Monster House Review

By Frank Ling, GN Senior Writer

The film Monster House—released late July—garnered mixed reviews. The critics’ opinions on the film ranged from strong praise to dismal disappointment. The tie-in game to the movie, published by THQ, is now under the same close scrutiny the film received, and it’s time for GamerNode to grade it. Will Monster House the video game prove to be built on a solid foundation, or will we find substandard building materials in the game? Read on for our final assessment of Monster House, and whether you should buy it or just rent.

The game follows the adventures of three children: DJ, Jenny, and Chowder. Just like in the movie, a scary and grouchy man named Nebbercracker owns a mysterious house in their neighborhood. What transpires during their journey inside the creepy caverns of the "monster house" is the focus of the game’s plot. The concept is fairly straightforward: the house is alive, and the three friends struggle to conquer and eliminate the threat of the house before the house eliminates them. Think of the game as a very mellow version of Resident Evil for kids. Not a great analogy, but pretty close to the truth. Instead of the undead and ghouls coming out from every nook and cranny, you are faced with attacking television sets, chairs, and air conditioning pipes. Everything in the house is alive and determined to make sure that you don’t escape alive. Surprised that this game is rated “E” for everyone?  We’ll get to that a little later.

Gameplay is pretty straight forward, as each child’s mission is to defeat the house’s attacks and escape to tell the tale. (Easier said than done.) Each character has two attacks at his or her disposal. The primary weapon of choice is not a grenade launcher, M16, or Uzi—this game is supposed to be suitable for young kids, remember? The main line of offense and defense is—drum roll, please—a Super Soaker water gun, with added flashlight attachment (obviously). Each child’s water gun has its own specific power-up feature. For DJ, his gun can shoot a constant water stream. Jenny has a rapid-fire pulse feature, and Chowder can shoot at a faster pace than the others. There are also special secondary weapons for each child to aid in the defeat of dastardly appliances, furniture, and such. For DJ, you’ll be able to use a flash camera which is capable of blinding enemies. Chowder can unleash devastating water balloons from his water gun, and Jenny has a very dangerous sling shot which shoots marbles. With all these features at their disposal, the kids try to vanquish the various enemies in Monster House.

Monster House is divided into nine separate sections of the house, such as the kitchen and basement. These sections are also the number of levels available for exploration and serious water gun squirting. Each of the levels is comprised of two or more missions which can take anywhere from ten to thirty minutes to complete. It will take you several tries to make it through some of the more challenging missions, so total estimated gameplay should be anywhere from 15 to 20 hours, if you count all the restarts. One of the downsides to playing through the levels is the lack of crucial checkpoints during gameplay. If you are in the midst of a big boss battle and lose, you are pushed back to the very beginning of the mission to battle your way back to the location of your defeat. Not a really big setback, as you will most likely be able to breeze through the course once you have gone through it, but it’s a minor irritation just the same. Since the game is relatively short, the producers probably thought it wise not to offer the checkpoints in order to give the illusion of Monster House being a longer game. Nice logic, but not a particularly wise decision. For example, the checkpoint feature could have been included as a selectable option. But as they say, hindsight is always 20/20. There are, however, “hard” save points when you finish a level or reach the bathrooms found in the house. If you reach one of these locations, the game saves your position with the autosave feature. You can flush the toilets for fun, too.

Each level presents its own unique trials and tribulations, and you must figure out a way to circumvent the various monsters which try to oust you from the house. Some strategy is called for as it isn’t always about shooting everything in sight; pacing yourself so you don’t lose all of your health before you finish the level is important, too. Since the bad guys come at you fast and furious, you’ll need to keep on the lookout for health packs which come in the form of sodas and ice cream bars. Certainly, the activists for healthy eating will cringe at this concept, but it’s just a game, right? Along with the health power-ups, there are also secondary weapon supplies such as water balloons, marbles for Jenny’s sling shot, and flash cameras for DJ to temporarily blind the enemy.

