My daughter Helen loves the Monster High stuff. She has a Monster High doll, she reads the Monster High books, and she dressed up as one of the Monster High girls for Halloween. If you don’t know what any of that means, chances are you don’t have a grade-school girl in your house.
Monster High is a transmedia brand developed by Mattel as way to mix a tongue-in-cheek version of the thrills of classic horror-film tropes with the fun of dress-up dolls like Barbie. If the deluge of Monster High animated shows, novels, and now video games is any indication, many girls love it as much as mine.
Helen’s also a huge fan of the Nintendo DS, so when the chance to review Monster High: Skultimate Roller Maze for the DS came up, she screamed for joy. The moment the game arrived, she jumped in and started playing right away. When I asked her about the game later, she was happy to run me through it and show me the ropes.
Monster High: Skultimate Roller Maze (available for the Wii and the DS) is a fairly standard third-person racing game in which you control one of a team of three Monster High students out to race against other players in what winds up being an open-road version of roller derby. You start out with a limited number of characters and courses available to you, but you can unlock many more as you go.
Each race has three different levels of difficulty, ranging from Spooky to Scarifying, so players of all skill levels can join in the fun. When you start a race, you build a team by choosing three characters. Each comes with their own special effects, animations, powers, and sayings, and you can swap among the teammates at will in the middle of a race by tapping the bumper buttons. You can choose from four different types of races as well: Race (standard series of three-lap races against three opponents), Quick Race (a single three-lap race), Relay (each of your teammates gets to race a single lap in each race), and Timed (your team against the clock).
It would have been nice to have a multiplayer option for this single-player game so you could compete against friends in real time. The Wii version allows up to three players, I’m told, but the DS version lacks any support for that. It’s just you against the machine.
In any case, there’s enough variety here to keep a young girl engaged and coming back for more to see if she can unlock additional characters and courses to play with. Most serious gamers aren’t going to find anything new here, but they’re far from the proper audience anyhow.