keskiviikko 24. lokakuuta 2012

REVIEW - AAAHH!!! Real Monsters | SNES | 1995

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: August 1995
DEVELOPER(S): Realtime Associates
PUBLISHER(S): Viacom New Media

AAAHH!!! Real Monsters was a Nickelodeon cartoon that ran for three years, between the fourth quarters of 1994 and 1997. Two identical video games based on the successful cartoon were made in 1995 for the dominant 16-bit consoles of the era, by Realtime Associates, who were somewhat "specialized" in licensed games based on American cartoons, including one game in the video game series spun off Nickelodeon's greatest 90's success, The Ren & Stimpy Show. That game was just as unmemorable as the rest of Ren & Stimpy's run in the video game scene, and all that AAAHH!!! Real Monsters has on its side is a bewildering name to stand out from any database.

AAAHH!!! Real headache

Headmaster Gromble sends Ickis, Oblina and Krumm out on a field trip as their Monster Midterm Exam, the final test standing between the trio and graduation from monster school.

To this day, I've never been a Nickelodeon buff. I don't get Ren & Stimpy, SpongeBob SquarePants even less, and back when a very small minority in my school was watching Rugrats, I was watching Beavis & Butt-head. I don't think AAAHH!!! Real Monsters ever even ran in this part of the woods, and even if it did, I didn't notice, probably wouldn't even have cared. The game, I've known by name for ages. Like I said, it stands out from every database with that opening exclamation. Up 'til a few years ago, I didn't know what it was about. It was obviously not a scary game or anything like that, but I had no idea it was actually based on an American cartoon. I did a lot of research on the subject before playing the game - after all, I don't want to play a licensed game if I have no idea what it should look, sound or feel like. I watched a couple of episodes from the opening season, and the show already repeated itself in the latter episode, so I figured I knew enough. So, I played the game, and came to the conclusion that it's a faithful adaptation of the cartoon: it looks the same, it sounds the same, and it feels the same. In this case, at least feeling the same is not a good thing - as I said, the show repeated itself. So does the game - and it repeats a lot of other games besides itself, too. Good ones, but not well.

This level design makes me wanna Hulk it up!
It's obvious they invested at least some amount of money in this one. Like a typical 16-bit game living off a cartoon, AAAHH!!! Real Monsters looks and sounds good, if not great, but when it comes to the gameplay, every remotely good feature in it has already been used to the last drop or done much better in some other, usually altogether good game. Just a small list of games that pops to mind during the first five minutes of gameplay includes great games such as Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! and Lost Vikings, and some fairly playable licensed games such as Tom & Jerry and Asterix on the NES. If you grew up with any of these games or their peers, keep in mind that even if the game reminds me of these titles, does not mean the "borrowed" features are identical in presentation, moreover quality. In a nutshell, AAAHH!!! Real Monsters is playable. But it is dull, tedious and one fling of a game, something to rip off the parents of America and nothing more.

By far the most interesting comparison I made is that to the cult classic Lost Vikings. Whenever one says Lost Vikings, you immediately think of clever puzzles that need multiple characters with special abilities to solve. Well, this game has no real puzzles, which is not what the manual says. You switch between three characters all the time, but rather to make simple progress - for example, you can't reach certain ledges off-ground without Oblina's high jump. Ickis can jump the same horizontally, while I have no idea what's the point of having the heavy and stiff Krumm in the group. Each member of the group has a special trio ability, which is damn hard to perform. It's done by "simply" pressing the X button, but whether it connects or not is completely random. Well, Oblina's trio ability is the only one that has some real use, anyway, and none of them are related to attacking, but it's still frustrating to hear an error cue in the stead of connection when you know you're in the exact right spot.

The main method of offense for all three characters is throwing trash around. If you run out of trash to throw, you'll still be swinging practically infinite fishbones at enemies - which are of the exact same strength and range as any other pieces of trash, so I don't get the point of collecting trash! Each character has a unique scare (grrrgh, Beetlejuice) which can be used by collecting monster manuals hidden around levels, to effectively scare off every enemy on screen or do heavy damage on bosses. That's... actually pretty cool. But, the worst part is coming up.

Evil high school geek 1/1000.
A game like AAAHH!!! Real Monsters (not this particular game since I never played it) is a prime example to why I gave up on platformers for a while back in the day, and why the genre was generally taken a little less seriously for many years, aside from the most serious must-have-must-plays. It's so bland and lame. There's absolutely nothing new or exciting to it, which was the case in a sad amount of 2D platformers of the time, that weren't made by first parties. If developers had their minds set on anything else besides money, we would've been spared by a whole lot of sometimes straight-up crappy, at the very least boring platformers, made just for the sake of the dough. The level design in this particular game is just epic - spectacularly shoddy. While the first level's length is OK, and it includes some extremely typical, but tolerable ideas, the second level reveals the truth. It lasts just about forever, and it's pretty much identical to the first one. This is how the game goes on 'til the end. The backgrounds might change every once in a while - but at long intervals, and most importantly, the gameplay's the same damn tedious, non-capitalizing dung throughout. You kill (or scare...) countless enemies of different look but the exact same endurance, and try to cope with the flunky controls in narrow hallways filled with spikes as well as the trio's constant refusal to co-operate. You wander around looking for an exit in an endless maze that makes you feel you're running in circles, 'cause nothing exciting ever happens or looks different to prove otherwise.

The show apparently still has fans, and from the info I've collected, it seems that the whole thing is up for its final DVD release, but the game's been all but forgotten. I don't wonder why, at least not anymore. It's probably almost fun if you're a fan of the show, but as a complete stranger to what's so great about these "Real Monsters", I find "almost" exaggeration.

+ Good graphics and decent music, the animation's faithful to the cartoon and the voice samples are of surprisingly high quality
+ The scare feature worked in this one

- Personally, I do not feel any slight attraction to the license
- The boring levels continue 'til infinity
- Good, borrowed ideas with no purpose
- General controls are not all that bad, but certain functions such as the trio moves respond poorly
- Everything besides actual progress, like collecting power-ups, is completely pointless

< 5.5 >

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