Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Movie Monster Game

Earlier this week I was perusing Lemon an archival website dedicated to the games library of the old Commodore 64 computer system- when I came across an entry about one of the earliest giant monster video games I had ever played: The Movie Monster Game.

It’s a pretty simple and clunky game by today’s standards, but for its time it was fairly decent. The player was given the choice of a creature to control, a famous city to wreck and specific objective to accomplish. The real kicker though, was that the publisher not only actually managed to secure the licensing rights for Godzilla to be used as a playable character, but also kept his appearance relatively faithful to his proper Japanese design (okay- within the admitted limits of the C64’s graphical capacity. Nevertheless, the box art and game title screens are decently Japanese-accurate).

Pulling off this legal accomplishment was probably fairly expensive, which might explain why the rest of the monsters in the game consisted of knockoffs: a giant tarantula named “Tarantus”, a green blob called “The Glog”, an enormous wasp known as “Spectra”, the giant robot “Mechatron” and “Mr. Meringue”- an obvious counterfeit Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

The actual play experience was kind of weird in that the monsters were not terribly durable and would expire pretty quickly, especially once the military showed up. This was due to each monster’s “Endurance” bar having the dual purpose of representing health AND for performing actions. Destroying a building meant repeatedly walking into it... which would cost Endurance each time (the larger the building, the more hits it required to collapse it). Using a monster’s signature special attack (like Godzilla’s breath weapon)... would cost a good chunk of Endurance. Being hit by military attacks... would drain Endurance. The math was definitely not on the player’s side by any stretch. If memory serves, stepping on civilians would restore your health but the actual amount was pretty minor and as none of the monsters could move terribly fast, it wasn’t a reliable method to stay alive. In a roundabout way, the strongest character out of bunch actually ended up being The Glog; its special attack was acidic skin that could slowly destroy a building with a single tap, thus excusing the need to slam into said target repeatedly (and exhaust Endurance in the process).

A nice touch was that each game would bookend with a quick sequence inside a movie theatre, complete with opening and closing credits, playing into the idea that the game itself was actually a film being watched by an audience. It’s a theme that would resurface again years later in the War of the Monsters game, which featured a menu based around a drive-in movie theatre lot.

Overall, The Movie Monster Game wasn’t anything terribly spectacular, but certainly well-intentioned and does have the distinction of being one of a small handful of giant monster-themed games to exist for PC’s. Ah, nostalgia!

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