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Monsters, Inc. Scream Team (PlayStation) artwork

Monsters, Inc. Scream Team (PlayStation) review

"(As average and uninspired as it is, Monsters Inc is strangely compelling and, on occasions, fun. "

Monsters Inc is a nice game. It's very 'nice' but nothing more. It blends glitchy graphics with tried, tested and tired platforming traditions. But, to it's credit, it does it fairly well.

The story is fairly novel, and entirely separate to that of the movie. Sulley and Mike (The big furry one and the green blob) have been accepted into the Monsters Inc training academy, which they must complete successfully to gain a job at the company. It is your job to wander around the twelve levels on offer and scare the 96 robot children (or nerves, as the game insists on calling them) in the training grounds. When I say training grounds I mean the entire game. At no point in the game do you actually progress beyond training, which is a shame.

The gameplay is VERY simple. The main aim of the game is to scare the nerves, eight of them in each level. Scare 5 in a level to earn a bronze medal and all 8 to obtain a gold one (There are silver medals too, gained by collecting ten hidden monster tokens in each level). To do this you need to charge up your scare meter, which consists of blocks of colour which correspond to the different nerves. At the very bottom of the meter is the colour blue, you only need to charge your meter up a little to fill this block and when you have you gain the ability to scare blue nerves. To charge up the meter you must collect tubs of primordial ooze that are dotted around the level.

And this is where the game's main gimmick comes into play, the scaring. Go near a nerve and press circle, and you'll be brought onto the scare screen. Here a button symbol flashes at the side of the screen, and you must press that button repeatedly until, the symbol changes to another button when you have to start hammering away at THAT button. When the scare meter is all full up from button hammering, you will be asked to press the X button to perform a finishing scare. Throughout all this button mashing, your monster of choice (Either the furball or the blob) will perform some peculiar scares (Such as hitting themselves on the head and shouting 'Ow! Ow! Ow!'). the number of button presses it takes to finish off each nerve depends on it's strength. Blue nerves only require one set of button mashing to do, while red ones require five.

And so with this scaring dynamic playing a bit like Bust-A-move or Parappa the Rapper, but with significantly less skill required (Well, no skill is required). And it's also significantly less appealing to perform, it is left to the platforming to impress. And, quite frankly, it doesn't. Collecting objects, running about, killing enemies, it's all so mundane and I've done it before a million times.

But there's just something about it, a certain charm. Maybe it's the ridiculous animations and voice samples in the scaring sections, they do begin to grate on the nerves after a while, but they never fully lose their appeal. But I think it's more likely the 'nice' factor. Monsters Inc sets it's sights low, it's average for all the right reasons. It doesn't have any aspirations to rival Mario 64, or even Rayman, it just wants to be a simple, vaguely enjoyable little platformer. And on that level, it succeeds.

There are certain pieces of level design (The pyramid in particular) that hint that some effort was put into this game. It does basically nothing wrong, and the platforming is kept short and simple. Jump on that crumbling platform, skid across that ice double jump to those ledges. If there's one thing I like about Monsters Inc, it would have to be it's straightforward nature. It has no long periods of running or getting lost, no needlessly unfair moments of precision jumping (Although fair precision jumping is here in spades) and nothing to tax the mind. There's no delusions of grandeur here, just pleasantly (But sometimes nauseatingly) familiar fun.

But you can't help but think this game could have been more than acceptable, it could have been GOOD. Obviously, it was rushed out to coincide with the release of the film, and it shows. Badly. There are lots of little things that should have been caught in testing. For instance, if there is an enemy walking around and you go into a scare screen (Which renders you immobile) the enemy can STILL walk into you and KILL you, which is ridiculous.

The graphics are so rough that you can barely notice the decent level design and often inspired character animation that is here. Pop-up is absolutely horrendous, I've never seen worse. It almost looks as if developers A2M are desperately trying to code the level as you are playing in it. Huge details such as tunnels, caverns and even walls fail to make an appearance until you come face to face with them. And there's terrible texture glitching too, I can't think of one part of the game where I wasn't being constantly distracted by the wall textures shifting and flicking around like they were actually SUPPOSED to be moving. The game is also short on detail, there is none. You get a tree or two, but usually only if it is crucial to the gameplay. And while slowdown was mild throughout most of the game there were a couple of spots in one or two levels where, if you stood in them, the game would slow down to appalling speeds. I don't mean your usual slowdown, I mean about one movement every one and a half seconds. It's like watching the game being played through one of those webcams where the image is only updated every second or two. And another sign that this game is terribly rushed.

The sound is so unoffensive and forgettable that it's barely worth mentioning. The music is the same slightly jazzy ever so generic dross that fades out of your mind as soon as it's stopped playing (And often, during). The sound effects are passable, and the voices are the usual imitations of the stars that the publishers couldn't be bothered to pay enough to hire. Sound off, sound on, makes no difference.

The general playability and lack of unfair tricks comes at a cost though, it's very short. I completed this game seven days after I bought it, and during that time only played for three and a half hours or so. I got every medal in the game, I got everything. So if you play this, I'd advise you do so by renting it.

As average and uninspired as it is, Monsters Inc is strangely compelling and, on occasions, fun. It's structure is slightly dreary and it could use a lot more variety but I can't remember ever being bored or frustrated while playing it. It's average for the right reasons then, but still undeniably average.

You pronounce it Incorporated, I pronounce it Ink
+ If you like platformers you'll like this
+ Scaring concept is novel, and fun at first
+ Never unfair
+ Occasionally clever
+ Doesn't complicate things
+ Receiving clips of the movie at every step is good incentive to play on
+ Good controls and pleasing range of moves

Let's call the whole thing off
- Disappointingly average
- Not enough variety
- Visibly knocked together in a few months
- VERY glitchy graphics
- Irritatingly unoffensive sound
- Occasionally repetitive
- Too short

If you like this....
Toy Story 2 - Playstation/DC/N64/PC: Excellent platformer based on the Pixar movie, this doesn't offer many new ideas, but it's spectacular level design makes up for that.
Bugs bunny and Taz Time busters - Playstation: Considerably more enjoyable (and inventive) license-based platforming from A2M.
Monsters Inc. - playstation2/GBA/GBC/PC: Alternatively, try one of the other versions available.

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Community review by maxh (Date unavailable)

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