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Monster Party (NES) artwork

Monster Party (NES) review

"Most disturbing of all, the head of an Egyptian pharaoh greeted me with the gleeful exclamation, “OH BOY! MARK SOUP!” Trust me....when you knock on a stranger’s door, that is NOT what you want to hear."

“Ahoy, Mark, you young rascal!” said the strange-looking creature that had interrupted my blissful slumber. “Follow me to a magical land to save the princess from foul Netherworld monsters. It will be a magnificent adventure!”

Mentally out of it from the combination of sleep deprivation and the pint of rum I’d polished off before stumbling to my bed, I could only stare at the beast with bemused wonder. After a brief moment of contemplation (mainly trying to figure out why the critter had called me Mark), I decided I was dreaming and laid back down.

When I opened my eyes, I was no longer in my bed — instead, I was in a peaceful outdoors setting, trapped in the body of a young lad and wielding nothing but a baseball bat. And the monster was with me. “Now, Mark,” it cheerfully blurted, “before Rodney King-ing me with that thing, listen to my words. We must make haste through the eight levels of this world to find the princess! Well.....actually, YOU have to do that.....but, if you can get your hands on magic pills, you can transform into me for a few seconds. And since I’m a lot tougher and more manly than you, you’ll want to do that as often as humanly possible. Ciao!”

I was alone now and apparently had to follow the creature’s bidding to get back to my bed. Resigned to my fate, I trudged down a well-lit path through the peaceful setting. And then it happened. The sky turned red and the trees seemed to scream in pain. Then, I knew where I was and I truly became terrified. I hadn’t just been kidnapped by a monster to do a magical quest — I had been teleported to the world of Monster Party. My nightmare was just beginning.

Monster Party is a pretty dreadful game. Released for the NES by Bandai in 1989, this platformer boasts such appealing attributes as bland graphics, awkward play control and a collection of short, repetitive levels. You control Mark, a young boy with a baseball bat, as he goes through eight levels, most with multiple bosses hidden inside rooms. Beating all the bosses (or maybe just the correct one) gives Mark a key to unlock the door to the next level. By collecting power-ups, he can turn into Bert, a monster who can fly and attacks foes from a distance. Let’s see, (running out of things to talk about....) Mark/Bert has a life meter. When the game starts, only a tiny portion of it is full, but by collecting hearts, it’s possible to become durable enough to take a seemingly-unlimited number of hits. And that’s about it — this is a very simple and linear game.

Realizing I was somewhere I didn’t want to be, I immediately ducked through a nearby door. Seeing a gigantic spider loom in front of me, my heart leapt into my chest....but then I realized the beast wasn’t moving. A mysterious voice boomed “SORRY, I’M DEAD” and the enormous carcass disappeared. I vowed to check into rehab if I ever got out of this hellish world.

But my adventures were only just beginning. Deep within a sewer, I battled a wishing well that spewed coins at me. Instead of lining my pockets with them, I deflected the cash back into it with my bat until I’d literally “nickel-and-dimed” that boss to death. A caterpillar informed me its name was Royce before diving into my legs. A pair of zombies refused to get out of my way until I’d watched them dance for 30 seconds or so. Most disturbing of all, the head of an Egyptian pharaoh greeted me with the gleeful exclamation, “OH BOY! MARK SOUP!” Trust me....when you knock on a stranger’s door, that is NOT what you want to hear.

In Monster Party, the bosses are the only redeeming factor. Not because they are particularly fun opponents (most either shoot projectiles for you to deflect into them with your bat or simply charge across the screen), but because of the sheer entertainment factor they provide. You’ll fight a goofy mish-mash of foes that were strewn throughout the levels with no rhyme or reason, which often left me wondering what challenge would be next. Two bosses (a ghostly mummy and the soup-loving pharaoh head) are Egyptian in nature. Logically, you’d expect them to appear in the Egyptian-themed fourth level. Instead, that stage hosts a samurai, cat and punk rocker. The seventh level gives you the somewhat cutesy Royce the Caterpillar and follows with the imposing Grim Reaper. Heck, one early-game boss is nothing more than a collection of three food items! Who can make heads or tails out of being attacked by a bouncing onion ring?

As I trudged through a world in the clouds, occasionally giving would-be assailants a half-hearted thump with my bat, I knew my quest had to be nearing its end — and not a moment too soon. While it hasn’t been a particularly long adventure, it's not been particularly enthralling. Maybe the bizarre and colorful bosses had proven capable of causing me to temporarily care about what I was doing, but I can only walk from one room to the next for so long before becoming weary. Tedium has definitely set in.

The sad thing was that I’d initially had hopes that wouldn’t be the case. That early moment where the peaceful outdoors setting transforms into a red-tinged scene from a nightmare led me to believe I had inadvertently opened a portal to Hell. But after leaving that region, I was confronted by nothing even remotely interesting — just a dull mesh of sewers, caves and other generic locales. This Monster Party was one I wished I hadn’t been invited to.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 21, 2006)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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