Monster Madness: Grave Danger Preview
Some games just deserve a second chance. Provided the developer goes back to address the crippling issues that plagued the original, a remake complete with plenty of enhancements would be worth talking about. Technically, the upcoming Monster Madness: Grave Danger is Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia (released for the Xbox 360 and PC last year) revisited. The latter had all kinds of problems, including a downright silly camera and significant control problems that put a serious damper on the player's entertainment. But Psionics has sworn to fix everything for Grave Danger, and they will also toss in more than a few extras that weren't available in the 2007 iteration. According to recent hands-on feedback from GameSpot and other sources, it seems they're definitely headed in the right direction with the PS3 version, so perhaps it's something you'll want to consider come April. No, it's not MGS4 or GT5, but it could prove to be a fun and even addictive game, perfect for rainy days or when you just want to kick back with something simple.
First up is an obvious change from the annoying control we had to suffer through in Battle for Suburbia. In last year's game, we had to aim and then fire with the shoulder buttons on the 360 controller, which proved to be somewhat problematic throughout the hectic adventure. However, this time around, we can simply fire in any given direction by using the right analog stick, which is guaranteed to be an appreciated control update. The only potential issue we have is this- the analogs on the 360 controller are stiffer than the analog sticks on the Sixaxis controller - one of the big reasons why people claim FPSs are better played on the 360 - so could this affect Grave Danger? We don't want to have to rely entirely on the right analog, right? Well, either way, it has got to be better than the previous control scheme that focused on the shoulder buttons. We're also hoping the camera is better with this one; we continually battled the loose and irritating camera angles in 2007's Monster Madness. It's never much fun when both the control and camera only serve to detract from an inherently entertaining experience.
One of the aspects of last year's title that probably won't change is the available arsenal...which is just fine by us, because it was pretty impressive in Battle for Suburbia. All the cool stuff is returning, including the insane miniguns and rocket launchers, along with a bunch of specialty weapons like the glue cannon and cell phone tazer (no, we didn't make them up). But perhaps best of all is the fact that this PS3 version will boast 100 character-specific accessories, all of which will work to upgrade your character's attributes. In other words, we're suddenly seeing significant depth in a game that could probably use some. Some of these items are pretty kooky; things like nail polish and pocket protectors might pop up while playing, and if you nab Ďem, you will enhance a particular aspect of your character's skill. This new feature alone could make Grave Danger worth playing, especially if there are multiple character abilities that can be altered and increased. Clearly, the developers don't plan to issue the same ol' game that floundered last year, and that's definitely a good thing.
When it comes to simpler, straightforward titles like this, it always helps to have multiple players. Here, up to four players will be able to travel through the main story mode together (each player must choose one of the four different characters available), and you can always try "hot-seat" play. As you move along, you will work your way through the 18 levels that existed in the Xbox 360 version, only with the addition of those aforementioned upgrades. These will be found in little toolboxes scattered throughout each of the environments, and in multiplayer mode, all players will gain the benefits of any collected toolbox. We have heard that Psionics will implement a few visual enhancements as well, although we don't really have any specifics at this time. However, Grave Danger isn't something that requires pristine graphics; the emphasis is appropriately placed on gameplay. In this case, the game should be tons of fun for both one player or multiple players, although we're not sure if the difficulty will change depending on how many people are involved. It wouldn't make much sense to have equal difficulty for one player and four players, correct?
Lastly, PS3 owners will get the benefit of 25 new unlockable character costumes (the ones in last year's version will be included as well), plus 25 new Challenge missions. These Challenges can consist of eliminating as many enemies as possible within a certain time limit, for example, and the rewards should be well worth your time. Monster Madness: Grave Danger is shaping up to be much better than Battle for Suburbia, and it will arrive for the PS3 on April 22. It will also only cost $39.99, which means you'd be saving $20 right off the bat, immediately making this a much better deal. Granted, there are plenty of huge blockbuster titles on the way this year, but every once in a while, you need to unwind with a simple yet engaging arcade-based action title. It's as pure as video games get!
2/16/2008 Ben Dutka