By Stephanie Zacharek
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By Alan Scherstuhl
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By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
I didn't know whether game maker THQ could pull of the frights in the movie. That's because its last movie-into-game, Cars, was bland at best. Yet I was pleasantly surprised when I played Monster House. Not only do you feel as though you're moving through an amusement park fun house where lamps try to grab you and trees break through windows to squeeze the life from you, you'll get scared, too. That's right: adults will be frightened. So, while this is a game for kids, adults will enjoy playing it with their sons and daughters, too.
Within the bowels of the house, you'll play each of the three characters in the game, the occasionally bold hero, DJ, can-do smartie Jenny, and Cowardly Lion-like Chowder. Each character is armed with a water blaster gun to destroy, say, evil chairs that come to life and attack you. You'll be traipsing through a house that's full of the detritus of the years, even a greenhouse that, says the grossed-out Chowder, "smells like my grandfather's trailer." It's this kind of humor (voiced by the movie's three child actors), interspersed with the action-horror aspects, that makes the game (and movie) a winner.
That's not to say Monster House is one of the year's best games. At certain points, the monsters in the house repeat: you'll be fighting against a lot of chairs, and that can be boring. While the game has been assailed elsewhere for its unstable targeting, I didn't find this to be that much of a big deal. What the game lacks in camera angle stability and targeting, it makes up for with ease of play and imaginative action that makes you want to continue on in the game. You can finish the Monster House fairly quickly, in about 10 or 12 hourswhich is a consideration if you expect more game play for your buck. However, there's a fun unlockable once you collect a bunch of toy monkeys along the way. You'll get to play an old school, 2D side scroller game called Thou Art Dead.
But what did bother me constantly was the lack of the ability to save the game whenever you want to. As an obsessive 'saver,' I didn't like the fact that you must move to save points in bathrooms to reclaim your progress should you decide to quit. Saving things at a bathroom checkpoint should have been flushed before the release of Monster House. It's a waste of time.
In the Nintendo DS version of the game, you'll have 54 rooms to explore and shoot up. What I was most enthused about was the amount of monsters that ends up on the screen at the same time. They've really squeezed a lot out of the tiny DS' processing power. You won't get the same audio as you do in the console versions, however. Instead, you'll have to read lines of dialog. But there's nothing wrong with reading. Unless it's James Frey you're looking at.
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