Publisher: SouthPeak Interactive
Developer: Artificial Studios
Release Date: TBA
SouthPeak Interactive's upcoming console/PC multiplayer frag-fest, Monster Madness, employs a top-down view that may remind you of Smash TV. In fact, much of this game is reminiscent of that old arcade classic, minus the ubiquitous Mutoid Man. The camera floats above the action, zooming as needed to keep all the players on the screen simultaneously.
At the start of Monster Madness, you can choose one of four characters to use as you progress through the game. There is the nerdy guy, the gothic chick, the stoner dude, and the cheerleader, each with his/her own voice and hand-drawn character art. There doesn't seem to be a real difference in the way that each of the characters controls, so the appearance of the characters is what will make you want to choose one. From here, you are thrust into the first level, Suburbia. The premise of the game is that the town is overrun with all sorts of horrible creatures of the scary kind, from zombies, to skeletons, demons, and rabid dogs. Each enemy has its own type of attacks and strategies with which they can be killed.
Unlike many similar games, the ability to aim in Monster Madness is not based on an automatic targeting system, and instead utilizes the two analog sticks - one for movement and one for aiming. A targeting reticule is rendered a short distance in front your character, and using the analog stick to fire in any direction felt unusually precise. The game is entirely rendered in 3D, with the ability to fire both up and down as needed when attacked by enemies both above and below. Quick dodges in any direction and jumping are a necessity in the frantically paced action, and the tricks are fortunately quite easy to perform.
Monster Madness uses the new Unreal Engine 3 and is chock-full of the latest graphical tricks from the modern developer's wow-factor kit. Fire provided a beautiful lighting effect with real-time shadows flickering about, as the flames danced and practically popped out of the screen. Smoke effects swirled across the grounds of the cemetery, sickly and green, and some of the attacks warped, distorted and bent the surroundings, creating a more pronounced impact. The action was frantic and without a hint of slowdown or choppiness to be seen.
Multiplayer was a blast, allowing up to four players to progress through the story mode in a co-op setting, or duke it out in a no-holds-barred deathmatch. Online play promises to support up to 16 simultaneous gamers. Not much else is known about that mode at this time, but the idea of having a team of your buddies taking on other teams around the world is certainly appealing. Stages are a competition to not only defend yourself against other players, but also against the environments themselves. Stages are filled with various hazards, which can spell a speedy end to anyone not paying close attention to where his character is standing. One stage featured numerous cars driving about randomly, creating a Frogger-esque feeling of dodging between automobiles - only with massive bursts of gunfire and guys with killer plungers, too. Another stage was set in a cemetery, which had open graves and guillotines that spelt instant death to unfortunate wanderers.
The overall presentation was quite comical - a hilarious and stereotyped take on the horror genre that isn't intended to be taken seriously, a fact which is obvious at first glance. The music was quite Tim Burton-esque, mirroring the overall theme of a game that looks like it could have come out of farcical horror flick from year's past. Character design follows some basic horror movie cliché, a goth chick with a thing for swords, a blonde cheerleader with attack batons, a geek with a penchant for axes, and a fourth random dude who uses whatever he can get his hands on, such as the aforementioned Killer Plunger.
Honestly, Monster Madness was a hell of a lot of fun to play and soundly exceeded our expectations. The absence of any form of auto-aim makes the multiplayer aspects much more skill-based than similar games and all that much more fun. The learning curve, however, is still simple enough that anyone should be able to pick up the title and start having fun within a few minutes. We did.
David "Reldan" Nadler and David Wanaselja also contributed to this article.
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