working on it for two and a half years. And it’s been so fun.
VGG: How would you describe your game to a casual player?
Bruno: I would say that it mixes a board game with fighting elements and strategy. You have a box that you build yourself, [and] you prepare for a fight. There is no random aspect, you control all your movements, and it’s full of action. There are combos, spells, and monsters. Once you start from the basics, you start learning all the tricks of the game. It’s easy to start but hard to master.
VGG: Playing it, I could easily tell that you can go super casual or be extremely tactical.
Bruno: Yeah, we have people going insane. There are a lot of combos and things we never thought of that people have found out [and make us go] ohh! You can do that!
Because you know about the game, Chibicula can get hurt [and be okay], so people just go and jump into the poison anyway because they can recover. There are things like that we never thought of, and it’s really interesting.
VGG: What inspired you to create Monstabox?
Bruno: I draw stuff, and one of my hobbies is to think about gameplay design. So, I made a cube just by drawing stuff, and I said, “Wow! This looks interesting and catchy! This could be a game, in some kind of way — a box fighting another box.”
And I met another friend who is really into board games. I made Monstabox in real life with paper boxes, and I was on a webcam, showing [my friend] the box. Using the box like this — he makes gestures flipping an imaginary box side to side — and a little dice, so, for example for the random aspect we can do it with the dice.
And from that moment, I said, “Yeah! This is nice! I need a programmer.” I contacted a friend who owns a video game company. He introduced me to Francisco, and since then we became really good friends and started to work together.
VGG: I've not seen anything like this — and I’ve seen a lot of games! This is going to be amazing, I can just tell.
Bruno and Francisco: Wow, thank you!
VGG: Like you said, it can be super casual, but then it can also be really in-depth, and then the payback later on if you’ve strategically placed stuff…ohh… I can just see it!
Bruno: We’re thinking for casual players to also release the game on mobile and make a simple tutorial to start. So you start from nothing and you start learning the little tricks. For example, in a big board with no step limit... [the game] challenges you to the main mission, and then you start learning the game.
With added content, we plan on having a lot of spells and monsters, so the combinations could be wild. We have, right now, six spells on the demo. But we tried many other things and you can have combos of up to three or four things together — it gets crazy.
VGG: Do you plan to have a single-player mode?
Francisco: One of the obvious things is having an AI that you play against. We tried to have this for Bitsummit but we didn’t make it — but that’s one idea. And the other one is kind of like a tutorial in that there’s something that tells you, “Okay, now try to move your cube so that the sword is upside down.” And growing the game from that, so that new players can understand the game. Step-by-step, adding complexity as they go on, as they understand the previous concepts.
Bruno: And if we do something like, for example, a tower dungeon thing, where there are three puzzles and one monster…
VGG: So it’s more like a challenge?
Bruno: You choose a puzzle or a monster and things like that. We have the core of the game, and we tweak gameplay design stuff to make the player understand before you go online.
VGG: What can players expect for Monstabox's release?
Bruno: We don’t have a release date right now, because we think that we want to launch the game when it’s ready, in the best situation possible. And we want to start building the community before we go on the market. And the second thing is to start doing this tutorial for newcomers to start really easy and understand the game from zero.
But right now, the next step is an October tournament!
The tournament is completely online. You don’t have to download anything. It’s on the web.
Feedback was super important, so we encourage everybody to come and try it and give us their opinion.
VGG: You have a Discord. Where else can people find you and the game?
But also, we have this Twitch channel for the community to test the game. So, if you’d like to try it, please join the Discord or Twitch, and I’m sure you’re going to have a chance to play it.
For more ways to keep tabs on atKombi and their upcoming release Monstabox, visit their Linktree.