War of the Monsters

War of the Monsters

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 1/29/2003 for PS2  
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There’s a very funny sequence in the latest Austin Powers flick, Goldmember, in which a parody of the famous Godzilla films transpires. Austin Powers runs his vehicle in to a replica of the fiery lizard and drives slowly through Japan. The people, obviously frightened by the beast, run in terror and then the scene is wrapped up in one excellently delivered exchange:

Japanese Man 1: Run! It’s Godzilla!!
Japanese Man 2: It looks like Godzilla, but due to international copyright laws it’s not
Japanese Man 1: Still, we should run like it is Godzilla!!!
Japanese Man 2: Though it isn’t.

It’s sheer comedic genius at its finest that succeeds because it doesn’t take the source material too seriously. War of the Monsters succeeds on this very merit, choosing to exploit the campier and sillier aspects of its source material to deliver a very amusing and entertaining experience.

It can be argued that there hasn’t been a decent giant monster game since the rebirth of Midway’s Rampage franchise and even then, that series has taken a turn for the worst, trying to capitalize on the increasingly popular puzzle-game genre. So leave it to Incog Inc., the makers of Twisted Metal Black, to step up to the plate and deliver the proverbial home run. Much like the aforementioned title, the game is all about destruction, but not in a serious, gory, oh my god I just tore that dude’s limbs off sort of way. If you’ve seen the commercial for this game with the monster at the drive-in then you’ll know that this game was never meant to be taken seriously. It’s filled to the brim with humor, to the point where you’ll probably find yourself laughing out loud during the first 10 or so bouts.

Hey baby, what's your sign?

Forget Godzilla, forget King Kong, instead we’ve got what appears to be their bastard off-spring but the game is much better for it. While the creatures do in fact bear a striking resemblance to some 50s and 60s monsters they feature enough nuances to differentiate themselves on a visual level. The levels themselves are also knock-offs of real-life locales, obviously drawing inspiration from some famous movie settings. Combat takes place in spoofs of Tokyo, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and much much more.

Much like Twisted Metal Black, the majority of the environment can be destroyed and manipulated. As a step above TMB, however, the environment plays a much larger role in the action. You can throw your opponents through buildings or choose to climb up them for a quick breather. When the buildings become decimated, and trust us they will, you can often find some useful weapons amongst the rubble. In fact the usage of weapons is encouraged, often times netting you a health bonus.
Here’s just a small sampling of what War of the Monsters has to offer. I throw my enemy through a building, as he gets up he picks up a steel girder from the remnants. He then proceeds to chuck it at my monster from a distance, impaling him with it. As my monster struggles he eventually pulls it out and in a fit of pure rage, whacks his opponent upside the head with it. Is your opponent looking at you wrong? Chuck a bus at him, it’s that simple!

Each combatant has a small handful of moves consisting of both ranged and melee attacks. The parity of the ranged attacks fares much more than the melee attacks, you’ll get rapid fire lasers and giant fire projectile like objects. They’re far less damaging than the melee attacks but they serve their purpose. Of course you can use the environment as weapons, cars, trucks, even yachts, can be used as weapons of devastation. You’ll be faced with your toughest choice yet, do I wack my buddy upside the head with this antenna, or do I toss it at his head? What do you do hotshot? What do you do?

Melee combat is pretty fun but generally it goes like this. Monster A performs attack, Monster B blocks the attack and quickly counters. Pretty soon you’ll learn to stay put and block, waiting for your opponent to attack you and let his guard down. Combos exist but they’re generally simplistic in nature. This makes the game readily accessible to nearly any gamer out there who likes a game that’s easy to pick up and play.

Then again, the simplicity of the gameplay leads to quite a few problems. Yes the eight original creatures may be different from each other but their diversity is mainly derived from their appearances. This lends each of them a similar feeling, exuding the impression that they’re just mere palette swaps of each other. It’s kind of like choosing between Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter II, but instead of choosing between the blond and the brown-haired guy it’s selecting the giant monkey looking thing or the giant praying mantis.

You eye-ballin me son?!

Multiplay is quite a blast and as a nice touch, it features a unique camera system that really eases the gameplay. When the human participants come close enough to each other, the view changes to the traditional 3D fighter view, banishing the split-screen for the duration of the exchange. After one player wins the exchange the game then reverts back to the split-screen.

With this game’s simplicity it definitely has party game written all over it but a few things restrict it from reaching Smash Bros. status. The battles can accommodate up to four monsters at a time but for some strange reason, it’s limited to only two human players. The other two are controlled by the AI and with its cheap tactics, leads to some frustrating action. Multiplayer is a key part of this game so I’m a bit disappointed at the lack of four-player support, there’s just so much potential. The fights also seem a bit repetitive at times as well; battles sometimes lack the flair and substance, like there’s little there to hold your attention. In the end the game tends to simmer down into a mash fest and while it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it gets old pretty fast.
Thankfully you’ll have mini-games to help occupy your time. Although they’re initially locked, they can be opened by scoring tokens from the game’s single-player aspect. Tokens can be used to unlock new levels, new monsters and mini-games such as dodge ball. As an added bonus, anyone who has a Twisted Metal Black save game on their memory card will immediately unlock the giant Sweet Tooth monster.

An aspect of this game that won’t get the respect that it deserves is the audio. For a game of monstrous proportions this game has one hell of a soundtrack. I’m talking glass shattering, heart-thumping, ear-aching bass here. This is one hell of an audio experience here; I’ve truly never heard anything like it. All of the highs are produced with excellent clarity while the mids and lows arrive with deep, rich bass. Some Dolby Pro Logic II or DTS support would be nice but I’m pretty impressed by what I was given. Simply put, this is the game that will take your sissy little sound system and make a man out of it.

Much in tune with the audio are the graphics, arguably some of the best that this genre has to offer. Buildings crumple quite nicely and while it’s not done to the same effect as Mech Assault, it’s in rather convincing fashion. The monsters each look great and feature plenty of fluid animations, the levels are just superb and the special effects look great. While by no means a frontrunner for best graphics, it’s still a superb package that really is pleasing on the eyes.

Again, repetitiveness killed the videogame star, and it works its mojo here too. But then again some people enjoy playing a carefree game that doesn’t require a 50-button combination every once in awhile and to me, this is where the game succeeds. I can leave my brain at the door and still have an enjoyable experience, not many games can offer me that.

If you’re in to that campy brand of humor that can only be derived from those 50s monster flicks then this is your bag. I’m very impressed by what the Incog guys were able to do with this type of source material. Sure it’s not perfect but then again, what game is? It’s a whole lot of fun and that’s all that matters here leave your baggage and brains at the door and prepare to be entertained.
If you’re looking for a game that’s small on complexity and big on entertainment, then look no further than War of the Monsters. Yes it’s got a few problems but chances are you’ll be having too much fun beating the hell out of each other to care.

Rating: 8.6 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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