Monster High: 13 Wishes Review
Posted by Jon Wahlgren
Make it stop
Monster High: 13 Wishes is garbage. There's no getting around it. Don't play it, don't buy it. Just don't. Spend your cash on something more worthwhile. Buy a Monster High DVD if you must. Invest heavily in dogecoin if you're determined to do something crazy with your money. Just, not this. Anything but this.
In a nutshell, Monster High: 13 Wishes is a 3D platformer where you spend most of your time endlessly and aimlessly searching for trinkets to open up new stages and collect more trinkets. The game takes place after the Monster High straight-to-disc film of the same name and pretty much recaps that whole movie in a painful five-minute movie that you can't skip right at the beginning. The game's plot audaciously nullifies everything that happened in the movie and makes you do the same stuff, only now you have to actually do it instead of watching creepy deformed teenage monsters do it. Two people can "play" at once — one as a character on screen, the other as an assistant using the Wii Remote's pointer. Off-screen play is forced — you can't not have off-screen play because the second screen doesn't do anything. If you find yourself interacting with this game, you can at least do everyone a solid and not occupy the television with it, to help contain the misery.
Having played more Monster High: 13 Wishes for longer than should be legally allowed, we came up with the following 13 wishes should a genie ever grant us a baker's dozen with the condition that each one centres on this abhorrent excuse for a game. Strange genie, but we'll take any opportunity to air our grievances.
1. We wish the game didn't feel like a tech demo - Presumably Monster High: 13 Wishes exists for the sole reason of being able to plaster the weirdos of Mattel's bratty tweeny-bop goth franchise on a video game box, because whoever ultimately yelled "that's it, we nailed it, make thousands of these!" at the end of development clearly does not care about what's on the disc. 13 Wishes is barely functional as a piece of software and has no redeeming qualities as a piece of entertainment, let alone one asking for $40 to experience. It's as if the team only had time to build the engine, drop in player characters, and then shipped the alpha version.
2. We wish the world wasn't so drawn out - The majority of the game is just swathes of open stretches that take forever to get around, with perhaps three different textures working overtime to cover the world's excessive geometry. There's no need for this much space. Characters are fairly sluggish to begin with, so getting around is already a chore. The last thing this game needs is wide-open spaces with nothing in them but that appears to have been first on the to-do list.
3. We wish the structure wasn't terrible - There is very little direction on what you're supposed to be doing or where you're supposed to be going, which is surprising for a kids' game as they tend to steer you right on through. Each stage has a list of objectives to complete before grabbing the trinket that ends the stage with a pathetic "hooray!" animation that goes on for an awkward length. This list is only accessible when selecting a stage, not when you're actually in it, so you'd better remember the finer details on how many enemies to kill or coins to collect, or whatever.
4. We wish the enemies actually had AI - Every single enemy is braindead. They walk around in circles, completely content with pacing the same dumb little corner of their world, until they may or may not spot you based on whether you enter their line of sight. If they see you, they'll waltz on over and try to bop you before going back to their mindless circling.
5. We wish combat had some kind of friction - Fighting one of these impish jerks is ridiculous. Your character doesn't jump on them, punch them, or even really touch them. You run up to an enemy and do a swirly attack or create a spark that doesn't actually physically connect. So you, like, dance them to death? What?
6. We wish the presentation wasn't so dead - It honestly looks like a Nintendo 64 game. That's a well-worn insult often flung at crap-looking WiiWare games, but here, though, it's no exaggeration. Add a fuzzy filter to these screenshots and you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish it from any of the hojillion other collect-a-thon platformers on that console. Slamming the camera into the wall will cause all sorts of weird texture disappearances. The draw distance of the stage is a tad better, but items and enemies pop in alarmingly close. The Wii U may not have the raw power of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, sure, but, holy moly.
7. We wish the controls felt better - Stiff, unresponsive, barely functional. Ever see how slowly a cat moves when it has one of those strange leash harnesses on, and it can't figure out what to do with itself? That is everyone in the game.
8. We wish mission objectives had variety - Each stage has the same list of objectives. While it's possible to "clear" a level without accomplishing everything on the tally, a certain number of objectives have to be completed across all stages in order to unlock the next set of levels. You'll want to complete a bunch of them in each stage, otherwise you'll have to replay them. See every single other wish for reasons why you don't want to do that.
9. We wish the boss battles were competent - After slogging through a handful of stages, the game throws in a "boss" "fight" that tries really hard to be stupid. One involves teleporting across three platforms while waiting for the giant bug flying overhead to basically dive head-first into one of them. It doesn't target you, it just kinda decided to incapacitate itself on one of them for no reason. So you then teleport over to the appropriate platform and do your best Swayze twirls at it until it blinks out of existence. It would be laughable if it weren't so sad.
10. We wish that the school itself didn't feel like an abandoned warehouse for failed academia - Monster High itself acts as a hub connecting all of the stages together. When not toiling in a level, you can wander around the stupidly massive school full of absolutely nothing but a couple of paintings and flunkies majoring in Inanity. With no hints as to where to go, it took us a solid 15 minutes to even get to the first level because we couldn't find it in the castle — it turned out to be hidden atop some kind of tower overlooking the absurdly long swimming pool behind the school that took a tedious minute just to walk the length. We couldn't see the portal to enter the stage until we had climbed the tower, either, because the game is plagued by horrendous pop-in, so the whole thing was a gamble. Now, do that every time you have to find a new set of stages.
11. We wish the multiplayer wasn't dumb - Player 2 can point a Wii Remote around the screen in an assist mode, able to pick up coins and stun enemies. Somehow, even this works poorly, as the pointer aggressively locks on to targets. It's not like we're looking for surgical precision here, but a little finesse in being able to accurately select what we're pointing at wouldn't be amiss.
12. We wish everyone had their time back - Can you imagine the total man hours that went into developing, manufacturing, distributing, and in the end reviewing this game? It boggles the mind that instead of something productive coming out of all that time, this is what the world ended up with.
13. Our final wish is for you to just not play Monster High: 13 Wishes - It's clear that whoever ultimately had the power to make the game not terrible chose poorly. Not even the most diehard of Monster High fans — ghoulies? — will find much to like here. This is just a bad, bad game that nobody should go near ever.