Monster House «

Consider us dumbstruck: Monster House for the GBA is good. And unlike its brief siblings on consoles and the DS, it’s long, clocking in at over ten hours. It sticks closely to the Zelda formula with lots of 2D exploration, intense action sequences and occasional puzzle solving (this behemoth of a building sure has a lot of keys lying around), but it’s all in good fun. It also tells its story far better than its console counterparts, which makes us wonder why A2M and THQ didn’t put this kind of care into the other versions. But let’s not complain: while there are some minor issues, Monster House is a faithful homage to old-school gaming and an enjoyable romp through a diabolical domicile.

In Monster House, you navigate your pixelated party through hundreds of rooms until you reach the furnace, which must be destroyed lest the house continue to munch on the neighbors. You only control one character at a time from a top-down view. However, pressing L1 lets you switch between DJ, Chowder and Jenny whenever you like. Each kid plays differently, even though they all employ water guns as their primary weapon. DJ’s weapon fires steadily or in a continuous spray, doing average damage; Chowder fires slowly, or he can charge up a strong attack with a larger attack radius; and Jenny’s shots do less damage but spray quickly in the manner of a machine gun.

As you move from room to room, you’ll begin to appreciate the variety in each of the characters’ uses. Chowder’s gun isn’t as useful against the standard enemies like possessed chairs, bouncing floor lamps, and aggressive floorboards, but he comes in handy against bosses and stronger foes like evil televisions, since his shots knock back his attacker. Jenny does less damage with a single shot and has less energy (Monster House‘s version of health), but her rat-a-tat fire makes her invaluable when being attacked by multiple weak enemies at once. DJ’s camera comes in handy too, since he can temporarily stun enemies when the going gets rough.

And it gets rougher than you’d expect for a movie tie-in aimed at a younger audience. You’ll need to use your flashlight to navigate through dark rooms, sometimes perilously close to drop-offs. Other times, your assailant appears right in front of you, such as when the boards pull up from the floor and attack, or when nondescript chairs creak into motion. Being good at Monster House requires more than quick reflexes: Since each kid has his own energy and ammo reserves, you need to keep an eye on their status. You’ll find energy and ammo power-ups, amongst other goodies, and you want to give the right character the right enhancement, lest a kid with full energy eat a piece of candy when another needs it more.


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