For a “shooter” the game pretty simplistic, but it does add a pretty entertaining spin on the genre by using water guns, water balloons, and slingshots rather than traditional firearms. The storyline switches from character to character as the story develops, and you’ll be able to assume the personality of each child. I personally liked Jenny the best because of her awesome secondary weapon, the slingshot. You’ll also always have to be on the alert as the house is constantly looking for a way to take you down. Gigantic air ducts are on the prowl to swallow you at a moments notice, model airplanes and barrels fly through the air in Kamikaze-style to destroy you, walking furnaces try to blow you to pieces and set you on fire, and walking lampposts try to electrocute you if you get too close to them. This also adds a nice touch to the game, as it’s not the standard group of enemies you’ll face in other games.

As with many video games, Monster House is not entirely free from bugs or glitches. One particular game error occurred on the sixth level. As my character was moving through the aisles of the toy maze, the roots of a tree gobbled him up. This trap is occasionally set throughout the game, and if you are quick enough to press the proper button to escape, you can continue the game. However, on this particular level I failed to do so in time. The game went to the reload screen to start the level over, and remained frozen there. I had to reset the entire game to get out of the freeze. It wasn’t a random bug, as I was able to repeat the occurrence three consecutive times. Not a big deal since I already failed the level, but it was annoying that this bug was able to slip through the cracks.

Obviously, the rating of “E” for everyone may be a little too generous for this game, as it will definitely cause nightmares for the very young or the easily frightened. In addition to the main gameplay, there is an old school game you can unlock named Thou Art Dead. In this game, you get to use an axe to dispatch monsters and other creatures to the netherworld by hacking away at them. No blood, but pretty graphic stuff for little kids. The game is playable with tokens that can be collected throughout the main portion of the Monster House game. In addition, special monkey toys hidden in the house can be collected in order to open up special game art in the main menu.

Monster House
has a great feeling to it, and brings back the subliminal fears of strange houses and spooky places from childhood memories. This is due to, in no small part, the excellent graphics of the game. Each level of the house is rendered with great detail, from the toy room maze to the basement of the house to the bedrooms and hallways. If you rush through the game, you’ll miss a great deal of the nice artwork incorporated into the title. When the household objects aren’t attacking, you can wander around the rooms and appreciate the detail and realistic lighting effects.

During the more crucial moments of the game, Monster House transitions to some excellent cut-scenes which take you further into the storyline. The animation is seamless as well, and provides a good backdrop for the overall experience of the title. The water gun shooting action is good, and there was no observable slowdown in frame rate during the more intense action sequences. The camera positioning was a problem at times, though, as parts of the graphics would shutter and shake when getting too close to walls or other objects during gameplay. Another worrisome thing which may affect a small percentage of gamers is the camera movement. The game utilizes a third person perspective, with the camera always following from behind. The problem arises when the player takes swift movements and the camera jumps to a new camera angle. In the beginning level, I was actually getting a little motion sickness because of this, but was able to fend it off as I got used to the motion. Others may not have the good fortune of adapting to this.

The sound engineers have done a splendid job as the background noises of the house creaking and cracking add a very eerie ambiance to everything. The sound effects are well done, and the musical orchestration is spot on and helps to enhance the scary environment of the house. The voice acting is true to the movie, because the actual voice actors of the film are used in the game. Hearing Chowder whine, “Mommy,” or “Please let this be a nightmare!” is funny and offers a comedic element children will enjoy.

So were the blueprints for building the Monster House video game successful? Generally speaking, yes. The game offers furious water gun shooting action with great graphics and sound, but has problems with various camera angles and in-game bugs. It is a given that this game will not appeal to the serious or hardcore gamer, as the title will offer none of the blood and guts action typical of a shooter, and may be a bit too repetitive in nature. The game is rated “E” for everyone, and as intended, will be more suitable for the younger crowd, although this point may be arguable with some. What Monster House does offer is a good game for anyone who wants an adventure-action title with chills, thrills, and humor. Monster House isn’t for everybody, but it does a pretty good job of appealing to its intended demographic—the casual gamer. For all others, a weekend rental may be more in order.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.