keskiviikko 24. lokakuuta 2012

REVIEW - Monster Party | NES | 1989

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: June 1989

Monster Party for the Nintendo Entertainment System - sounds like the perfect game for a Monster Mash. What we have here is an obscure title from the late 80's, which was originally planned as a really gory and dark game, and as a test subject to the laws of video game censorship upheld at the time. The game was released in 1989 as a totally different interpretation of the original draft - a bizarre horror parody, that is still considered a cult game due to its consciously ridiculous presentation and prototype images of the original version, that emerged years after the game's release. I've got more requests for this game than I used to have for The Legend of Zelda (honestly!), so I think the time is ripe to attend the Monster Party.

One fucked up game

A young baseball player named Mark meets a gargoyle-like creature called Bert, who convinces the initially reluctant boy to join his fight against monsters that have taken over his planet. With his ever so powerful baseball bat, Mark sets out on a monster-mashing trip across Bert's home planet, fusing with the creature to improve their chances against the menace.

I was fully aware of the game's reputation in the big book of video game camp humour, but I was not prepared to be speechless. Did they really try to sell this game as anything more or less than a parody, I wonder? After all, the box art doesn't exactly scream out "satire". The moment you slap the game in, you'll know what it's gonna be all about. You can try to take it seriously, you can try not to find hidden meanings to the dialogue and imagery, you can try not to laugh at the completely non-sensical quotes... but there's no way you can survive this LSD-induced round trip without smiling just a little. That's good, ain't it? Seeing what random hilarity lies around the next corner is what makes Monster Party somewhat addictive, even all the while the generic and dull gameplay is slowly driving you insane. It's no Earthworm Jim and it's not nearly as straight-up surreal, but Monster Party does have its moments.

Easier than Bob the Killer Goldfish in
Earthworm Jim
Not much to look at, this one, but let's reflect a moment. It was 1989, it was made by a third-party developer with a small budget and a lot of uglier 8-bit games emerged after the turn of the decade, so I guess I should play fair and call the game sufficient-looking for its time. There's some good, nearly great music here, to be even more fair - and honest - but also some really generic material that would find a better home elsewhere. Even while this is a humorous game, I was expecting something a bit more haunting feeling to it, which is present in the better tunes.

Monster Party is a platformer with simple level design - and when I say simple, I mean level design that a fourth-grader can do given the tools of the most simple level editor. That simple. Your goal is to advance through eight levels, and beat one to three bosses per each, some of them in really awkward, random ways, but most of them in generic "who gets there first" bash 'em fashion. The walks between the boss rooms are filled with enemies you may want to kill to gain some power-ups to get the early upper hand in each boss fight. As a unique feature Sofel later upgraded with their surprisingly good Dragon Fighter, by collecting these capsules (that look like painkillers) you can transform into your butt buddy Bert, who can not only fly across stages, he can also use his flying ability as well as his projectiles to make a much more formidable stand against bosses than Mark, who's equipped with a pathetic baseball bat with an equally pathetic range. What's great about the baseball bat, though, is that Mark can use it to reflect enemy projectiles. You need both characters to beat the game... and much more than that, though. Patience above all.

Welcome to demonic airlines, where everything's
a breeze.
Though it's simple and surprisingly easy to clash through at first, Monster Party can and will leave you hanging in unwinnable situations that will leave you no choice but to reset the game if you're not keeping constant tabs on the passwords. There's one well known glitch that prevents you from beating the game in one of the final rounds, and there's tons of missable shit before that, which you can't reach without Bert's help - and since the power-ups are random, he can be extremely tough if not impossible to morph into at the right moment. Some specific bosses are also as extremely tough if not impossible to beat without Bert's skills. You have unlimited continues, but no checkpoints, so if you die in the last boss of the round, you're gonna have to do the whole thing again and wish for better luck with Bert, as well as health power-ups. Since the game is so boring to play, running through the same levels over and over and praying for better luck gets old quickly.

Aaaaargh! A smiling sea monster with a single
tooth, swimming on one straight track! Aaaargh!
If you can get through the most boring and tedious parts of the game - which the developers would call "the trickiest parts" - as well as over the game-ruining glitch in the seventh round, you're practically done with the game. Monster Party really isn't difficult, or at least it's not from the most difficult end of 8-bit obscurity, it just takes a great deal of luck to pass with flying colours.

Monster Party would've taken a greater deal of work than Bandai was willing to sacrifice for it to pass with flying colours as a game, but seriously, it's not that bad. It's simple semi-fun with, and I quote, "outlandish" lines that are retro legend. It's also one of the chosen few Japanese 8-bit games most devoid of bad grammar, so the jokes hit home as ridiculous themselves, and not because of ridiculous developmental errors. It's definitely an interesting item for the most devoted retro gamer to get familiar with.

+ The story is so whacked I can't help but like it in a campy sense
+ Switching between two characters via power-ups is basically a good idea, and somewhat innovative, considering the game was made in '89
+ Some very good music and visual ideas
+ Some simply hilarious bosses, like the "Punk Rocker", the "Deceased Crab" and the "Dancing Dead"

- Dull gameplay and level design
- No checkpoints within levels
- You can get stuck without Bert
- Severe glitches that have the potential of ruining the game

< 6.8 >

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