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DS  header logo

Monster House

For: DS   Also on: GameBoy, Mobile

Who's haunting who?

Product: Monster House | Developer: Behaviour Interactive | Publisher: THQ | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Adventure, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Monster House DS, thumbnail 1
You wouldn't think hardcore vertical scrolling shoot-em-ups (such as the ancient arcade favourite 1941) and summer blockbuster tie-in games involving cute cartoon kids had anything in common, would you?

Shoot-em-ups are all about tight control of speed and space as your craft dodges around waves of enemies, missiles, laser beams and huge bosses that almost fill the screen. Basically you die a lot, but struggling slowly through provides its own sense of achievement.

On the other hand, movie tie-in games involve a bit of artwork and sound from the film, all wrapped around the most non-descript example of either a platform or exploration game. You usually only see the Game Over screen once you've finished. They're for the kids right?

So how the designers of Monster House managed to get this game through the rigorous approval processes surrounding such Hollywood fare is as impressive as the game itself, because – yes, you've guessed it – Monster House is a vertical scrolling shoot-em-up based on a summer blockbuster.

Of course, there aren't any weird spaceships, Japanese kamikaze pilots, or other standard arcade blaster fare here. Instead your mission – playing as one of the film's main characters: DJ, Chowder or Jenny – is to fight your way through the 54 rooms of ol' Nebbercracker's haunted house.

Seen from a topdown view, each room is full of various nasties, such as waves of flying books, grandfather clocks that explode spraying debris across the screen, and pieces of flying crockery.

Your only protection against such unlikely foes is your trusty watersquirter. Each character has a different type. Chowder's slowly fires three shots at a time, Jenny has two quickfire water pistols, and DJ plays somewhere in the middle. Making the most of the DS' touchscreen, you have to pump the squirter reservoir up and down with your stylus every so often to make sure you have enough pressure. (Thankfully, you never run out of water.)

You also use the touchscreen to control your movement. Moving forwards and back is handled via the up and down arrows on the D-pad, but your actual direction is all down to stylus control. It's a bit tricky at first, but if you've played Metroid Prime: Hunters you'll quickly pick it up. And you'll need to become fluid because as you get further into the house, you'll come across more and more haunted objects.

Just as with games such as 1941 or Xevious, the fun of Monster House is in overcoming seemingly endless waves of enemies. The screen is often full of the blighters; there's also a neat mini-map on the touchscreen that shows the position of enemies outside your field of vision as red dots.

The only way you'll survive is to make quick decisions about which enemies to target first. Each has a different attack pattern; for example, the chairs won't come straight towards you like the flocks of flying books do. You'll need to tackle them accordingly. Occasionally, when things are really rough, an extra health pack or maybe a smart bomb will appear. Other shoot-em-up flourishes include additional firepower pickups, such as water rockets or a hose.

Sometimes not even these extras are enough to get you through. Sometimes you have to do the traditional thing and die and restart, die and restart, until you almost can't stand it anymore. One particular boss level about a third of the way into the game took us over an hour of failure to finally complete. Not only did we face wave after wave of enemies, but we could only attack the central boss at certain times, and it had its own massive pulse attack that moved faster than we could.

It's the sort of the thing that makes Monster House a much harder game than you'd expect, which will put off some of the target audience. Like other shoot-em-ups, there's a lot of repetition too. There are 54 rooms, but only around a dozen enemy types, so you sometimes feel like you're playing the same level over again, even if you're not. There are 100 secret items to unlock though, and the story from the film gives you an idea of progress.

Ultimately, it's the achievement of slowly clearing each room of nasties that provides the enjoyment. Monster House: perhaps the best advert ever for a career in pest control.
Monster House
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 30 August 2006
Monster House is a surprisingly difficult game, but there's plenty of innovation and fun for those prepared to work at it
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