Monster in My Pocket – NES
Release Date (NA): January 1992
Genre: Beat ’em up
Rating: 5 out of 10
Halloween snuck up on me this year, but right here at the wire I dug out an old Nintendo game that I enjoyed as a child but hadn’t yet taken the time to review: Monster in My Pocket. Monster in My Pocket started off as a toy franchise that branched out into comics, trading cards, and even an animated one-off. I actually don’t remember any of that stuff, but I do remember the little toys. A lot of these little critters were my first introduction to certain monsters and mythological creatures, especially more unusual ones like the Tengu, Windigo, Catoplebus, and Coatlicue. My fondness for these little figures probably got my expectations a little too high for the video game.
Monster in My Pocket has some sort of plot going on – I guess some monsters are good and others are bad. The player gets to choose between playing through the game as either the Vampire or the Monster (or 2 players can play co-op with both) and goes up against a respectable cast of characters from the first series of toys. Gameplay is pretty basic. Characters can punch, jump, crouch, and double jump. Most enemies go down with a single hit, but a few take 2 or 3, and the bosses can withstand quite a beating. There are some very basic platforming elements but not so much that I’d consider it a “platforming game.” There are only a few holes to fall in and no difficult jumping sequences. The point is to stay alive in the face of ever-increasing hordes of other miniature monsters.
In fact, the “miniature” aspect is fairly prevalent from the beginning, with the creatures climbing around a dining room table or kitchen. Somehow this concept gets lost in the last couple of levels, and we’re just left with generic and out of place backgrounds, like a sewer, something vaguely oriental, and then the “castle” which is just a lot of stone backgrounds. The player can pick up and throw a couple of random items, but I think the developers forgot about this feature midway through. There really isn’t much to do but jump around and kill bad guys.
The most striking thing about Monster in My Pocket is how Konami has apparently recycled the music and sound effects from TMNT II. I first noticed that the music sounded similar to the Turtles sequel but the more I played the more I realized that it wasn’t just similar, it was identical! The sound effects are slim, though I can pinpoint many as distinct TMNT II sounds, most notably the weird groan used after a boss defeat (used for the same purpose in TMNT II as well). The HUD also bears slight resemblance, leading me to believe that TMNT II’s coding was stripped to its core and overlain with different sprites and backgrounds.
Now if Monster in My Pocket were just a clone of TMNT II we might be talking about a fun if unoriginal game. However, the perspective is switched to bi-directional movement (backwards and forwards) rather than the entire open plane available to the turtles. Monsters also lacks the high level of variety; one stage plays out pretty much like the next and the bosses are the only standouts. It’s the sort of game that feels like it’s going to pick up steam after “one more level” yet never does. It’s a shame that Konami didn’t care to put much effort into it though. Had the characters been given some type of inventory system, even just a couple of items or a few different weapons to use, and the platforming aspects had been better fleshed out, we might’ve had something much more satisfying. As it is, Monster in My Pocket is short, repetitive, and more than a little uninspired.
Graphically, it does a decent job of replicating the look of the tiny toys and although not nearly the best of what the NES has to offer, they do have a solid, retro feel to them. Someone cared about this game at some point as evidenced by the detail given to each creature. If you’re familiar with the old figures, you’ll be able to recognize them immediately within the game.
I wish I had something more to say; hell, I wish I had something better to say about Monster in My Pocket. Unfortunately, it seems like this was just a cheap cash-grab like so many other toy tie-ins. As the game stands it’s not that bad. There’s nothing inherently wrong with or broken about the gameplay, it’s just kind of bland and a little too basic for 1992. You might want to pick this up for a few bucks for nostalgic reasons, just keep in mind that it is a decidedly average piece of work.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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