AAAHH!!! Real Monsters

AAAHH!!! Real Monsters

Get ready to be slimed with Face and Stick Stickly, this is classic Nickelodeon!

ARM0If you were a kid during the Nick heyday in the 90’s, you can’t see this title and not immediately get swept back on a wave of nostalgia. For those who weren’t around, or weren’t the right age during the time, this era was filled with some of the greatest cartoons of all time. This was the time of Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold, Angry Beavers, Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy, and Kablam! This was the time of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and Legends of the Hidden Temple. This is when legacies were made. For those unfortunate enough to not know the background, the show is about three monsters (Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm) as they go to school to learn how to scare humans. They are taught by the Gromble who is a blue green slug looking man with hair tufts that wears red pumps…it’s odd how unsurprising that seemed as a kid. He is usually flanked by The Snorch and Zimbo, who to my excitement actually make appearances throughout the game. Although the Gromble is strict in the show, he isn’t really an adversary, and in good Nickelodeon fashion we are provided with a goofy antagonist. Just like the more recent Mr.Crocker from the Fairy Oddparents, there was Simon the Monster Hunter trying to prove the existence of monsters! Spoiler to who is the final boss!

You play as all three characters and each has their own unique ability. This is like the Nickelodeon adaptation of The Lost Vikings except when you swap between the characters, the other characters follow with you. This allows you to use special abilities like using one character to prop up, or throw another. Here we come to a major pro and major con of this game. Movement in this game is great, but handling is infuriating. This may seem contradictory, but by movement I mean how the game wants you to traverse. ARM2There are side scrolling sections, there is climbing, platforms, floating on fans and even fast paced slides. You don’t always start on the left and end on the right, you’re moving in all directions, and it’s great. However, actually performing these actions is not always a simple task. The jumps don’t stick as well as I’d like, but definitely not as bad as I’ve seen. I’d give it a pass, but some of the level design makes for tight jumps off platforms, with little head room . The floating on fans I previously mentioned are finicky and you start having to develop a pattern to get the “sweet spot” to make it register. Having to redo a section because of a missed jump or a non-registered fan usually means battling through some creatures again and that’s hard to swallow when you really didn’t do anything wrong. Towards the end of the game there are geese shooting bubbles out of the wall, and as they do they make an obnoxious honking noise. When you go on to fail a further section and end up back at these geese, it’s like pouring salt in a wound. Finally, for how much they ensured you’d be moving all over the map, there are only a few sections where you absolutely need to use a characters ability to traverse a section. I guess nobody wants to constantly be swapping characters, but it seemed to be used more to reach neat bonuses (1UPs, Fish Bones, etc.) rather than an integrated part of the game. I ended up never using Krumm’s scanning ability except to see what it actually did. I just stayed as Ickis unless I needed Oblina’s boost.
ARM3Each level is introduced by the Gromble where he shows the object to be acquired to complete the level. This transition slide has shoddy graphics akin to 3 Ninjas Kick Back and really only exists to give the player a way to rest between one area and another. It’s even more jarring because the actual in game aesthetics are pretty nice. The colors pop and lines are crisp. The contrast between background and enemies is usually defined enough so there are no surprises. This is nice given how much movement you’ll be doing. You don’t want to be making guesses as to where your one character is about to fling the other. At a later stage you’re in a library and you have to climb a filing cabinet when the drawers open. Even though the entire thing is an odd yellow-gold, you can tell where the landing areas are, saving potential hours of frustrating plummets to the bottom that would occur had detection been worse. You’ll explore schools, sewers, libraries and even Simon’s place. You won’t have time to get bored with a certain surrounding.

I found that damage I took was from a nice balance between environment and the creatures. There are spikes on walls, laser traps, etc. to avoid while platforming, but also children stampeding and those awful honking gooses. ARM5There are a few areas with instant deaths, which the game could really have done without, as it felt more like a cheap ploy to encourage 1-UP hunting. The 1-UPs will regenerate after every death, so particularly hard sections can be potentially trivialized if you’re lucky and observant. In fact, there is at least one respawn section I found where there are two 1-UPs. This means I could get both and then die gaining one life and repeating it since they regenerated. This took a lot of worry out of the game since the chance of losing all my lives and having to start at the beginning was almost nil. The lack of saving would be a huge pain, but I suppose their assumption was that there were enough ways to maintain your life supply that only your lack of exploration would keep you at risk.

The boss mechanics are relatively simple, for one fight you manipulate levers to have boxes hit the enemy. This was the peak of creativity, where even Simon’s fight amounts to hit a button, scream and repeat. That’s not to say it’s not fun. Simon’s animations make it enjoyable and in the end he gets trapped in a crate and shipped off. It’s satisfying to play, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and at the end you are presented with your diploma. This is a little odd, and admittedly I may have missed some story line, but in the beginning I’m at my midterms, and at the end I’m getting a diploma.

ARM4Overall it was better than I expected even if we ignore nostalgia. I always think that games based on shows and movies phone it in to capitalize on an eager fan base. This game however put in the time and effort and it shows. It is by no means a masterpiece, but given the limited investment needed to beat it, it would be worth playing if you’re a platform lover. You probably won’t come back to it after you beat it, as replay is pretty much non-existent, but that’s OK, it clearly wasn’t meant to be a cornerstone of your game collection. It may however have you scrounging YouTube for show clips.

The Verdict

6.4Fair

The Good: Aesthetics, Level Design, Mobility, Multiple Characters, Nostalgia

The Bad: Handling, Saving, Level Transitions

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