Is this what's hiding in the closet?
Poor, pathetic Cookie Monster. At one time, he was at the top of his game, hanging out with pros like Kermit and Big Bird. But suddenly and without warning, scandal broke loose. Cookie Monster doesn't eat those cookies… he just breaks them and tosses them all over the floor! Doesn't he know children in the streets of Zanzibar are starving? For shame!
As the glimmering spotlight shifted towards newer and fresher monsters, Cookie saw his once bright star fade from the public's eye. His search for a new career turned up empty. Who would ever want to hire a has-been, typecast, fake-cookie eating monster school dropout? If only poor Cookie listened to Mr. T and stayed in school, things might not have ended up the way they did.
At Monsters Inc. Scare Island, Cookie could have taken that bold step and entered the exciting world of professional scaring. With both day and evening classes plus job placement assistance, Cookie could have found a place next to major leaguers like Mike and Sully, stars of the new Pixar movie Monsters Inc.
Monsters Inc.: Scream Team is a 3D platformer that is an offshoot/precursor to the movie plot. The game centers on the exploits of the two stars and their education in Scare-ology 101.
Either Mike or Sully can be used to play the game's 12 stages. Each has a double jump and a spin-style attack, but only Mike can hover and only Sulley can whack stuff with his tail. The approachable puzzles and game design are aptly suited towards the 5-10 year old crowd, but still end up being rather short even with added scavenger hunt style challenges. After every 4 stages, you must race against Randal, the chameleon monster in a classic slide-and-collect-coins race (ala Mario and the Fat Penguin in Mario 64).
Monsters everywhere (except for the wussy monsters on a certain Street) know the importance of scaring. The screams of children are a natural resource, vital for providing electricity to monsters the world over. In preparation for scaring actual children, robotic children called NERVES are scattered throughout the stages. Sometimes in order to find one of these Nerves, players will have to solve typical 3D platformer puzzles, like moving a colored block to a certain location or figuring out the right pattern of tiles to press.
These NERVE robots remind me of those wacky monkeys from Ape Escape, only more docile. Most of them just stay in place waiting to be scared. After you've collected enough "ooze" to scare the NERVES, the game turns into a button mashing exercise. In order to scare that little sucker, players will need to press buttons according to the onscreen cues. It's kind of like Parappa, only without the rapping Kung-Fu Onion. When the first 5 NERVES are scared away in each stage, a bronze medal is earned. Fulfilling, ain't it? But of course you'll have to do more to earn gold.
A short clip from the movie is played back every time you win a bronze. Never mind the fact that the game's premise is completely different from the movie, or the fact that these clips seem pretty haphazardly clipped and edited. They're still fun to watch, but games like this must stop relying on movie captured FMVs to make the game worth playing.
The graphics in Monsters Inc. are a monster in and of themselves. The dull textures have a way of slightly shifting or warping while you're walking about, distant backgrounds are flatly shaded and there are noticeable clipping errors, such as Sully's head peeking through trees or the corners of objects. Modeling for the characters is supremely blocky and even seems to lack the right color values.
The only noteworthy quality is the animation. Perhaps the frames of animation were rotoscoped right from Pixar's work, since Sully's bounding run and the manic motions of Mike are right on.
Musically, the game can't get any more generic. Included are jazzy tracks that have absolutely nothing to do with the movie. At least the voices sound decent enough, with all the "Graahs" and "Booga Boogas" you could possibly stand.
I think that these movie-based video games should try to extend the universe of the movie somehow. The Emperor's New Groove had an added cleverness that enriched the game. Why couldn't they add some more of that movie atmosphere to the game? In a movie all about monsters, only 4 monsters are present here. Even the dominant enemies end up being toys (perhaps they are angry that Toy Story 3 isn't being worked on). And on top of that, my two favorite monsters from the movie, George and the Abominable Snowman, are woefully expelled. Maybe they made the game from early press releases of the movie.
And the operative word here is "early," as in released too early. While the timing is obviously crucial, Monsters Inc. really should have stayed in the oven a little longer to clean up the graphics and maybe add a bit more to the gameplay. The developers seem sort of confined by the movie's release.
But for all of that, Monsters Inc.: Scream Team turns out to be fine for its intended audience. Simple gameplay with familiar heroes is enough to keep the little ones occupied for a while. Just don't expect anyone over the age of six to go ga-ga over it.