Plodding to the Left, Plodding to the Right

The Movie Monster Game

It’s fun to rampage around a city as a giant monster. We’ve known that for a while, watching the likes of Godzilla and King Kong go about causing destruction in terror in their massive wakes. There is spectacle to behold, carnage to enjoy, rampages to revel in. That concept was so well known in the 1980s that we had two different games all about giant monsters going into cities and causing massive carnage. There was the 1986 game Rampage, published by Bally Midway, featuring knock off versions of Godzilla and King Kong, but then, two years later, there was also The Movie Monster Game, and this one actually featured Godzilla in his proper form… mostly.

I’m not going to try and say that one game was better than the other. I’m a big fan of Rampage, having popped my fair share of quarters into that machine over the years. I’ve played through many of the console ports of Bally Midway’s goofy classic. Rampage is a pretty fun, albeit slight and dumb, game. You enjoy the moments you get with it as you climb buildings and eat people. It’s a good time. But The Movie Monster Game offers its own kinds of enjoyment that give the game a bit more depth than anything on offer in Rampage. It just so happens to also be a slower game with less carnage and destruction. This balances out in the long run, making for two different games that seem to hit upon the same idea: destroying shit as giant monsters is fun.

In The Movie Monster Game you take on the role of one of six giant monsters: the officially licensed Godzilla alongside unlicensed creatures Sphectra (a giant wasp), the Glog (a living slime blob), Tarantus (a giant spider), Mr. Meringue(a knock-off marshmallow man), and Mechatron (a giant robot). Each of these creatures is set down in a city with one goal: destruction. You can run around, gobbling up humans and vehicles, and you can also ram down buildings. Carnage is the goal, one way or another, and the more you cause the more points you get. Once you’ve done all you can, and you’ve finished your mission, it’s time to leave the city and head home for a long slumber. You’ve earned it.

Yes, The Movie Monster Game is mission based. There are five play modes in the game, each with their own goal for you to complete, and doing so finishes out your run in the game. The modes are: Berserk, where you destroy buildings and vehicles; Escape, where you have to flee the city; Search, which requires you to move around the city, looking for a lost monster child, and then destroy the building they’re imprisoned in; Destroy Landmark which, yes, sets you off to find and destroy a landmark; and Lunch, requiring you to sate the monster’s hunger by eating vehicles and humans. These missions all take place in Moscow, London, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, and Tokyo, although, honestly, it’s hard to tell one city apart from another when you’re in the game.

The graphics of The Movie Monster Game are simple. Your monster is a two-color beast, running around with simple animations. Most vehicles are one color affairs, sliding around and making basic honk noises. Military vehicles are green, which makes them easy to spot. And humans are all tiny, single color, and basically stick figures. The buildings in all the cities look alike, made of the same sprites over and over again. The only differences are the landmark buildings, like Big Ben or the Arc de Triomphe, which will be in each city. They look different, making them easy to spot among all the buildings, but the rest of the game is a sea of very samey buildings, vehicles, and humans over and over again.

I like the idea of The Movie Monster Game in concept more than in execution. I think the basic construction is neat, a kind of top-down version of Rampage (without, of course, the license) with far more of the city to explore than that other game’s single screen per city. It works in basic design and allows for a variety of mission types for the game. Knowing that in some modes you have to destroy something while in others you eat, or run, is a nice twist and, in theory, adds some depth to the overall experience. Anything to encourage you to play more and do different things is a good way to add length to the game.

The issue is execution. For all the good new ideas The Movie Monster Game adds in, the experience of playing the game is incredibly tedious. The big issue is that the monsters are incredibly slow. Hell, everything in the game is incredibly slow. You go along, slowly trudging across one street after another, barely faster than the humans or tiny cars around you. Some modes take minutes to get through, even when all you’re doing is eating vehicles over and over again. It’s a lot of monotony that could have (and should have) been sped up just to make the experience more fun to play.

Also, could we have gotten a little more variety, and color, in the various cities? I get they wanted the landmarks to stand out and I do applaud that. At the same time, though, they really needed to put more style in the game so that things felt more interesting. You’re trudging through one city after another, doing the same old song and dance (no matter what your mission is) and with everything feeling so same-y, so boring over and over again, you get tired of even looking at it. The game modes are fun ideas but actually being in the game itself isn’t.

I also would have liked to see more variety from the monsters. Yes, their designs are all different, but functionally they’re all the same. There’s nothing different in the underlying construction of Godzilla from the Glug or Mr. Meringue; each has a different coat of paint on top of the same, slow moving creature. They all have some kind of basic attack, an air attack, and they can bash into buildings. They aren’t at all different in any meaningful way, though, so you have six monsters that all act and do the same things, over and over. Had the monsters felt a tad more varied in their abilities that could have added needed spice to the game.

Sure, you could argue that Rampage had the same issue – each screen was the same, with the only difference being how the buildings were arranged, and all the monsters acted the same – but that game was fast-paced enough that you didn’t notice or care as much. Eventually you would get bored in that game, too, but not before you’d caused a bunch of carnage and felt like you got your money’s worth. The Movie Monster Game is the deeper of the two, with more to explore and more to do, but it somehow feels shallower and worse, a pale copy despite aspiring for more.

But then, this game did come from Epix, who made a bunch of crap shovelware games over the years (need we look any further than the absolutely awful California Games?), so this does seem par for the course. Like all their games The Movie Monster Game has a lot to do but you aren’t going to want to do any of it. It’s slow, it’s tedious, and it lumbers around for a while until everyone is ready for it to go away. Maybe that’s a perfect representation of a kaiju, but it doesn’t make for a great game at all, despite its good intentions.