The premise of Monster Madness is as old as videogames, and I would have thought they'd have worked out the kinks by now. Players -- as many as four at the same time -- run around a television screen-sized arena filled with monsters. Cluttered around the arena are household objects like chairs and vases (if the setting is a home), or car tires and picnic tables (if it's somewhere in suburban sprawl). These objects can be picked up and thrown or swung by players and zombies, and the result should be an onscreen brawl.
In reality, all of the objects in Monster Madness's levels jostle around like plastic balls in a child's play pool. Motorcycles can be kicked ahead of me like soccer balls. Hibachis skate ahead of me like ripples in a pond. The monsters themselves are barely visible -- partly because everything onscreen is so small, and partly because the monsters have been designed with the same, slightly groovy cartoon appearance that distinguishes the players' characters. The result is a screen full of hectic monotony.
"Stop that!" One of the game's characters yells to monsters as they bombard him with green goo. I understand his frustration. In the midst of a world full of malfunctioning physics, Monster Madness wants me to run around trying to collect spare parts. These parts lie scattered around the arenas, usually in hard-to-reach places. And so the game becomes less about killing monsters and more about jumping from rooftop to rooftop, car hood to car hood, like a giant game of Don't Touch the Ground. Killing monsters quickly becomes the last thing I'm trying to accomplish.
THE GOOD: The game's claim of letting players use everything for a weapon is almost true. At one point I grabbed a pair of rolled-up newspapers. "May the pain be with you," my character shouted as he waved them in front of an explosive zombie's face just before the zombie exploded and killed us both.
THE BAD: Monster Madness not only features some wretched voice acting -- imagine old ladies trying to sound like what they wish little kids sounded like -- but it also has some of videogaming's worst sound editing. Each time I collect an item of junk, the game emits a corresponding tinkle of sound: metal for nails, a rip of rubber for duct tape. These pile up on each other while I'm collecting the objects quickly, punctuating the game's discount Danny Elfman soundtrack with a ridiculous smorgasbord of overlapping noises and dialogue.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Why bother saving the suburbs when they're only full of featherweight household furnishings and brawlers with bad voice acting?