WAR OF THE MONSTERS, PlayStation 2, $39.99, Sony.
Godzilla, in his '50s form, isn't all that scary now. But at the time, it was pretty exciting stuff, in spite of the fact that he mostly stomped on cities made of cardboard.
Fast-forward half a century though, and he's actually a pretty exciting monster-guy. At least in the Sony "War of the Monsters" videogame for PlayStation 2.
It's a simple story and a seemingly simple game. So it's kind of difficult to explain how challenging it is or why you might find yourself returning to it again and again.
Aliens have attacked Earth and are pretty much trashing it when the planet strikes back with a secret weapon that smashes the alien ships. It looks like a slam dunk for the good guys, until fuel leaking from the space ships start turning common Earth creatures into combative gargantuan monsters.
There are eight monsters, as well as two others that can be unlocked as you play. And your job is, quite simply, to smash them. No plot, just a good old-fashioned fight. You have at your disposal light and heavy attacks, as well as two special attacks unique to each monster. The thing is, you have to figure out how to string it all together to knock out your opponent, so you have to learn to do advanced moves. And you can't just hammer on the controls and wear them down. It takes strategy — especially when you're fighting more than one of the monsters at a time.
You also have an interactive setting in which to stage your battles and you can use that to your advantage, picking up cars and throwing them, for instance, or climbing buildings to get away.
It's a game with a good use of artificial intelligence, and the other monsters and the environment itself respond immediately to whatever you do. Knock over a building and it falls in realistic-looking chunks of rubble. As walls come down, you can see the offices inside. The graphics, combined with the interactivity, are the game's real strength.
Games are played in one of three modes. You can do free-for-all mode, endurance or adventure mode. Endurance was my personal favorite, because I could take on the monsters one at a time, defeating one before moving on to the other. The goal is to see how far you can go before you lose the battle.
Adventure is the game's single-player version and also features boss battles. And free-for-all is exactly what it sounds like.
The monsters are a nice mix of old favorites like the Godzilla look-alike and new creatures, including my personal favorite named Kineticlops. He's a giant eyeball floating in a field of energy. And he's mean. He's also the best, graphically, that I've seen in a videogame this year.
The sound effects are appropriate, though I found them distracting at times. How many times can you hear the crowd scream when you walk on them?
There's also a multiple-player version, though I didn't take it for a run. But a friend of mine assures me it's extremely well-done, with an adaptable split screen that merges when you get close enough to fight.