I do game reviews for a kids’ website most of the time. One of the things that helps me get a solid perspective on things is having my 11-year-old son play games with me. Recently we took a stab at Atari’s new Godzilla game, Godzilla Unleashed, for PS2 and Wii. I was a bit guarded at first, because I’d been following the game for a while and had posted some early gameplay videos that, to be charitable, were ugly.
“Hey, it’s for PS2, the Wii version is probably cleaner,” I thought. Plus, I’m a sucker for stomping things flat as a giant monster so hopes were high.
Step 1: Toss game into Wii, turn everything on, sit on couch and brace for impact.
Step 2: ?
Step 3: Suck. No, not me, the game. Let’s skirt around the actual gameplay for a minute, shall we?
The main story of Godzilla Unleashed is that asteroids have pelted Monster Island, damaging the force fields that imprison all the monsters. At the same time, alien monsters are arriving, more monsters are rising from the bowels of the Earth, giant crystals are appearing, and soon enough the military gets its own giant monsters in the mix.
To start things off, there are “cut scenes” to introduce the game and give some context to what I’ll be kind enough to call levels. These scenes are hand-drawn stills of a military command center that are poorly matched up with some dialogue phoned-in by voice actors who were probably under heavy medication to suppress any hint of enthusiasm, joy or talent.
“Well, ouch. But hey, the game’s probably fun, and there’s a two-player mode so I can beat my son senseless with Godzilla,” I thought, realizing with dread that I was starting to dig deep into the barrel to find fun.
Hunt, hunt, hunt…. No sign of the multiplayer option.
“Hmmm…OK, well we’ll try the main game. OHGODMYEYES!!!”
The Wii version is not cleaner.
The first level, in which you play as Godzilla, sets you to the task of freeing all the friendly monsters, smashing some human stuff and fleeing the island. Not that it tells you any of this, mind you. You’re left to decipher the goal of each level from a vague statement at the start and a complete lack of guidance once you’re dropped into the free-roaming environment. Heck, there isn’t even any sort of sense of unity with the monsters; they just wander around and randomly attack things! But at least you can smash up some military stuff real good, right?
Godzilla and the rest of the monsters seem to have been equipped with giant padded boxing gloves of the invisible variety. They wear them on their feet for their kick attacks, too. And Godzilla’s much-feared radioactive breath attack? About as damaging as a well-spewed torrent of vitriolic insults. There are a few buildings you can stomp flat by walking on them, but the rest require so much abuse to crush that it feels futile. Not only that, but the graphics are so poor that there’s no real sense of Godzilla’s size, nor that of the rest of the crew. Instead of getting a sense of controlling a massive stomping beast, it feels like you’re beating up LEGO. Oh, and somehow everything can jump about 20 city blocks in a single bound! Not only does it feel ludicrous, it’s the only effective way to move the lumbering gits around without tripping up on nigh-invulnerable buildings.
Another deep breath.
After two tries, I was able to figure out that all you have to do to beat the first level is walk into the ocean. You score extra points if you smash stuff and free monsters, but all that does is affect an end-of-level readout showing which of the four monster teams is winning the battles on Earth. In fact, you can beat entire levels without touching a single button! The only motivation to get you to slog through awkward battles with feeble attacks and poor graphics is to bring it home for your team. Right….
But kids might like it anyway, because smashing stuff is a validating game concept in and of itself, right?
My son’s first impression of the game: “It sounds like donkeys.”
Take two: “Dad, can I pee on this game?”
Strike three: “I, uh, I need to be somewhere else,” as he leaves the room.
So there you go, Godzilla Unleashed for the Nintendo Wii. I’ll take a leap of faith and suggest that the PS2 version is basically a tweak of the same build and should be avoided with equal fervor.
One final note, just for the sake of disclosure: I didn’t actually play all the way through this game. After about three levels I couldn’t take it anymore and put the controller down. At no point was I able to locate any way to access the multiplayer gameplay, and after experiencing the brow-furrowing confusion that was a battle with another monster, I decided that it simply wasn’t worth it. No amount of multiplayer bliss could validate this beast.
- Score: 2.7
- The large selection of classic characters gives it some play value for hardcore Godzilla fans who can put up with the constant eye-poking.
— Adrian Estergaard