Monster Bash HD – Review
Follow Genre: 2D action platformer
Developer: Emberheart Games, Apogee Software
Publisher: Apogee Entertainment, 3D Realms
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Monster Bash HD – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: A faithful recreation of the original, with improvements that make sense
Bad: Low quality sound effects
User Score
8.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

What better way to start a new year than by looking at a game that’s technically nearly three decades old? Monster Bash HD, from Emberheart Games, is an updated version of a somewhat obscure DOS game from 1993 by Apogee Entertainment. The original is still available through GOG and Steam -at a significantly lower price point- but given that Monster Bash HD adds not just visual and audio upgrades but new content as well, the new version might just have the edge. Join us as we take a look at this remastered retro adventure.

Story

The game opens with some light reading, as the premise is delivered through text on a scroll. The story introduces us to Johnny Dash, a ten-year-old boy with an attitude. During a freak storm, Johnny is pulled under his bed by a friendly monster. The monster explains to our protagonist that the nefarious Count Chuck has been sending his minions to our world to kidnap the neighborhood’s cats and dogs, wanting to turn these pets into his evil servants. As if that wasn’t bad enough on its own, it turns out that Johnny’s very own dalmatian puppy, Tex, is among the kidnapped pets! It’s up to Johnny to go to the monster world and defeat the evil Count Chuck and rescue the neighborhood pets… but he must do so before the storm is over! Will our hero succeed in this noble endeavor? Only one way to find out!

Graphics

As we were unfamiliar with the original game, we had to look up some screenshots of the original to compare with the remaster, just so we could see where the ‘HD’ moniker came from. Monster Bash HD sticks fairly close to the sprite art of the original game. The biggest change we noticed was that the visuals made use of a wider array of colors. Johnny himself no longer looks like he was burnt by the sun, and the backgrounds look more detailed. As far as we could tell, the overall character designs and level layouts remained the same. Given that the enemy sprites were already oozing personality, we were happy to see just how close Monster Bash HD decided to stick to the original’s aesthetics. Ironically, the most disappointing character design is that of Johnny himself, and we wouldn’t have complained about a redesign to make our hero look less bland.

Sound

Naturally, the audio sticks close to the tunes featured in the original release as well, albeit in higher quality. We quite enjoyed the in-game music, from the Monster Mash-like melody playing as we read through the story all the way to the music that accompanied the action-packed level sections. The game still sounds like a DOS game from the ‘90s though, and this doesn’t just apply to the OST but also to the sound effects. These didn’t quite make it through the remaster as well, unfortunately. The effects, in particular Johnny’s voice and the screams from the zombie enemies, sound a bit too compressed and could’ve been a lot crisper.

Gameplay

Although Monster Bash HD’s visuals and audio have both received a new coat of paint, we’ve been led to believe that the gameplay experience is as close to the original 1993 release as possible. We haven’t played the original, so we’ll have to trust Emberheart Games on this, but what we can confirm is that Monster Bash HD certainly *feels* like a 2D action platformer from the ’90s, in the best way possible. Johnny’s weapon of choice is a slingshot (which was the de facto accessory for 10-year-olds in the early ‘90s, as evidenced by Bart Simpson and Dennis the Menace) which our protagonist can use to shoot left, right, and at fixed 45-degree angles. This weapon is used to take down enemies, as well as destroy any environmental obstacles that stand in your way. Additionally, Johnny can jump -though not on enemies- and crawl to fit into tiny spaces as required.

The aim in each of the game’s levels is to rescue all the pets that are scattered throughout the environment. You can’t leave a level until every pet is freed, so there is a fair amount of backtracking involved, but nothing too egregious. What helps is that there are secrets and collectibles hidden throughout the levels, encouraging exploration and increasing replayability, though we couldn’t help but feel that these were also there simply to pad the game’s length. Of course, for a game like this, the longevity also depends on the player’s skill, as well as familiarity with the layout of the levels. Despite the game’s childish appearance, Monster Bash HD occasionally presents players with a difficulty spike and you’ll probably have to brute force your way through some of the game’s trickier parts. The game is tough but fair, and we never felt like any of our deaths were particularly dirty.

Although Monster Bash HD does a fairly good job at recreating the feeling of playing through an original platformer from the ‘90s, a fair amount of new content was added to entice players that already own the original, including new secret levels and a level editor that allows players to create and share their own nightmarish environments for Johnny to explore. Additionally, a major change was implemented to make the game easier for newcomers: unlike in the original, where Johnny had a set number of lives, Monster Bash HD lets players continue infinitely from the last checkpoint reached before dying. Every time Johnny dies, the player’s score is reduced instead, so if you want to reach the top of the game’s leaderboard, you’ll need to avoid dying. It’s a good compromise to make the game easier without cheapening the difficulty for those that prefer sticking to the original challenge level.

Conclusion

The additional content and the new ‘game over’ mechanics both make sense for this updated edition of the ‘90s classic as they usher the game into the 21st century without sacrificing the original experience. Monster Bash HD isn’t a revolutionary title by any means, not even when it was released almost 30 years ago, but sometimes it’s nice to return to old-school gameplay and enjoy it for what it is. We’re not going to go as far as to say that Monster Bash HD is a must-have addition to your library, but there is plenty to like here, both for fans of the original and for retro enthusiasts in general.

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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Monster Bash HD - Review, 8.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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