surprisingly, Monster House the game is a fixer-upper.
by Patrick Evans
1, 2006 - Summer
tie-in games are a certainty that we have come to
expect every year. A dozen or so movies spawn a dozen
or so games, each usually looking for an easy dollar
at the expense of quality gameplay. While this summer
hasn't seen as many horrendous games as summer's past,
THQ's Monster House isn't helping the cause at all.
With clumsy controls and absolutely no replay value,
Monster House deserves a rental for the kids at most.
story of Monster House, for those who haven't seen
or heard of the film, follows three neighborhood kids
as they try to uncover the mysteries of the haunted
house on their block. The tie-in game catches the
story with the kids finding themselves stuck inside
the house, separated from one another. Armed with
water pistols and their wits, the three kids have
to brave the house's traps and haunted furniture to
rid the neighborhood of their dangerous neighbor once
and for all.
control the action from the third person set over
the character's shoulder. Controlling movement with
the left stick, players can only strafe if they are
locked onto a target. Targeting enemies this way is
difficult to say the least. Instead of scrolling through
all the available targets, hitting the O button just
toggles the targeting on or off. There is no ability
to readily move along the y-axis to target, so trying
to lock onto an enemy at your feet without room to
back up is impossible. What's worse is trying to keep
track of a target when it leaves your field of vision
as the auto-aim drops and you are stuck trying to
find the target again. The right analog stick on the
PS2 is wasted by only rotating the camera and not
the character's torso. The auto-aim may not have even
been necessary if the developers would have stuck
to the conventional two-stick system. As it stands
now, the aiming feels broken.
at fast moving enemies would be nearly impossible
with this aiming and movement scheme, but luckily
enough the enemies here are less than frightening.
I can almost count the number of enemies that are
found throughout the house on one hand, not including
the couple boss characters. Haunted chairs and wooden
spiders that appear from the floor boards make up
a bulk of the adversaries that you face, with some
haunted floor lamps and iron stoves thrown in the
mix. There are also "red" versions of just
about every enemy sporting enhanced attacks and added
endurance to the water pistols. After two hours of
the same enemies over and over again, even the youngest
of players may find themselves bored to tears.
weapons of choice for the three little protagonists
are their trusty water guns. Interestingly enough,
each character's weapon acts differently from the
others. D.J.'s weapon acts as a standard "rifle"
and upgrades to a straight stream, while Chowder's
gun acts just like a shotgun. Additionally, every
character has a secondary weapon that they can find
ammo for as they move along. Chowder wins out once
again as he gets a water balloon launcher that acts
remarkably like a grenade launcher. The other two's
attacks aren't nearly as effective, but they work
wonders to keep the action as fresh as possible.
House does a fair enough job at keeping the visual
style of its source material well intact throughout,
though a little more imagination could have gone a
long way. D.J. and crew are fairly well rendered on
the PS2 hardware, though they appear a little stiff
in the animation department. Standard enemies get
tedious after a while, but the size and imagination
in the boss characters are more than enough to cover
the rest of the package.
playing through the game, young fans of the movie
should appreciate the startles and jumps from the
interactive scenes strewn throughout. As you walk
through the house, branches will try to grab you and
pull you into the depths. When a scene like this occurs,
players will have to press the corresponding button
right away to avoid getting nabbed. The interaction
only gets better throughout the game, although it's
never a complete knockout success.
House is quite short, but it is very well paced, keeping
the action moving quite well throughout. Normally,
licensed games are packed to the gills with unlockable
features. Here, the only extras are the photo gallery
and a throwback 2-D platform game called "Thou
Art Dead." When I noticed this game in the menu,
I realized that this could actually be a game that
people would play on Xbox Live and compete for highest
score or something. Gamers of any age should easily
complete this game in seven or eight hours, making
this an easy weekend rental but a tough purchase decision.
Monster House is a breezy summer title for the kids
that will keep them busy for a while, but it doesn't
take full advantage of its impressive source material
and leaves its players wishing for better.