|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Artificial Studios / Immersion Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Southpeak||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 15, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4 (up to 16 online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Leon Hendrix III
March 1, 2007 - During the brief period that the Xbox 360 has been on the market, it has hosted a variety of interesting titles. Some of the biggest developers in the industry have staked their claims on the next-gen market with fantastic games on the Xbox 360. With their first foray into the next-gen world, developer Artificial Studios is hoping to join in on the fun.
Monster Madness is the company's flagship Xbox 360 title, but they have had experience with next-gen success before. Although not immediately recognizable themselves, their work has influenced what is arguably one of the best game engines on the videogame market. The Reality Engine, developed by Artificial Studios, was purchased by industry giant Epic Games, the minds behind Gears of War.
Monster Madness is the story of four stereotypical teens and their adventures as they attempt to save their town which, incidentally, has been overrun by hordes of zombies, witches, and demons. Over the course of the game, players will slice, detonate, and otherwise punish those evil creatures foolish enough to cause trouble on the mean streets of Suburbia. The game's main characters are: Zach, the computer geek, Carrie, the Goth, Andy, the slacker, and Jennifer, the cheerleader, and each character has different skills and weapons that will slightly affect the overall gameplay. For instance, Zach is a technology wiz whose special weapon is the axe. Not much more has been revealed about the story to this point, but gameplay has definitely been emphasized.
In a lot of ways, Monster Madness is a throwback to the earlier days of top down run and gun games. Early builds of the gameplay are fairly similar to the late 90s arcade hit Gauntlet Legends. Players will run from area to area dodging, leaping, running, jumping, and attacking with weapons and environmental dangers as waves of monsters attack from all sides. Although not extremely innovative, the fighting in Monster Madness is broken up by scripted events where players will take on Survival challenges. Players will also get the opportunity to drive certain vehicles through the Suburbian streets although there hasn't been a lot of information released about them.
Taking a cue from strong sales of Epic's powerhouse, Gears of War, Artificial Studios has put a lot of work into developing unique and engaging cooperative gameplay functionality. The game allows for up to sixteen players to jump in and out of three different multiplayer modes: Vs., Free For All, and Team Deathmatch. Competition is kept fresh with ten available multiplayer maps, each one teeming with traps and pitfalls to dispose of hapless players.
One of the more unique features in the game is the upgradable weapons system. During the game, players will find mechanical pieces that, when turned over to Larry the mechanic, allow for weapons to be upgraded up to three times. Besides their own signature weapons, players will also be able to find and employ tasers, glue guns, Gravity grenades, and beehives in the fight against the undead masses. Although it hasn't been confirmed, character specific special attacks should be present and accounted for.
The levels feature a unique design which is similar in application to those of the original X-Men Legends. Battles that take place indoors will erupt into a whirlwind of trashed furniture and broken glass, while outdoor battles will take place in larger areas.
Monster Madness has a fairly simple visual style accompanied by an amusing and very appropriate comic art edge. The story is told through comic book panel style cut scenes with text and voiceovers. During battles players can expect a frenzy of visual imagery as sparks and explosions shoot across screen, point totals register and disappear like in the days of Super Mario Bros., and characters react to pickups and attacks with humorous speech balloons. Although the graphics don't exactly push the 360's hardware capabilities, the frantic action and abundance of zombie mashing weapons and traps will keep most players occupied.
Overall, Monster Madness looks to be an enjoyable game that gives players a lot of flexibility in dispatching the deadly demonic denizens. The comic art style is a bit trendy, but may appeal to some of the younger gamers, as well as older niche gamers. High-speed monster mashing action, a huge number of weapons and attacks, and a healthy multiplayer component should be enough to make this a worthy addition to the Xbox family.
Leon Hendrix III
CCC Freelance Writer