Hollywood Monsters is a traditional type of point-and-click adventure game, with no dying, no timed puzzles, lots of inventory items, and lots of locations. Not only that, but it is cartoon-style animation and you get to play as two different characters. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, maybe ...
You start the game playing as Sue Bergman, Quill reporter. You are assigned to cover the annual Hollywood Monsters award after-party at the mansion of movie mogul Otto Hannover. You must solve puzzles to dig up some dirt on the monsters, and ultimately you stumble upon some sort of evil plot and are kidnapped by the as-yet-unknown bad guys. The Quill's editor then sends reporter Ron Ashman to find out why Sue never turned up the next morning, and you play nearly all of the remainder of the game as Ron. Turns out that Frankenstein knew too much, and he was cut up into several pieces. His body parts were hidden inside the award statues (the "Oscars," if you will), and you must recover all of Frank's body parts. The story is great - it's entertaining as can be, and you get to chat with all of the Hollywood movie monster greats - Dracula, the Werewolf, the Mummy, and several others.
The graphics are all quite well-done, too. The game is pure 2D still scenery with the characters and items on top, and occasional moving creatures create a sense of aliveness in the various locales. Care was obviously lavished on dreaming up the ideas and rendering the artwork. I'll let the screenshots speak for themselves.
However, that is about where the good stuff ends. The first part of the game, where you are playing as Sue, is really promising. You always have a pretty clear indication of what to do or what you need to accomplish a specific task and how to go about getting it. She doesn't have very many locations available to her, so there's not a lot of traipsing back and forth.
But when you play as Ron, you very quickly end up overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of inventory items and locations, and you must travel back and forth continuously to all of these places in order to use items from one place in solving a puzzle in another place. And the inventory item uses are worthy contenders for the "Huh?" hall of fame. Sometimes you must combine two or more items from two or more different locations to get another new item that you still can't figure out how to use. There are seven or eight major locations, and while some of these comprise only two or three screens, others have upwards of twenty. This is the kind of game where, in frustration, you wind up trying every inventory item on every other inventory item, everything and everyone onscreen in every location, and with every command (use, look, talk, give, etc.) at your disposal. And this is an unbelievably daunting task given the almost infinite number of possibilities.
Also, there were several puzzles of the "guess what the game designer had in mind" variety. You know the kind - the ones that you can only solve by sheer luck or by walkthrough because nobody in the whole wide world would ever figure out the puzzle premise on his/her own.
Luckily, the developers included the walkthrough right on the game disk. Guess what I wound up doing? That's right, using the walkthrough for every move I made. But how fun is that? Not very. Despite this, it still took me at least 20 hours to finish the game. I bet it would have taken until the end of time without that walkthrough.
On top of all of that, there were big chunks of dialogue throughout the game that were never translated to English. Including the entire (fairly long) ending cutscene, which was a pisser and a half. Needless to say, the Spanish parts did not do anything to dilute my general sense of cluelessness or add to my gaming experience.
It's obvious that a lot of hard work went into Hollywood Monsters, and the quality is definitely there in many areas.
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