I have been eagerly awaiting a mobile port of Monster Train since the game originally released on PC in 2020. Roguelite deck-building games tend to draw me in over and over again in part because they feel perfectly suited to touch play on the go, such that whenever a celebrated one releases I cross my fingers hoping that it comes to the App Store. Now that Monster Train is here, I can say it is a fantastic deck-building game that scratches a somewhat different itch from others like it on iOS, and its mobile iteration isn't perfect but totally serviceable.
Railroad to hell
Monster Train has an incredibly dumb and fun video game premise: It's about driving a train to hell. You and your demon army are the last hope at reigniting the fires of the underworld, and all that is standing in your way is a legion of holy warriors intent on destroying you and your train.
You start the game with a very modest "crew" and a few powers to defend your train, which are all represented as cards in a deck. Each stage of Monster Train has you drawing cards from this deck and playing them to stop waves of enemies from ascending all three levels of your train and attacking the engine powering your locomotive.
As you clear levels in Monster Train, you are immediately rewarded with items like gold, a choice of three random cards, and more that you can use to morph your deck from its basic default state into an optimized angel-killing machine. Also between levels you get a view of your progress to hell that includes branching paths with additional rewards attached to them as well. You can access shops to spend gold to remove or upgrade cards from your deck, open chests with artifacts that provide passive bonuses for the rest of your run, or even make stops at randomized points of interest with mysterious consequences attached to them.
You'll need to take advantage of all of these opportunities to upgrade your deck, as your enemies grow rather quickly in strength. Identifying good card combos and ways to reliably access them is key to performing well in Monster Train. It's not likely you'll win on your first run, but death is all part of the process. When a run ends, you build up experience to unlock more cards on future runs and can restart again with a different combo of decks and modifiers to play with.
The sheer number of interlocking systems at play in Monster Train really make it feel endlessly replayable. There are so many different variables and all of them work together in a surprisingly harmonious way such that every run feels like it has potential to be a winner while still feeling deeply strategic and challenging. If the standard run ever starts to wear thin, you can also take part in daily challenges or even races against other players online to keep things feeling fresh or add another layer of challenge.
As a mobile port, Monster Train is mostly immaculate, but I did notice that boss enemies that float on the edges of the screen are cut off (mostly on tablets) such that you can't always see their stats in a way that you might need to if a run is coming down to the wire. The touch controls themselves are also fine, but slightly more clunky than expected. Generally speaking neither of these things are particularly bothersome, though they are worth pointing out.
The bottom line
Monster Train is a fantastic deck-building roguelite that is easy to play repeatedly over a long, long period of time. I plan to keep it installed for a good, long time even though the port isn't 100% perfect.