Monster House
Reviewed by Addie Panveno
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-08-20 GameCube Action/Adventure E10 (Everyone 10+)

Every summer, a bevy of blockbuster family films are released, and Monster House was one of this season's finest. This animated movie is quirky and dark, and undeniably original. It appeals to adults and children alike, and was one of the highest reviewed movies of the summer. And like most big family films, the release of the video game was surely not far behind.

At first glimpse, Monster House does a wonderful job of recreating the look and feel of its movie counterpart. You follow the three heroes, Jenny, DJ and Chowder, after they are trapped inside the haunted house, using kid-friendly weapons like water balloons, squirt guns, and good old fashioned ingenuity.

The graphics in the game are well executed, and the animation gives you the feeling that you are actually playing a part in the movie. Every major scene is played out with detail, making the game fun to watch.

The audio is also truly excellent. The soundtrack is composed of creepy music and ambient noises, and they make excellent use of surround sound systems. Think Silent Hill scaled back quite a bit for kids. The voiceover work for the three protagonists is all done by the original actors, and the supporting characters, though recast, all do very well, making the game fun to listen to.

But alas...

Like most video games that are based on movies, it's when you get into the gameplay that you begin to have problems. The squirt gun controls are easy enough to understand, but the targeting system seems to have certain design problems. That added to this weird fish-bowl view, and it is very easy to lose track of your adversaries. Actually the fish-bowl effect made me a little bit queasy. The enemies, most normally inanimate objects like tables and chairs, are recycled throughout the game, as are the environments, which left me feeling like I was playing the same level over and over. You also need to be very comfortable with your controller skills no matter which console you choose for this game, as there are several moments when you need to have fairly fast fingers.

Last, but not least, and certainly a pet peeve of mine, this game is very, very short. The whole game clocks in at just less than four hours. I understand that there is only so much one can do to stretch out a two-hour movie into a lengthy video game, but I'm spoiled and have problems with shorter games when I know (and have played) excellent games clocking in at 100+ hours. But that's just me, and this is a game mostly aimed at younger gamers.

Monster House is not a total loss, but should be considered more for younger players or big fans of the film. It might be a good alternative to the Resident Evil games for someone in the "tween" set or for parents worried about gore in games. But if you are an adult, and don't have a specific reason for playing it, I'd probably stay away. The game just does not have the same appeal as the movie. I hope the sequel (because you know there will be one) learns from past mistakes, so next time the Monster House gameplay is not so scary.

Special thanks to Kathryn Cicolello and THQ for providing a copy of this title.