Monster High Skultimate Roller Maze
System(s): Nintendo Wii (also available for Nintendo DS)
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Majesco (Little Orbit)
ESRB Rating: Everyone (mild cartoon violence)
There’s this thing called Monster High. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps if, like me, you have a daughter ’round about the age of nine, you may even know the names of some of these Monster High girls. They’re not hard to figure out, actually, as most are just monster puns or derivations of well known monster names. I mean, thank God that Deuce fellow has Medusa’s hair, or that would’ve been an odd conversation when my daughter asked what his name meant.
Although I know some names, I’m not sure from where these Monster High kids came. I don’t recall there being a movie or a cartoon series. Were they books? I just know there are dolls and video games. That means the games are product tie-ins, and those are generally pretty awful. I expected the same from Monster High Skultimate Roller Maze. It does miss many opportunities and it does feel incomplete, but it’s otherwise not a bad little race game.
On Your Mark
There’s not much to describe when it comes to gameplay here. Skultimate Roller Maze is a kart racer, albeit on roller skates. And don’t worry, moms and dads; although we have to assume the Monster High characters are all dead—they being vampires, zombies and all—they do wear the appropriate safety gear. I can’t imagine a teenaged girl would ever want to wear a helmet, let alone an immortal teenaged girl, but safety is cool, right, Ad Council? Skate responsibly. Professional skaters on a closed course.
Anyway, there are six tracks on which to race. A couple of the tracks are quite clever and could fit it in well amongst the more popular cart racing games. However, the fact that there are only six means players will get bored with them fairly quickly. Little Orbit was wise to counter this with twelve Monster High characters you can unlock. Do you think my daughter cared how many times she had to skate across Skull Shore or wherever in order to unlock all twelve? No. She didn’t care at all.
Unfortunately, that’s all there is to unlock. You’ve got twelve skaters, and that’s it. There are no additional outfits, no new skates with custom abilities, no accessories. It’s as if Little Orbit lost track of the target audience midway through development. It’s a huge missed opportunity.
The actual races, however, are a bit more engaging than I would’ve imagined. A couple tracks are engaging, as I mentioned, and the background designs are quite fun, if somewhat rudimentary. The animation itself is stiff, but Little Orbit was tasked with crating human motion here, not simply heads turning inside of carts. The end results are fine.
There are also some unique elements that require a bit of tween-level strategy. Not all power-ups work to your advantage (although the ones that do are quite clever, especially the bats that pick you up and carry you ahead at greater speeds), and a stamina meter means you’ll need to cycle through your team members in order to keep up the pace. I guess that’s what they mean when they say the game promotes teamwork.
And yet, they missed an opportunity here. When you set up your three racers, their individual skills don’t matter; each racer adopts the skills of the lead racer. I’d like it better if you could use your fastest skater on the straightaways then switch to a balanced skater on the turns, but so be it.
There are a total of four gameplay modes: Race (tournament), Relay (tournament with different racers tagged in on laps instead of at will), Quick Race (because who has time for a tournament) and Timed (a good way to practice your skating without having to deal with other people). All but Timed highlight another problem with the game…only three people can race at a time.
Considering just about every other racing game available allows for four racers at once, if you’re having a party and want to keep everyone entertained, Monster High Skultimate Roller Maze may not be the game you reach for.
Or maybe it will. Despite having Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed for Wii U in our collection, my daughter still reaches for Monster High Skultimate Roller Maze when playing video games with her friends. Why? Because they all like Monster High. It’s that simple. In all honesty, I find the Monster High kids less annoying than those Sonic characters, but I’ll take All Stars Racing because there’s just so much more to it.
Monster High Skultimate Roller Maze missed that opportunity, as they could’ve done more with this game than they did. But what’s there is good enough to entertain its target audience, and considering how many toy/movie tie-in games can’t even do that, Little Orbit deserves some credit.