Thursday, 5 February 2015

Monster Maulers - Arcade

There's monsters, these people maul them.

There's a rarity that pops up every now and then. A game that takes an idea and runs it in a slightly different direction and either flumps hard into the ground enough to bury itself from head to arsehole or just manages to rise above and become something unique in a heavily saturated arena of games of similar ilk.

Pick a boss, after that you're told what to fight next.
The idea of 2 people fighting together is not that novel. Done since Double Dragon if you're looking at the co-operative side of things, or against each other made famous by games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2 (I said famous, not originally). But few games have tried that 2 vs. 1 method in which you take Ryu and Ken from Streetfighter and have them fight against a boss (Street Fighter Alpha 3 actually DID this in various format versions) or have Sub-Zero and Scorpion team up to beat the ever-loving-shit out of Goro and such.

It's certainly creative on the enemies, if only I didn't look like a Dragon Ball Z reject.

There's a distinct difference though between having a 2vs1 game and a brawler. I'm not talking about a game where the players team up to slaughter hundreds of low level enemies with a few bosses, I'm talking about games where 2 players can take on 1 boss that's either stronger, faster, more prioritised or such. Mugen games allow for such combinations depending on the version (once again).

Speaking of rejects, here's the Blanka reject, complete with lightning/magic.

Monster Maulers however, is one of the few games that allows for two players at once to combat the bigger badder bosses/monsters in a sort of StreetFighter style that negates the Final Fight approach to co-op combat. One or two players will pick from 3 characters, to systematically attack and assault a rather varied and colourful selection of bosses and opponents a la Street Fighter.

I got eaten, it was an odd turn of events but the vorephile's will like this game.

The story is fairly forgettable; three barely-clad, plastic-looking, evil wannabes that would look entirely at home on a Japanese Kids Show of generic anime central, try to take over the world by holding it to ransom with a huge blimp with bombs that are launched to create some giant monsters in key places around the world. In response, a scientist warns 3 people that they need to go and punch, kick and energy blast these monsters to the beyond and then go and punch out a flying blimp warship.

This guy can also eat you, while this playable character does the most impressive splits I've seen.

Which in fairness, is probably more written in that paragraph than the game itself has managed to produce, sarcasm not withstanding on that one.

This dragon can also eat you. I'm noticing a pattern.

Cue you (and a friend if you have them and wants to play this game) picking an initial location to do battle with some of the more unique creatures seen in a beat-em-up. I don't mean unique as in the kind of flamboyant personality that hasn't been seen (or just not very often) but unique in that I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw a full-sized, armoured Centaur in a beat em up game. Or a giant combative Moai Head from Easter Island or even a large brain-pede thing... for what of a better description of a flying centipede/brain organism... Actually that was the description.

Yes, you too can hurl Centaurs across the room, and laugh at their pink dye-job.

From Giant Brains with armour plating, to Centaurs, Demons, Colour changing dragons, Easter Island heads, Giant Carnivorous plants and Slime Monsters, there's a great level of diversity and variation between the game's main bosses and enemies. Which then let's it fall flat on its arse with the final few monsters and bosses in the last level (which, oddly enough, plays more like a beat-em-up from Final Fight with the multiple smaller robots and such) where the bosses are just some prick in a robot suit.

In true old school style, they turn red when angry.

Dull. Especially when compared to the creatures you've spent 80% of the game fighting, breaking apart and forcing them to incur physical, modified and permanent damage. To then go up against the equivalent of a few robot looking shapes tossed together and spun around repeatedly like they just discovered there's a fucking rotate function in flash animation!

Sadly the final level, is very weak.

It's a shame really, it just stinks of a lack of effort on the last part of the game. Yes, the main antagonists are human (apparently, not really explained how people can do what they do... but oh well) but why not have them mutate into something rather than just being hidden inside or riding a large robot? "More attacks" is a possible answer but having seen some of the monsters fought earlier, that doesn't seem to ring true.

The boss before the boss time.

The main characters have a little bit of variation, despite all three looking like they're all 2nd rate contenders for the most generic hero team in the world. Your all-rounder guy, fragile but fast and combo-licious female addition and the slow but heavy hitting other main guy, form your little triumvirate. Each as a variety of attacks in the light, medium and heavy flavours and use of them in different guises, at different point, in different positions, can result in very different outcomes from combos to grabs and holds, to throws and so on. There's a lot of positional dependency for what constitutes the need for a low punch or a sweep, compared to when to punch in mid-air as opposed to grabbing and air-tossing the boss aside.

The range of speed and slick animations are quite impressive.

This can be a rather hit or miss set up with the addition of the fast movement and quick-paced combat. On top of that, there's the special moves from fireballs to powerful attacks and wall jumping which the monsters will either succumb to, block them, reflect them back in the case of projectiles or outright no-sell the attack and simply hit you with something that never worked against you before but does now, or counters with something you've never anticipated but happens to hit harder than anything has up until now.

Grabs, holds, combos, specials, all manner of attacks to unleash!

Having a second player with fast reflexes and good communication will allow players to pull off team-moves where both characters do a move together. Don't count on it though. Psychically fuelled TWINS will not be able to synchronise themselves into working together well enough to achieve much with these moves and on top of that, even these moves will get the same treatment as aforementioned.

Besides, suplexing Moai Head monsters, where else you going to get this?

That said, it's a fun game. Monsters always have double the health the main characters have (which essentially pushes focus on it being a 2-player game but a single player can tank the damage and survive especially with high lives if the arcade machine is set to "kind" mode). The great variation between monsters and settings, some with their own pre-boss fight set up too.