- Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, Wii, Wii U, 3DS
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Little Orbit
- Developer: Torus Games
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.littleorbit.com/monster-high-new-ghoul-in-school.html
- Game code provided by the publisher
No, it’s not going to drag you away from Call of Duty or FIFA, but stop being silly; it’s not supposed to. As a parent or guardian, it’s your mission to give your little ones games they’re interested in while ensuring they don’t end up with a duffer. As reviewers, it’s our mission to help you avoid the bad ones without having to pay for them and learn the hard way. Now, hold our collective metaphorical hand while we give you a tour of Monster High: New Ghoul In School.
It’s not really got anything to do with the TV movie of the same name (okay, that’s “at” school, but whatever). Whereas the new ghoul in the movie was Frankie Stein, the new ghoul in the game is… you! Or whichever one of your little monsters is playing it. The first thing to do is create your character. Choose your monster type, clothes, colour, and hairstyle to create a brand new student. There’s no option to make a boy (or would that be booy?) but, to be fair, that would ruin the pun in the subtitle. And, oh boy, does this game like puns. It stays admirably close to the source material wherever possible, and that includes a near-constant barrage of plays on words. For your sanity and ours, we won’t give a list of examples.
With your new ghoul created, the customisation has really only just begun. As you progress you’ll find ways to change your hairstyle and even monster type (ghosts float above the ground, gargoyles have wings, cats have tails, etc) should you change your mind later on – and, through your ‘icoffin’, you’ll have access to the Monstore (sorry, it was impossible to avoid the puns for long) where a veritable army of clothes and accessories are unlocked for purchase as you play. That’s what you’ll want to collect the randomly strewn gigantic rotating coins for, you see.
So, is it just aimless wandering around in the materialistic pursuit of cash so you can buy more Stuff? No, not at all (well, maybe a little). There’s a chunky script which drives a story that, to be honest, is probably better than any of those in the movies or episodes. Okay, that’s not terribly difficult, but still. When your ghoul first arrives at Monster High it’s just normal stuff; at least, as normal as a school full of vampires, ghosts, animalistic monsters and so on can be. You’ll join in with things like the school council, the comic book club, and the Fearleading (sorry) team. Soon enough though it becomes clear that Something Is Happening, and it is of course up to your ghoul to Save The Day.
No matter where you are in the story, gameplay boils down to simplistic fetch quests and minigames. Most of your time will be spent running to a particular person to speak with them, then running to a particular room to pick up a particular number of particular collectibles, then heading to another person for your next objective, or some similar riff on this limited repertoire. The robotics club involves a simple ‘find the correct path along the rails’ puzzle, while fearleading involves a recurring rhythm/memory minigame which is fair enough to avoid frustrating younger gamers. On the face of it, though, there’s not much to hold a child’s attention here.
New Ghoul In School was clearly made on what may kindly be referred to as a ‘tight’ budget – but, all credit to Torus Games, they’ve made extremely good use of it. Visually, it’s an extremely good match for the show, and you’d be surprised how many kids’ games fall at such a basic hurdle. Each and every character looks exactly like they should, being immediately recognisable. They all have the proper actors, too (or otherwise have people doing flawless impressions). The colours are bright and garish – but then, that’s exactly how they’re supposed to be. Environments have been carefully designed to match the series, too. Overall, exploring familiar halls and rooms while talking to their favourite characters will help your littleun feel like they’re really wandering around Monster High.
So, the basic gameplay is offset by a very strong atmosphere. That’s not to say that things are flawless, though. For example, this is one of those games where, almost at random, some speech is fully voiced while other parts are on-screen only. It certainly needs a strong reader to get the most out of the script. Oddly, when the script is being acted, what appears on screen won’t always match exactly what’s being spoken. At one point, Lagoona (one of the main characters) delivers an entire set of lines that bear no resemblance whatsoever to what appears on-screen! Somebody somewhere didn’t get given the final draft of the script in time…
Importantly, though, the developers clearly know how to make a game that is accessible without being patronising. The arrow permanently stuck to your feet ensures that you never get lost in the halls on the way to your next objective, while the tasks you’re given require a little thought and/or exploration without getting you stuck on the way to the next point in the story. Once the story is over (which will probably be well within a week) there’s not much to do beyond sweep the school for collectibles and hoover up more coins for the seemingly endless parade of clothes and accessories. It just might hook a Monster High fan in for a little extra school time, though – although it’s a bit creaky, this is a kids’ licence done right.