So, Monsters, Inc. didn't win the Oscar. Oh well. If it's any consolation, their PS2 game beats out Shrek on the Xbox. But not by huge strides, as this below average platformer doesn't quite have what it takes to be a graveyard smash.
In the bustling 'burb of Monsteropolis, James P. Sullivan (Sully to his friends) jumps through trans-dimensional closet doors to scare the bejeebus out of unknowing kids. Monsters get their energy from the screams of children. Ironically enough, these monsters are actually scared of the kids. Craziness ensues when one of the kids crosses into the monster realm. Oh, go see the movie.
In fact, Monsters, Inc. on the PS2 is truer to the movie than its predecessor, Monsters, Inc. Scream Team on the PSX. In Scream Team, monsters Mike and Sully had to go through a training ground of sorts, scaring robotic children left and right. This time around, the game follows the course of the movie, from the corporate headquarters of a monster power plant to the snowy tundra of exile. However, this time you can only play as Sully.
The levels are singly focused on item collection. Whether it's the ubiquitous gold coin - in this case, 'screams' - or a level key, you will spend your time gathering things. Find the five especially well-hidden scare canisters to open up half a disk worth of bonus stuff. The other half of the disk can be obtained by scaring five monster mice (yes... tiny little mice that apparently have some monster DNA) within a certain time limit. Opening up both halves grants yet another video clip from the movie. Whoopie. Is there a Disney game that doesn't have unlockable FMV? At least they've also added other "scream" quotas that will net some mini-games.
In general, the level design is too difficult for its intended audience of little tykes. Within the first level, Sully has to jump onto a moving vehicle that only stop for a moment while avoiding his boss, Mr. Waternoose, in a cheap sneak sequence. You have to rush into his office when he leaves it, then vamoose out of before he comes back in. It's hard enough for a master geek like me...I can't imagine how a 9 year-old would fare.
There are other things that seem too tough for kids, like plenty of tricky jumps. Maybe I'm not giving enough credit to the wee ones, but I think some of the harder challenges could have been handled differently. As it stands, the game gives you unlimited lives to outweigh the difficulty. Kind of a cop-out.
The last level, however, manages to visually approach the frenzy of the Door Warehouse sequence in the movie. Unfortunately, it doesn't play out in the same frenetic manner. It's still run-of-the-mill platform jumping. They also missed a chance to do something really cool with jumping in and out of the closet doors at the end.
The rest of the levels are mediocre. Though the draw-in rate is impressive, the textures are rather dull and dated. On the other hand, they did a great job with the character textures. Sully actually looks like a big, furry, baby-blue cookie monster. The spotting on Mike's skin looks mottled and, well, like a monster.
Even though they don't have the actual stars doing the voices in the game, the makeup voices sounds pretty close. There's one great sequence in particular when the Abominable Snowman just rambles on and on, even when you've stopped talking to him.
Monsters, Inc. also includes the equivalent of DVD extras - interviews with the peeps involved with making the movie and developmental art. It's a nice addition, though doesn't make or break the game.
While the movie has an appeal for all ages, only the elementary school crowd will want to buddy up with these monsters. Younger kids who can enjoy a game on the merits of simply making a nice looking character move around will dig it, but its strange difficulty might be too much.