It’s Halloween, and you know what that means; A spooky game for a spooky season! And what better way than to celebrate with the game adaptation of Monster House!....right?...
If you didn’t know, Monster House is an CG animated movie that was made nearly 10 (!!) years ago. Instead of just having a haunted house be the setting of a monster movie, the house is the monster. It’s a pretty fun movie and perfect if you need something a little something spooky to watch this Halloween.
The plot for game takes place a little over midway through the movie. DJ, Jenny, and Chowder (who I will call The Worst One from this point on) are three kids in a neghborhood where a house is eating people. They plan to break in and kill the house before Halloween night to keep the house from eating anyone else. Somehow the kids get arrested, the house, eats the cop car, and the kids get lost in the living house that wants to kill them.
When I started up the game, I was really struck by how good they nailed the living house theme. Normally the house just looks like a normal spooky old house, but if you break something in the environment or trigger an enemy the house will freak out. The lighting will become more etherial, doors will slam open and shut, candles will shoot flames , and the house with roar. The enemies themselves are twisted chairs, living floorboards, ventilation ducts, and raging televisions. The controler will even thump with a heartbeat the closer you get to the furnace room. It’s pretty dang cool! The game even has a playable version of Thou Art Dead, the movie’s spoof of Castlevania and Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
The three kids also have a few differences too thanks to them carrying different water guns. DJ has a kind of semi-automatic water riffle and a room clearing camera, Jenny has a rapid fire pistol with a pretty strong slingshot move, and The Worst One is fat. But no mater who you play with, what you do and how you do it pretty much remains the same.
The game is something like a more linear version of Resident Evil. You will revisit rooms, but the house will block anywhere you don’t need to go. Mostly you’ll be walking from room to room shooting enemies, picking up keys, and going to the next room.
The main reason I bring up Resident Evil is because of the tank controls. And this was where the game kind of fell apart for me. A lot of the damage I took in the game just came from stuff I couldn’t see. You’re allowed to strafe when you lock onto an enemy, buck the lock on is finicky and can turn off if the conditions aren’t right. It’s not bad early in the game, but it becomes a huge pain later in the game when you have several strong monsters in the same room. Plus the dedicated dodge button options (duck or jump 5 inches) are so pitiful that the absence of a strafe is especially frustrating. The game never gets too tough that you’ll die often because of the controls, but it’s frustrating all the same.
Plus there are instant death quick time events that reset you to the last time you swapped characters if you fail them. Thant can be five to fifteen minutes. The QTEs happen pretty much at random.
Probably the worst part of this game is goddamn Chowder. The Worst One is armed with the weakest shotgun and grenade launcher weapons I’ve ever played with. It’s pretty much established that the other characters’ rapid fire weapons are much more effective, but they treat The Worst One’s arsenal as the strongest in the game. As such you’ll be fighting more enemies with worse weapons. Plus he takes three times longer to climb things because he’s fat.
Monster House is a step above most movie tie-in games out there, but it still not really that great. It’s got plenty of cool things going for it for the fans of the film, but it’s marred by gameplay that becomes repetitive and frustrating after a while. Still, the game doesn’t wear out it’s welcome (it took me a small afternoon to beat) and I was able to pick it up for two dollars. If you want a cheap spooky movie-game to keep you occupied Halloween night, you can do worse.
Derivative Content is a series of reviews for licensed games. Next time we’ll join the world’s greatest detective as he solves the case of the missing plants.