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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Game Boy
Vivendi Games
Digital Eclipse
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1-2
August 29, 2002
 Written by Matt Swider  on September 04, 2002

Review: Remember, Monster Force + Multiplayer Mash doesn't = Monster Mash

A game originally intended for PlayStation, yet marred with countless problems as a 3D adventure, Monster Force finally makes its way to the gaming scene after being kept on the back burner for quite some time. Ported off to the Game Boy Advance and reworked as a traditional overhead action game, we find ourselves playing something not unlike the classic Gauntlet. While it doesn't come off being quite as polished as Gauntlet due to its tendency of being a dull experience for action-heads, the spot of strategy and several doses of puzzle elements should make it of interest to others out there.

Monster Force is a game that really takes aim at kids with its three mini-monster playable characters based off of Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man. As the teenage version of either Frank, Drac, or Wolfie, the quest to save Dr. Victor Frankenstein entails defeating the evil pumpkin warriors that have overrun the 35 levels of Monsterland. Each of the characters contain various qualities that match their personalities. Although Wolfie may be fast, he is generally weak when compared to the rest of the pack. Frank is just the opposite. He can deliver the greatest amount of strength, yet falls behind in the ability to move quickly. Drac is the more well rounded character of the bunch. With decent speed and attack traits, he's the best choice for most first-time players.

The collecting of atoms increases the abilities a monster starts out with. Between each level, players are given the chance to trade them in for relics and assorted power-up tools at Igor's Store. Though it's odd that Igor is charging you for items that go to help save his boss, he does dispense a bit of information in the process. Most of the advice he divulges is common knowledge, but there are the rare instances where a tidbit or two will serve some use. Amounting enough atoms won't be too difficult considering they can be found in just about every attackable object. The key to acquiring more requires a small amount of strategy, all depending on how things are destroyed. Upon blasting a series of pumpkins instead of just one, more atoms will be released. This tacks on a fragment of strategy to a game that is primarily action oriented.

Puzzle elements found in Monster Force come in the form of attaining keys, flipping switches, and through the use of teleporters. In that effect, the level design is setup more like a labyrinth where a chunck of cheese is waiting at the end of each level. Making it to the goal within record time will enable players to earn extra atoms as a time bonus, and finishing without a scratch will allow them to gain a perfect bonus. All of this will be totaled into the final amount and depending if the quota is reached. Players will then be ranked and a rewarded with either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal. Despite the simple design, these are some impressive stats for a game such as Monster Force to boast. Plus, it can all be kept track with one of the three available save slots. Those interested in achieving perfection are given reason to go back and achieve the medal those so desire.

Digital Eclipse's attempt to instill variety is commendable considering some of the levels run a little thin due to the constant collecting of atoms. The stages in Monster Force are broken down into two standard levels, one skill test, and a boss battle. On its own, each segment is short and repetitive, yet the combination of the three defers the overall tiring feeling in the best possible way. Jumping in and taking control of Monster Force is also a learning process. The controls weren't ironed out to complete satisfaction and the camera focus is much too close to the character, making it difficult to see what lies ahead. Nevertheless, the game is filled with a massive amount of tips that will help even the densest gamer find their way to victory.

Although certain aspects of the gameplay tend to veer far from what was originally intended, the presentation nails the Monster Force theme perfectly. The game starts out with a cutscene that resembles the flicker of an old time movie screen of remote qualities. On top of that, the images are accompanied by the classical background music of a piano and select instrumentals. The excellent range of tunes is carried out through the rest of the game and while Monster Mash isn't a part of the score, most of the music heard is pleasing to the ear and is filled with howls and other lurking racket to inspire fear. My complaint concerning the camera being too focused is probably the biggest gripe of the game, yet the in-game visuals are already quite small for any simple solution to be had. Certain animations of the character can be easily missed, but the teenage monster mania theme gets across nonetheless.

The single aspect that Monster Force pushes is it contains Multiplayer Madness. I find this quite ironic considering it only supports up to two players. In any event, the facet gives the game new strength, as you and a friend are able to reign down on each other in one of the death match arenas that can be unlocked through the main game. It would have been fun to go up against three or even four people, however it's tough enough to find one other person who owns Monster Force let alone three since each player needs to have their own copy of the game.

Bottom Line
Monster Force may have its theme down, which may be especially appealing to the youngsters out there, but other forces stemming from its gameplay limit the appeal it is able to serve. Sure, it hits a high note within the audio department and scores big visually, yet smaller problems such as a minute camera perspective or misguiding controls already place its one foot in the Game Boy Advance graveyard. Or so you think. For some this remains true, but strangely enough Monster Force seems to be quite a compelling companion during travel with its lasting appeal to collect all the given items. Plus things can become particularly enjoyable in cases where a friend owns a second copy. For those looking for a Gauntlet rehash combined with the premise of Monster Mash, you can't get any closer than this.

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