Everyone loves Pokemon. Pokemon is great. But what would happen if a game strips out its turn-based battle system while leaving almost everything else intact? It should be a surefire hit, right? Not quite – Monster Racers has plenty of fun moments, but it’s way too repetitive to be considered a great game.
Monsters, you’re told when you put in the cartridge, love to race. In fact, they love to race so much that they can’t help but race whenever they see one another, and people have made careers out of professionally racing them. So naturally, your silent protagonist sets out to become the world’s greatest professional racer by taking down all of the others. Monster Racers takes place in the real world, so you’ll be racing in tournaments everywhere from Australia to Eurasia. The game offers unique twists on places like Stonehenge and the North Pole, which is a refreshing departure from your average fantasy world.
Monster Racers follows a very simple pattern - tournament, field, tournament, city, repeat - and racing is continuously repetitive every step of the way. Although you can break the cycle by venturing through a number of optional areas, the actual racing is always the same; pound on the directional pad, press B occasionally to jump, hammer Y to use your special move, and hope your timing is right. You can capture around 80 different monsters and there are several different types of terrain to race on, but races remain monotonous no matter what you do.
Both the field and racing maps are rendered in pretty 2D, but there are some inexcusable graphical hang-ups. When your character uses a hammer to smash rocks, there’s no animation - the rock just kind of disintegrates. Wild monsters, rather than getting individual icons, are depicted on the field as bright yellow balls that race you upon contact. This leads to some silly occurrences, like when a city is infested by wild beasts that send its residents fleeing in panic as they’re chased by terrifyingly menacing... bright yellow balls. Needless to say, Koei could’ve given it some more polish.
It’s too bad there’s so little variety, because this could’ve been a great game. The story, while hardly unique, has plenty of humor and enough interesting characters to keep you hooked. There are some tough battles, but they usually seem to come down to luck rather than skill, so overcoming them doesn’t feel all that satisfying. Monster Racers is nice for short bursts of gratuitous entertainment, but not much more.
Jun 7, 2010