Not Quite Epic Proportions
What is it that is so fascinating about pseudo-intelligent, giant mutated monsters that has allowed Godzilla to endure for so long? It’s a difficult question, but the gargantuan green lizard has been around for ages. His destructive tendencies along with his regular clashes with other giant monsters are an obvious fit for a video game, which is why Atari has released Godzilla Unleashed on multiple platforms. The DS version, subtitled Double Smash, is not a fighting game like the Wii and PS2 versions, and winds up being more of a side scroller, albeit not a very enjoyable one.
The game begins with a cutscene explaining that Monster Island is under attack. A crystal has fallen from space and how somehow disrupted everything. The game doesn’t do a good job of explaining what is actually happening, instead showing the falling crystal and ensuing chaos erupting. The minor amount of time that the developers spent in crafting the storyline for the game shows how they relegate the importance of the story to a secondary tier, although the gameplay hasn’t fared much better.
Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash attempts to be a side scrolling shooter. The bottom screen shows your land based monster as he progresses through the stage and the top screen shows the air above him. The use of the dual screens come in when the player presses a shoulder button, which allows the monster to magically jump off-screen, upon which the action begins to follow an airborne monster on the top screen. This is the game’s main gimmick, and it’s weak.
Your monsters both progress through the stage, one at a time, battles leagues of planes and ships firing at them. Monsters can attack with blows that have woefully short range and they can fire energy blasts at them which depletes the energy gauge at the bottom of the screen. Here is part of the problem. Because the energy is limited, it is obvious the bulk of the combat was supposed to come from the attacks, which have a short range. The game feels like a shooter, with ships and planes zooming in from the right side of the screen and firing projectiles at you. However, the range of your attack is so short, you’ve usually taken damage from the projectiles by the time the enemy is close enough to be destroyed. Many of the energy attacks have to be charged, especially from the land based monsters, so it doesn’t feel viable to charge your attack, fire, then charge again, although the strategy is as viable as swinging randomly and hoping that you hit an enemy before they crash into your hide.
Breaking up the tedium of the monster march through the stage are battles with a mini-boss and a stage boss. This is flawed in execution, especially considering the split screen approach. For example, my first boss was land based, only occasionally leaping into the sky to allow my flyer to take a shot at him. For the rest of the time I had to sit idly by and wait for him to foolishly leap into the sky again. Of course, I had the option to switch to my land based monster, but he was low on health from charging through the stage. What my boss battle devolved into was allowing my flyer to charge his energy attack, firing when the boss leapt into range, dodging him as he fell, and then repeat, spending my downtime charging my next attack. Needless to say, it got boring really fast.
Even more ridiculously, there are sections in the stages that have a particular obstacle that you must overcome. The monster must destroy the object by repeatedly striking it, but this is done via a mini-game where you must hit the correct buttons in order. You are rewarded for your speed and for the number of combos you get in a row, but are penalized for inputting the buttons too swiftly. Overall, the sequences are slow, plodding, and seem incongruous to the rest of the gameplay, as if they were attempting to find a way to slow or mix the game, perhaps realized how monotonous the side scrolling could become if unbroken.
Besides the story mode, Godzilla Unleashed also has an Endurance Mode and a Survival mode, but both feature the same flawed combat system. It can be fun for Godzilla lovers to unlock and recognize the various monsters in the game, but there isn’t much to be enjoyed beyond that. The monsters may look slightly different, but they all have basically the same attack, so there isn’t much of a reward to unlocking new characters beyond the accomplishment itself.
Another complaint is the fact that there is no saving feature. If you want to finish the game, you must do so in one sitting. The game also doesn’t warn you that you are going to lose your progress if you quit, so most gamers won’t realize this, since auto saving is a feature that seems to be standard in most contemporary games.
The visuals in Godzilla Unleashed aren’t particularly impressive. The monsters are recognizable, but only have a few frames of animation apiece. Some of the attacking vehicles appear to have nearly no animation, gliding across the screen as if they were being pushed. The cutscenes’ still frames could be considered stylistic at best, but many may consider them to look like a bad flash animation.
The game does have a multiplayer mode which allows two players to attack the game, one controlling the top monster while the other controls the bottom. However, as expected, that doesn’t make the game any more enjoyable.
In addition to the game modes, Godzilla Unleashed also has some extras, such as a model gallery to allow to you look at the game’s monsters, a concept gallery, and an option to listen to the game’s music. There isn’t much to add to the game’s replayability, however.
Overall, Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash isn’t a game that can be recommended for any reason. The plodding and imperfect gameplay, poor visuals, nonexistent story, and terrible controls combine to create an experience best avoided. Fans of Godzilla may want to add this to their collection, but you may be offended by their treatment of everyone’s favorite lizard this side of the Geico commercials.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
Visuals look like a flash animation. 2.7 Control
The controls are decent while the actions aren’t. 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There isn’t much in the way of sound effects or music. 2.2
There isn’t much to do and nothing is enjoyable.
2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.