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Ben Hornsby Ben Hornsby
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Monster World IV' more like Cool Game III'

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'Monster World IV' is a beautiful little 2D platformer. At the beginning of the game you leave the village that you grew up in. A bunch of townspeople stand around wishing you well. You walk from left to right, headed towards a magical forest.

When you enter the forest you move through about a dozen screens of beautiful, achingly simple level design. Sections of the ground are raised up; you have to jump up over them. Soon little slime guys show up. You hit them with your sword, they make a couple nice sounds, and coins pop out.

I'd talk through these screens jump for jump, if I had the space. They're perfect. After fighting single slimes and then pairs of slimes you reach a fire slime; it takes two hits. That moment when you hit the first fire slime and it doesn't die - man, that's game design. The first fire slime is the heart on 'Monster World IV's' sleeve.

The first dungeon assures you that whoever designed this game definitely played 'Zelda II: The Adventure of Link' (four stars, A+, 100/100, better than 'Ocarina of Time,' etc.), which is the kind of thing I like to be assured of 15 minutes into a videogame.

Jumping around and attacking is nice and simple. The enemies scale up with such a transparent rhythm that it's hard not to smile. The game's Front of the Box Mechanic is that you have a little blue monster following you around. You can summon him to you with the press of a button, where he can be used to allow you to double-jump or solve puzzles. Between dungeons you can feed him nuts that grow on a magic tree in town, but they don't give him new puzzle-solving powers. For the most part they just make him fatter and more annoying.

The puzzles are dumb enough that I probably ought to be putting quotation marks around the word. Throw your little sidekick at a candle, and he'll blow it out. But they're kind of nice, too, because the game never says 'here, solve a puzzle,' and it never makes you unlock the ability to blow out fire. You just kind of end up throwing him at a flame to see what happens, just like you try throwing him at switches in that other dungeon, or calling him to pull you out of the water in that other one.

The puzzles don't matter; the dungeons themselves are the knots, and you never have to untie the same one twice. You have almost the same toolset at the end credits as you did when you pressed start; this is good. It's good in the same way that taking out your bow to shoot another switch on another ceiling in another room of another Zelda dungeon is a geometrical hate crime.

'Monster World IV' is so nice and charming that I don't really have much more to say. It's really pretty, and really cleanly designed, even with a hub town that pops up between stages. It never stops to insult you. The level design sparkles, even the few times it gets a touch too backtracky.

The game was pretty great the year it was made, and it's still pretty great. It might be timeless. And right now you can get in on Xbox Live as part of a package with two other Monster World games, a package that's put together so well that now there's no excuse for all these either downloadable re-releases to keep being so horrible. (Do you hear me, 'Jet Set Radio HD?' Don't be horrible.)

So. Maybe you like colors, jumping and videogames; maybe you should play this game. 

three stars (out of four)

Ben Hornsby is scared to play Diablo III.'


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