Monster Madness • Page 2

Zombies ate my gameplay.

The controls, while relatively few in number, are unwieldy and awkward. Clicking in the right stick lets you jump, a strange mapping decision that makes negotiating the occasional platform segment of a level a chore. The two triggers control your primary and secondary weapons and while this works well, scrolling through different weapons is inefficiently handled with the bumpers and face buttons. As there's no auto-lock feature, shooting at the fast and furious enemies is often a frustration on anything above the lowest of the game's four difficulty levels.

This aiming problem is exacerbated many times over when joined by other players (who can drop in locally at any time) as the camera tugs in different directions to accommodate each player's independent movements. Indeed, the game's difficulty quickly becomes a serious problem, especially for the solo player. On the default setting we got stuck on a couple of later levels, enduring a kind of red-hot infuriation not experienced for many years. Thanks to the sparsely populated checkpoint system and a ridiculous number of quick and hard enemies the hack and slashing becomes quickly overwhelming. Inexplicably it's impossible to save the game at a checkpoint and, with some levels taking over half an hour to complete, getting stuck on a final boss half an hour in with no option to save your progress is an anachronistic and unnecessary pain.

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The core game mechanics are cluttered by numerous extra conceits which, rather than making the game more fun, simply make it untidy and unfocused while revealing its core weaknesses. 'Monster Fest' areas close the player in requiring you defeat a certain number of enemies before you're allowed to progress. At one point you're required to score five basketball three-pointers in a school playground while you aim is constantly being knocked off by the relentless assaults of some voracious demons. These ideas are interesting but the clunky execution means they're never much fun. Various vehicle sections also mix up the repetition and everything from Swan Boats, ATVs, Tanks and Mechas can be appropriated to the cause. However, the control of each is generally poor, and so these sections are also frustrating. Even when the controls are good, such as in the mechas (pleasingly made out of an old VW Beatle) the tasks you're given to perform (such as searching through a junkyard for specific pieces of scrap metal) lack pizzazz.

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It's not all bad though. The animation throughout is full of character; the soundtrack is solid and occasionally brave (one level is soundtracked by a solitary soulful cello). Character design is varied and imaginative (the gruesome 'fat zombie' - who dies of a heart attack when sufficiently riled - looks as if it's the disgusting brainchild of Dante and H R Giger). In two-player co-op, with a competent friend the game works well although, with any more participants than this it becomes simply too cluttered and confusing.

Nevertheless this is nineties videogame cliché; an unrelenting gangbang of tired mechanics presented in mostly derivative clothing. The script, dialogue and voice acting grasp for irony but only manage weak cliché. That the game doesn't offer an online campaign mode is disastrous, an oversight the 'king-of-the-hill', 'capture the flag' etc other stock online modes fail to compensate for. In what appears to be an effort to stave off criticism that the game is unimaginative, the designers have sought to add diverse extra ideas to freshen the classic mechanics. But that these fail to work elegantly only serves to bring attention to the core game's mediocrity rather than shroud it.

5 /10

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About the author

Simon Parkin

Simon Parkin

Contributor

Simon Parkin is an award-winning writer and journalist from England, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian and a variety of other publications.

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