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Monster in My Pocket (NES) artwork

Monster in My Pocket (NES) review


"Castlevania-lite."



Monster in My Pocket screenshot Monster in My Pocket screenshot

A new console generation is a big shift for the video game industry. Major companies like Sega and Nintendo release their new, more powerful consoles with bigger and better games. Not everyone can immediately jump to the next platform, though, so games for the previous hardware still have an audience for at least a short time. Unfortunately for some late-generation games, not enough people hang on to their older systems once new ones arrive, and those last few releases can become lost in the shuffle. It took years for many gamers to notice gems like the GBAís Drill Dozer or Kirbyís Adventure on NES, for instance. Another victim of a hardware transition was Konamiís Monster in my Pocket, also released for the NES.

Based on the early 90s line of toys from Matchbox, Monster in my Pocket features a miniature Frankensteinís monster and Dracula that are venturing through the human world, fighting legions of tiny enemies along the way. The heroes have been shrunk by an evil vampire who was imprisoned at the Transylvanian monster prison where they worked. In an attempt to shrink himself and escape, the vampire accidentally shrunk the entire prison and everyone in it, somehow unleashing the pocket-sized monsters in Los Angeles. Now itís up to the good monsters to travel the city and recapture the escaped prisoners. They seek to enlist the aid of world-famous horror author Edgar Raven, but he isnít home at the time. Instead, they find his 10-year-old daughter. She scoops up the monsters, thinking theyíre toys. None of this is explained within the game itself, but it was detailed at the start of the animated special that aired the next year.

Monster in My Pocket screenshot Monster in My Pocket screenshot

By the end of a console generation, developers have learned their way around a console (just in time to face a fresh education as they learn how to make games for the next round of hardware). The best late-generation games might easily have worked on the new system with just a little tweaking, and a few of those lucky titles will have some new features slapped on them and be pushed to the new generation, like Twilight Princess when it made the move from Gamecube to Wii. I wish Monster in my Pocket had been one of those games, because the visuals are gorgeous. The character sprites are huge and the giant environments are quite impressive. Animations are smooth, with more frames than youíll see displayed in most NES platformers. That effort certainly does the aesthetic of the cartoon and toys justice. If only the controls felt similarly next-gen.

The gameplay mixes Castlevania-lite controls with some beat-em-up flair, and there are weapons scattered about that you can pick up and toss at a diverse selection of enemies. It would have been nice if the two characters possessed their own unique traits, but both of them control precisely the same and attack identically. Youíll likely just pick the one you think looks coolest. Attacks have limited range, affecting only the area directly in front of the character. Enemies that come from above or below can prove frustrating as a result, but theyíre like tissue paper once they come within range of your strike.

Though waves of enemies swarm you throughout the various levels, they donít provide much of a challenge. Monsters die in one hit, which keeps things moving quickly as you progress through the world. As for bosses, they mostly just jump around until you hit them often enough. A few baddies move in an erratic pattern, such as the flying enemies, but otherwise they tend to come at you in a predictable manner. Theyíll shamble forward before being blown away in one hit. A single attack can tear through an entire mob of enemies if those foes are positioned in close proximity.

Monster in My Pocket screenshot Monster in My Pocket screenshot

There is usually little-to-no slow down even when a bunch of enemies and two players populate the screen, but when it hits, it hits hard. At certain points, the flickering and lag can bring the momentum to a screeching halt. I didnít experience that effect much until late in the game, when more complex sprites were being rendered. Sometimes, those pretty graphics were just too much for the NES to handle.

Health items litter the levels, but there are no upgrades or additional weapons to be seen. As a result, the gameplay you see at the beginning of the game hasnít evolved much by the time you reach its conclusion. The double jump permits some vertical exploration, which reveals many of the environments to be quite expansive. Itís also amazing how familiar settings like a kitchen or sewer can still feel unique when benefiting from a slightly new perspective. Just make 'em big and add some finer detail and it all feels fresh. Normal-sized items like keys and wedges of cheese suddenly become huge landmarks. Such changes were impressive when Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced the giant world, but in that case the trick was managed with larger renderings of the same enemies. Environments and items in Monster in my Pocket are painstakingly detailed so that they look much better than the flat colors featured in most NES games.

Monster in my Pocket would be considered a classic if the gameplay were a bit deeper. Itís good, light fun, but it doesnít offer anything beyond that. Check it out for some co-op with a buddy for an afternoon, but donít expect to get anything more out of it. I do find myself going back to this game every once in a while, but the lack of gameplay depth prevents the title from ultimately serving as more than a curio.

Rating: 6/10

JayButton's avatar
Freelance review by Matthew Jay (October 05, 2012)

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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 09, 2012:

This is what I'm talking about! Horror reviews! Keep 'em coming, folks!

Great job, JayButton. I totally agree with you on this game. It's not half bad, but it's really nothing special.

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