Monday, 28 December 2015

Monster High: New Ghoul in School

Snuck onto shelves just in time for the tail end of your Christmas shopping (or released well before you even start thinking about it if you're a bloke), Monster High: New Ghoul in School has been developed by Torus Games and out now on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Wii, and 3DS. The problem with kids' licenses in the world of videogames is that, while things aren't as bad as they used to be, they're still sometimes used as a quick and lazy way to print money without worrying about making a game the kids will enjoy – and it can be very hard to even find reviews of these things. Just bear in mind the 3DS version may be different to all the others, and I haven't played that.

To answer one of the main questions: yes, this has definitely been produced on a budget that probably comes to only slightly more than I've spent on kebabs over the past year. Although it shows in a variety of ways, the main warning klaxons are avoided. Cheap kids games often have a frame rate so bad it makes your eyes bleed, but things are kept under control fairly well in that respect. There's a fair amount of voice acting here too (although it's one of those games where large chunks of the script are presented via subtitles only, one of the low budget signs) and, best I can tell, the original actors have all been brought in. Always a bonus. There are loads of characters from the franchise included, and all look as they should. That's some important boxes ticked already.

But how does it play? Well for one thing, there are only two areas – a fair reconstruction of Monster High itself, and a tiny space identified as your bedroom which, basically, acts as a stop-off point between school days. Each 'day' is split into morning, lunch, afternoon, and after school. You advance the day by attending a class – which means nothing more than entering a door, watching a clock whizz round a few hours, then seeing your character come back out again. Missions mostly consist of fetch quests, with the occasional minigame thrown in for good measure. You get around school by running, jumping climbing, and now and again moving a block to help get to an out-of-reach ladder or platform.

That doesn't sound like it makes for a particularly complicated game, and it doesn't; this is hardly an RPG. However – and I say this having seen my six and ten year old daughters play it for hours – it is a game that Monster High fans will love playing, and that's all that really matters. The script is a pleasant surprise, in that it has a few laughs and is overall superior to any Monster High TV movie that I've been subjected to. I sure hope you like the Monster High theme, though (“we are monsters, we are proud”), because you'll be hearing it a lot. It plays over the opening screen – fair enough – but it's also the only song that's ever played for the recurring 'fearleading' rhythm minigame. Did I mention the limited budget?

There are giant coins to collect throughout the school on the ground, on top of bookshelves, and even floating through the corridors. These are used in the Monstore (aaaargh) to buy new clothing. The character customisation is a nice touch that's been well implemented. Before entering Monster High, you can create your own character by choosing monster type (but not sex – you're the 'new ghoul' remember?), hairstyle, clothes, and skin colour/pattern. You're not nailed down to any of your choices either, being able to change any element as many times as you like given the right place and time. It may have been cheaply made, but this is a game that understands kids.

Monster High fans will draculove it. 4/5.


Luke Kemp

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