Publisher: SouthPeak Interactive
Developer: Artificial Studios
N Amer - 06/12/2007
Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia Review
Take it from a girl who spent a good portion of her time at the arcades playing four-player action games of the 1980s like Gauntlet or Quartet, the next-generation of consoles are a great platform for true button-mashing games of a similar genre. Let’s face it, consoles like the Xbox 360 have gone wireless, do graphics just as good as a high-powered PC and has an amazing online feature that can allow you to download new content and play with more than 10-players at a time. Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia has all the right elements but sadly it just isn’t able to pull it off.
Monster Madness does feel like the button-mashers of a time when button-mashers were a big part in arcades everywhere. In fact, it pays homage to the likes of Gauntlet and a healthy dose of the tongue-in-cheek console classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors. There are two ways of playing the game, a multiplayer portion that includes online gameplay and Adventure mode (an offline story mode). Adventure mode’s story tells a chaotic story that finds four High school students battling a number of monsters that decide to attack on the very night nerdy Zack attempts to tell the Goth girl of his dreams, Carrie, that he likes her. Then in comes skater dude Andy looking for a favor and finally perky cheerleader Jennifer shows up at his door when all hell (literally) breaks out in the suburban neighborhood.
Adventure mode contains a little over 20 levels, each with their own level boss and literally hundreds of enemies to fight. Like most games that feature four-player gameplay, you can play the game with a group of friends and the good news is that anyone can jump in at any point. You’ll start off fighting enemies in Zack’s house, then making your way across the suburban landscape battling a number of beasties that range from zombies (the regular kind and a few with explosives strapped to their decomposing flesh) to giant spiders, fire imps and demons. Each character has his or own fighting style as well. Jennifer, for instance, is able to dual wield melee weapons while a skater like Andy really knows how to use a hockey stick. Carrie is by far one of the most effective characters of the bunch since she favors blades weapons like her sword.
The problem with Adventure mode, though, is that even though there are plenty of different areas to see in the game and weapon upgrades thanks to a quirky weapon specialist named Larry whose tools trailer can be found in every level, you’ll feel as though you’ve seen and done everything early in the game. There are boss battles at the end of each level and the bosses are unique but there’s little variety in the way you fight them. Really, the game is kill hundreds of monsters, collect stuff, and beat the boss and move on to the next level. There are some fun moments in the game but thanks to a constant dip in the framerate, it’s not often a smooth ride. Sometimes the controls can even be unresponsive. I died twice in one level mainly because my character didn’t want to pick up a certain necessary item.
The real meat of the game, however, comes in the form of the online multiplayer mode. You can play through the Adventure mode segment of the game with other gamers in case you don’t have any friends around to pick up the game as the other characters. Yet the best part of the multiplayer is the various different game mode types that allow you to compete or team up with up the 16-players at a time. The game modes range from the usual deathmatch and King of the Hill matches but also game modes such as Monster Hunter (where all players start as human until one player dies and thus becomes a monster on a quest to turn everyone into a monster). Dojo Cooperative has you and a team of players going up against wave after wave of monsters and you can even change the rules to set up a competition to see which player can kill a set number of monsters first.
Sadly, these things don’t add up to a good game and with a weak story that really fails to produce the laughs as it intended to do … although there are some amusing moments when you play as Jennifer who thinks the Zombie Chihuahua is actually cute. The action isn’t just repetitive but lacks variety seen in other similar games such as Hunter: The Reckoning.
The visuals themselves aren’t fitting of the Xbox 360 either and this is too bad since there are a variety of monsters in the mix. The game looks like a great-looking original Xbox game instead, although the lighting and visual effects work well enough. It’s the character models that could have looked a lot better and the backgrounds give the game its dated look. In Adventure mode, the story is told through a colorful comic book-styled artwork that’s not bad at all.
As for the game’s sound, the voice acting in the story mode is not bad at all and gives voice to the caricatures that don’t have any funny lines. Well, Larry’s Vietnam flashbacks are funny but most of what you’ll hear throughout the game is repeated often. The same can be said about the music, which isn’t bad at all but way too repetitive. Still, you’ll be glad the music isn’t annoying.
Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia has all the right essentials to make for a decent button-masher but thanks to way too many flaws, this battle just isn’t worth fighting. This is too bad really since the online component offers plenty of multiplayer options and you can always play the story mode with a group of friends but with unresponsive controls, a weak story and framerate stutter, this just feels like frustratingly ghoulish game you should just consider renting instead.
Review Scoring Details for Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia
The monster-bashing action is fun at first but quickly grows repetitive thanks to little variety in the gameplay. Sure there are plenty of monsters to destroy and there are level bosses but there’s nothing about Adventure mode that will hook you. It’s all about the online multiplayer mode but don’t expect to be completely hooked.
Even on the Xbox 360 the graphics look dated but the cartoon-like backgrounds and character models are simply Ok. There are some flashy effects and the comic book-styled cutscenes are somewhat amusing. It’s just too bad that the framerate constantly takes a dive and ruins the flow of the action.
The voice acting just isn’t funny and neither is most of the dialogue but at least the sound effects are decent and the repetitive score is actually pretty good.
Alone the game is pretty challenging but with three other players taking up the role of the other characters and you can breeze through the game quickly. Some monsters will definitely put up quite a fight and later the boss fights get a little longer.
Adventure mode feels rather shallow and the game’s story is weak but at least the stereotype main characters have their own unique attacks. There are even loads of different areas to explore and fight through but thanks to the repetitive action there’s not much fun here. At least you can play with a group of friends offline but the real action comes in the form of the online multiplayer matches.
I’m a sucker for online co-op and Monster Madness does bring the action to Xbox Live as well as a number of other game mode types to try out online. Still, like the offline mode, online suffers from some a slow framerate problem and this is too bad since there are vehicles and different monster avatars to play online.
For those old school gamers who had a fondness for the classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Monster Madness will disappoint in almost every level. It’s a game that borders on fun but just doesn’t quite make the right impression with its repetitive action, framerate problems and barely there story. I highly suggest you skip this one and pick up the more serious Hunter: The Reckoning for the original Xbox instead.
Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia has all the right essentials to make for a decent button-masher but thanks to way too many flaws, this battle just isn’t worth fighting
Reviewer: Angelina Sandoval
Review Date: 07/09/2007