Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
In 1989, developer Bandai released a cartridge for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System called Monster Party, a fairly standard horizontal-scrolling platformer with a quirky twist or two. Starring a child protagonist named Mark who has a supernatural encounter while walking home from a baseball game, gameplay follows him as he fights the monstrous forces of a demonic dimension.
Controlling Mark, the player will pleasantly find that the control scheme is the essential NES platform controls: A button jumps, B button attacks, with a crouch and even a crawl function granted with use of the down button on the directional pad.
Mark must fight his way across some surreal, almost disturbing landscapes, as in each level his goal is to find the bosses in the boss rooms, defeat them, collect a key, and exit the level. The bosses themselves taunt Mark with humorous commentary (for one example, “WELCOME! ENTRANCE TO HELL.”), and boss or non-boss alike, Mark battles with a baseball bat, including a propensity for knocking projectiles right back into enemies, a practical necessity for some boss bouts.
There is one intriguing feature to Monster Party, though, and that is the transformation sequences. There are items that Mark can gain from defeating enemies, including hearts to restore health, but also including a capsule that makes Mark transform into a more powerful being (the same monster he met in the opening story cut scene, oddly enough), one that can fly with repeated taps of the A button, and actually fire a projectile (humorously referred to as a “photon lazer” in the instruction manual) at enemies. Thus, gameplay becomes a challenging juggling match for the player, in an attempt to match transformation timings with entering the boss rooms.
This is a peculiar-looking game. On the very first level, every object (which are lovely items like skulls) seem to be bleeding, and subsequent stages are hardly bright or cheery. This is an interesting graphical feat, considering that the visuals themselves are by no means extraordinarily impressive on their own merits. There are some colorful elements and nothing is done terribly badly, but the best part is simply the crazy things you see on-screen.
The soundtrack for the Monster Party video game is somewhat standard. You may get tired of the generic effects when you hit projectiles and enemies with your bat, and there are few sound effects elsewhere. At least the music changes on every stage, but the tracks are uninspired, bland, even potentially annoying, with just a single exception or two depending on personal taste. The boss rooms, though, are the real tragedy, with the music just consisting of a rapid-fire non-progression of a handful of notes.
For a two-dimensional platformer that could have easily been seen as underdeveloped, Monster Party manages to attain some charm through its distinctive brand of bizarre environments. The bosses are strange and scary, the transformation mechanic is a nice touch, and even some of the regular level enemies (take note of the enemy that consists of a nude pair of legs kicking into the air from the ground) are noteworthy.
Overall, Monster Party can be somewhat monotonous and boring, without a ton of replay value, but through its imaginative renderings, decent controls/gameplay, and unique experiences, this Nintendo game is alright in the end and likely worth a playthrough, knocking three stars out of five out of the park.