Like the way a cheese burger is different from a normal burger – in that it contains a slice of processed cheese, and maybe some mystery sauce if you’re lucky – Monster House is a bit different from the usual rushed out licensed pap. For starters, it’s not another run, jump and collect the spinning things platform affair – not because you can’t jump, but because it takes inspiration mostly from Luigi’s Mansion.
The choice of camera is an unusual one: it’s slightly fish-eyed, making the lead characters appear all gangly like some Tim Burton creation. There’s also a faux retro game entitled Thou Art Dead, which you have to find tokens in the main game to play. It’s best described as a combination of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Castlevania, only not as good as either. These novelties aren’t valid reasons to actually go out and spend money on Monster House, but at least they stop it being totally generic.
The plot follows the path of its silver-screen daddy, involving three kids who explore a haunted house in their neighbourhood, only to be separated when they come under attack from possessed furniture and the like. All three characters are playable, each with a unique skill – DJ can stun enemies with a camera, fat kid Chowder can throw water bombs, and red-headed Jenny can use a catapult to break door locks and hurt foes. They’re also armed with water pistols, although we fail to see how a mild spray of water is able to turn a wooden chair into a pile of splinters. After a brief tutorial, the focus moves to re-grouping the team then finding a way to destroy the house’s “heart”.
The titular dusty abode continuously watches over you as if it were alive. Pipes appear out of the floor to block your path, glowing windows act as search lights, rugs start attacking and televisions fire deadly bolts of electricity. In some rooms you just have to destroy all the ghoulies to proceed; in others there’s a basic puzzle, usually involving create pushing. There are also keys and tools to find – often hidden in a vase or box somewhere nearby. By far the most entertaining rooms though are the ones that spin around, so that you end up walking on the ceiling.
Although visually pleasing in places, the frequent back tracking and limited enemy types hinder any real enjoyment. Seriously – the bosses aside, we counted five different enemies. Five. The fact that Thou Art Dead can be played online for free doesn’t do the game any favours either. Unless for some reason you want to spend Â£30 just so you can play it with a joypad instead of a keyboard. In which case you’d be a mentalist.