Let’s Look at: Monster Madness

Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a great video game. Even though I personally can’t get very far on account of the hedge mazes and giant toddlers, I still have a lot of fun playing it. It seems like the developers over at SouthPeak games also thought it was alright since they pretty much made it again with Monster Madness.

They Did the Mash

Fully known as Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia, this is an Xbox 360 and PC top-down run-and-gun action game with lots of monsters creating madness. The game goes into more of a third-person camera style if you play alone but don’t do that, you’re better than that. Yes, this is a game that is best enjoyed with others with a maximum of four players being allowed play. Each player can take control of one of the four teenage protagonists and wield a variety of weapons and gadgets to make it through levels.

The tone of the game is pretty stock horror stuff. You can tell the team wanted a certain vibe to the game and weren’t trying to create high art. The four main characters are pretty much just straight stereotypes of typical horror heroes. This isn’t Cabin in the Woods or anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love how cheesy and predictable they are, but I can’t really be bothered to remember their names. So from now on, the dweeb is Millhouse, the cheerleader is Mean Girls, the skater is Skater Boi, and the goth is Carrie. Jokes on me though, her name actually is Carrie! Take that, smarmy internet writer! Got me again, SouthPeak!

Break out the Popcorn

I guess I lose again. But then, when this exists, don’t we all lose?

Monster Madness starts out with Millhouse home alone with Carrie working on some physics homework. Millhouse is trying to work up the nerve to ask Carrie out and to drink his blood or whatever it is that goth couples do. But wowie-zowie, Skater Boi and Mean Girls come by unexpectedly! Millhouse is about to just go for it and talk to Carrie anyway when zombies end up coming by too. It makes you feel for Millhouse. It’s surprising one of his nerd action figures doesn’t come alive and actively cock-block him too. Shenanigans ensue and the four of them find themselves fighting against the hordes for the rest of their adventure.

The gameplay presents you with a pretty fast-paced and customizable twin-stick shooter. Or, a third-person shooter. Look, going forward, I’m going to just be talking about this game from a multiplayer perspective. If you aren’t confident that you can find some people to play with, I’m not positive this game is even worth finishing this sentence for. There is online matchmaking but, appropriately for a game about zombies, it is so fucking dead. So my advice is to try to grab a few friends and enjoy this twin-stick shooter.

Like Going to the Arcade in your Living Room

Hopefully, you never need to see the game from this perspective. Because it means you have no friends.

Anyway, the gameplay is pretty solid. You have a wide variety of weapons and items that you can upgrade. There are even different tiers of melee weapons that you can find scattered through the levels. The only issue is with the control scheme itself which is super cumbersome and requires a lot of adjustment to use effectively. This is probably the game’s biggest weakness and it, unfortunately, doesn’t go away. You either get used to it or should just get another game.

This game is very, very, incredibly on the Unreal Engine. Monster Madness will not let you forget this. Every single thing in the game has physics attached to it. Ragdolls fly off into the stratosphere and you can pick up and launch environmental objects. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your general disposition in life) this adds to the general jank of the game. And this is a very jank game.

You can tell that this game was developed on a pretty modest budget. The presentation of story through comic panels and the ham-fisted voice acting is endearing but flawed. There are graphical glitches, collision issues, and stock sound effects peppered through the game. These aspects all speak of a game that didn’t have too much money behind it. Still, if you can get in the right mindset for it, all of these flaws can make for a perfectly-good B-movie kind of game.

“You’ve Got Red on You.”

What kind of a neighborhood has a vending machine right in front of a residential? That can’t be regulation.

Levels in this game are pretty varied. You go through a lot of horror locales, from a neighborhood to a shopping mall to a medieval castle. No level really outstays its welcome and the pace is streamlined enough that you’re never really staying in one place for too long. While you’ll have to destroy waves of zombies for the vast majority of the game, every so often the game will throw something new your way. Throughout the game, you’ll have to go through vehicle levels as well as Lephrechaun challenges, where you have to perform certain actions or kill enough enemies within a time limit. And I know that all sounds like garbage filler.

Anyways moving on, Monster Madness wouldn’t be much good if there weren’t neato monsters in it. You’ll fight your zombies, sure, but you also have to deal with clowns, giant spiders, witches, bigfoots, and all that other junk. The monster designs are pretty outstanding too. Personal favorites are the fat zombies and the kamikaze bomber dudes. There are a few bosses here to go up against, like the Devil, and Bob Zombie, and off-brand zombie Barney the Dinosaur, and how could you really hate this game? I mean, it knows what it is. Its Bob Marley zombie spews faux-patois and talks about the munchies. How do you make fun of that? It’s like kicking a guy with a “Kick Me” sign on his back. But he put it there.

Endearing in a Paste-Eating Way

Pretty progressive of the costume designers to show midriff off for children. Also, how does felt fabric drool?

There was also an enhanced version of the game called Monster Madness: Grave Danger that was released later for the PS3. It took issues with the controls and some gameplay balancing and tweaked it up. The game became a lot more user-friendly and it made weapon upgrade materials more consistent and thank God. Even though this is undoubtedly the definitive version of the game, there is also a little less content here than in the original release. There were certain segments that were taken out like the climactic vehicle segment at the end of the game. Now, it should be noted that said vehicle segment was terrible, absolute garbage, but I feel I’d be ingenuine if I didn’t let you know. Overall, this is the version you want to play.

So there’s Monster Madness. It was critically panned on its release and no one liked it. Then it was improved and released again and still no one liked it. I can understand the technical and gameplay issues that people had with it, but I just don’t think the gaming community was ready for a schlock game like this. This was 2007. Modern Warfare just came out. Bioshock just came out. Halo 3 just came out. Mass Effect just came out. Uncharted just came out. 2007 is when all the games came out. And also when all the games were getting more serious and story-driven.

Monster Madness knows what it is and it doesn’t want anything more than that. It doesn’t want to sit at the big-boy table at Thanksgiving because the Fischer-Price table is more colorful. I don’t want to paint it as a patron saint of gaming because let’s be honest, it’s just a big dumb video game. But it was unabashedly a big dumb video game and it took pride in that. It was genuinely one of the dumbest games I’ve ever played and I admire that commitment. Dare to be stupid, little guy.

If you’re a little curious in trying this game out yourself, here’s the superior PS3 version: Monster Madness: Grave Danger