The gargantuan success of the DS and subsequently the DSi has meant that the little handheld has become a prime device for games based on children’s television and film. The latest in the list of games targeting this audience has arrived on DSiWare, Monster Buster Club. Does this collection of mini games bring excitement for fans of the show, or get busted for its monstrous mistakes?
The storyline in Monster Buster Club is that evil aliens are invading and that only your club can stop them. It’s typical kids TV fair, but it is a pity that this story isn’t actually presented as an adventure with any sense of progression. This is a collection of nine mini games and you simply select which one you want to play, in any order you choose; there is no sense of narrative or story. This game does allow you to interact with the characters by choosing to play as any of the four main members of the club. In most scenarios you see the character on screen, play as them directly or play using their specific vehicles. The lack of story-line is disappointing, but at least fans of the show can enjoy seeing the characters on their DSi.
So what of the mini-games themselves? We’ll start with the less action orientated games, and first on the list is Mind Reader. You goal is to push a sphere on the bottom screen to hit a red robot at the top of the upper screen, done simply with a flick of the stylus. You need to hit the robot six times, and after a couple of hits blue robots arrive to block your shots. If you get zapped six times, you lose. This game works just fine, but each attempt will only last about 30 seconds, so it’s over very quickly. Next is Ready to Launch, in which the premise is that you are fixing a rocket. The top screen shows which part to construct while the touch screen shows a conveyor belt of broken parts; your job is drag the correct part onto the item on the conveyor belt as quickly as possible. It’s not exactly difficult puzzling, and we suspect only the youngest children will experience any sense of challenge. Statue of Limitations is the last of the easy-going mini-games. Bizarrely, there is a killer statue walking towards you on the top screen and your job is the release pigeons and guide their direction in order for them to, ahem, relieve themselves on the statue. You control the pigeons by tapping on arrows, and the whole experience is a strange combination of quirky and boring at the same time.
The remaining six games take the level of intensity up a notch. There are two cannon shooting games, The Visitors and School Invasion, and both involve tapping on the touch screen to fire cannons at enemies from a top-down view. The Visitors is a simple case of shooting at aliens on hover cars for 60 seconds and it’s fairly bland to play. In School Invasion you have three cannons but you need to tap on them to both charge up the beam and set the direction of fire. You have giant lobsters on the attack and managing both the charge and direction of your cannons keeps you busy, making this one of the more enjoyable games. Then there's Bugaboos, which is the simplest game to control; bugs attack on the touch screen and you shoot them by tapping on them, it’s as simple as that. Tapping can get frenzied but it’s not particularly exciting, and you may as a result get bored quickly.
Next up is Monster Buster Race, which plays with a top-down view. You drive a car along the road for three minutes while avoiding obstacles such as road blocks, other cars and UFOs dropping bombs. Playing with the D-pad makes this quite challenging, whereas dragging the car with the stylus means you can move a lot quicker. Despite the fact you’re not actually racing this can be quite compulsive until you survive the three minutes, at which point you may have had enough. The End of Everything is a sort of 3D pong, where you move a bat with the stylus to return the ball back to the computer player. It’s ok, but quite difficult to beat, mainly because your viewpoint is behind your bat and it can be difficult to judge where the ball is going to hit. Last but not least is Air Strike, which is a classic 2D shoot-em-up. It’s a kid version of titles such as Metal Torrent or Star Soldier R. It is a heck of a lot easier than these titles as you’re only dealing with one or two enemies at a time, but while played with the D-pad this is a fun game that children may enjoy.
So there are quite a few different kinds of mini-games and, overall, they provide a decent diversion over short bursts of time. The game allows up to three profiles to be set-up so that a few members of the family can play and set their own high scores. Local leaderboards bring some familial competitiveness, though there is no online functionality. Visually, the games are decent by DSiWare standards. The colours are bright, sprites are crisp enough so that you can clearly see what you are doing, and overall it is pleasing on the eye. Sound is another matter as the music is truly awful, an irritating little ditty that will repeat over and over again with only subtle variations; it also bears no resemblance to the music from the TV show. If aliens were actually invading earth they could do worse than play this looping music over loud-speakers, and we’re pretty sure that would sap the will of even the pluckiest of Monster Busters.
Monster Buster Club is clearly targeting two distinct audiences; young children, and fans of the TV show. It’s not a monstrous failure by any means, and aficionados of the TV show may enjoy being a member of the Buster’s club. The mini-games on offer are nothing special, with a couple being a disappointment while the rest fare better. The difficulty, in most cases, leans towards the easy side in order to keep things accessible for younger players. If you fall into one of the audience categories mentioned then this may be worth consideration. If you don’t, the low difficulty, awful music and premium price tag are all factors to bear in mind.