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In Memory
Sean Pettibone



    





Based on the popular film from Disney and Pixar, Sonyís Monsters Inc. allows players to relive the adventures of Mike and Scully interactively. While the action and gameplay are a bit predictable, this is still a solid title. Decent graphics and some challenging levels add to the fun, making this an enjoyable title that should appeal to younger players. Older gamers will enjoy the hidden extras but the most appealing aspect of Monsters Inc. is that the humor of the movie is clearly in abundance throughout. The Laser peers through a crack its closet door to see if this is as much fun as the movie.

As a rule, video games based on movies donít work at all for the most part. Most movie tie-ins are slapped together to cash in on the license and end up leaving a bad taste in playersí mouths. The good news about this latest tie-in title is that Monsters Inc. captures the feel of the movie and is also a pretty enjoyable title in its own right. This title focuses on the big blue guy named Scully for the first part of the game. Like the movie, you are introduced to other monster characters, whoís scare kids for a living. Everything is going well, until a human child named Boo accidentally enters the world of Monstropolis. Unfortunately, monsters are as scared of little kids as they are of monsters. This means that the main objective is that Scully has to rescue her from the Monster police. While it follows the plot of the movie closely, most of the action in Monsters Inc. is fairly straightforward action-platforming. Players maneuver through the various levels and look for objects or switches to hit during. Scattered about each level, there are treats and power-ups which can be used to restore your health, plus Icons which completely restore your energy bar. Scully is a powerful beast and can jump, climb and run through the large levels. Scully has some other tricks up his sleeve. The most important of these is that he can unleash a scream at certain points during the game which has the effect of scaring other monsters and mice.

Even though Monsters Inc follows the path of the movie, itís designers havenít which gives each level a unique feel. For example, the early levels are straightforward, but later on, there are more complex tasks and more difficult obstacles to face. While the initial levels are quite simple search and recovery missions, later levels introduce more skills such as long jumps, complicated boards with multiple objectives and jumping conveyor belt trains while ducking approaching bars, which keeps the player challenged and gives the gameplay some variety. Some of the levels are quite challenging and can be quite long. These will take quite some time for the player to get through. It must be said, that how much fun you have with the game depends on what your skill level is. Experienced gamers should blow through the game without much effort, while average players may find some areas in the game too frustrating at points. Players who persist will be rewarded with some really fun and enjoyable levels which are quite creative and surprisingly interesting while never losing the filmís trademark slapstick spirit.

Controlling Scully is quite easy to understand because onscreen move indicators label which buttons you need to press to perform a specific action. This makes the game completely accessible and easy for all ability levels to understand. The interface makes playing through the game a breeze, and players should be able to traverse the gameís obstacles with little effort. Fighting the enemies isnít terribly taxing, requiring only a quick scare or a tail swap to complete. The overall approach to the game is smartly designed for the most part, though the various camera angles can get a tad glitchy at points. This isnít perfect and can make for some really odd viewpoints during the action, making it difficult to judge where you should move next. It gets annoying in a hurry as you plunge to your demise too often when you canít see whatís in front of you. The good thing about this interface is that you can manually move the camera around using the right analog stick, which makes things much easier throughout and compensates for the camera problems, though obviously more intelligent positioning would have improved things dramatically. When it comes to controlling the character, there should be little problem. Aside from the typical issues with the camera, its interface almost makes things too easy. For the most part, the simplified controls are intuitive and work well, allowing the player to concentrate on the action. To help players even more, other monsters in the game can also give you hints and tips if you get stuck. This makes progression much easier since if you pay attention at all, the next task should be pretty obvious.

From a visual standpoint, Monsters Inc is decent, but wonít win any awards. This doesnít suffer from the same anti-aliasing problems that plague other PS2 titles, though the simplified environments are probably the reason why. It runs at a decent frame rate, but lacks the visual polish of other titles. Unfortunately, the texture mapping, light sourcing and character animations arenít as slick as players have come to expect on the console, making the game feel a bit drab in comparison to other titles. This isnít to say that Monsters Inc. looks awful, just that its appearance is immediately noticeable in comparison to other PS2 titles. The overall production polish is decent but its still not as sharp as other PS2 releases. While it canít touch the quality of the movieís animation, Monsters Inc has some other elements that make it feel like the movie, with the excellent monster designs and animations featured in the movie making a fairly decent transition to the console. Unfortunately, the actors in the movie didnít do the voice-overs in the game, but the actors used make a decent substitute for the real thing, and the humorous jokes included stay true to the feel of the original movie. While the game is pretty good in its own right, one of the coolest things about the title is its extensive selection of extras. These extras are almost as much fun to go through as the main game and their presence is really cool. You can take a backstage tour of the famous Pixar Animation studio, see interviews with animators and get a behind the scenes look at the making of the game and the movie which is an added bonus. Additional features are unlocked as you progress through the game, including clips and short segments from the movie that appear between levels in the title. This seems to be a new but extremely welcome trend in video games, and adds a lot of value to Monsters Inc.

So while it wonít challenge or tax the more sophisticated game players out there, itís still a fun game that accurately recreates both the visual feel and the humor of the movie. Some of the action is a bit dull, but thereís a lot of variety in the different levels, and the interface is simple enough that most players should enjoy it. Itís too bad that the game is a bit easy and can probably be beaten in a weekend rental by most adult players. However, the process of playing the game is still a lot of fun as the gameplay conventions, while a bit clichťd at this point are still appealing in their simple pleasures. The camera issues can get in the way, but arenít bad enough to ruin the experience. Still, this is a surprisingly enjoyable game, considering how much worse it could have been, and the DVD-style extras add a lot of extra entertainment value to the disc. Overall, this isnít a bad title and is recommended, especially for younger gamers who enjoyed the film.




> Related Reviews:

Monsters Inc. Scream Team (PS1)
Jak & Daxter
(PS2)

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