PS2 REVIEW: MONSTER HOUSE

Not surprisingly, Monster House the game is a fixer-upper. by Patrick Evans

August 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.

Monster House screenshot

The 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.

Players 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.

Monster House screenshot

Aiming 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.

The 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.

Monster 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.

Monster House screenshot

While 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.

Monster 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.

By Patrick Evans
CCC Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
Monster House (PS2)
3.6
Graphics
The character models look fine, but visual bugs and boring enemies hurt.
2.8
Control
Using only one stick for movement and forcing a lock-on in this type of game seems asinine, and the whole scheme feels antique
4.3
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Faithful voice work and sound effects build atmosphere where the repetitive chair-monsters fail.
2.5
Play Value
Monster House is one-and-done and fails to offer any reason for repeat visits.
2.8
Overall Rating - Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
Monster House box art
System: PS2, GC
Dev: Artificial Mind
Pub: THQ
Release: July 2006
Players: 1
Review by Patrick

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best