Before I dive into this article, let me briefly explain what I mean by "Underrated Review". I tend to play a rather eclectic mix of games that spans many genres, eras, target age groups, etc. As I discussed in my previous article, I just love experiencing games. All of them....well, most of them! During this wild journey, I sometimes run across games that are surprisingly really good that have sadly been overlooked for one reason or another. So that's where these reviews come in. They're not necessarily reviews in the traditional sense though. I don't really plan on scoring a game here or dissecting every little detail. Instead, I'm going to try and explore what makes it a cool and playable game and avoid nit-picking it. I might even try to figure out why it's been overlooked, who knows. Consider this The Island of Misfit Toys....but for games. So...let's begin!
Umm....A Muppet Game, Seriously, Dude?
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. I can even hear you groaning over there. Now that you have that out of your system, bear with me for a minute. Actually, let me ask you a serious question real quick. Do you like late '90s / early '00s style 3D platformer / collectathons? I'm talking games like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, etc. You do? Great! You'll like this game....maybe. If you don't like those games, then you probably won't like this game, unless you really like the Muppets.
Let me be clear in that this game is NOT as good as the games I just mentioned. So no, it's not better than Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. But, just like a ton of other games released in the same era, it's very similar to those aforementioned titles. And for some reason, after playing this one, it stood out. Even though I played through it as a 34 year old male some 15-ish years after it was released. If I had to pick one game that it felt the most similar to, I'd probably say this one:
Gex: Enter the Gecko was actually my first Gex game. I used to play the original Gex on the 3DO that was set up at my local Wal-Mart and loved it. I never ran across it after I purchased my Saturn and PS1 (though I've since purchased it for multiple platforms), but I saved up and purchased Gex: Enter the Gecko when it first came out. I didn't have an N64 at the time, so this was really my first foray into 3D platforming...I think. I had Tomb Raider on the Saturn, so that's sort of close, I suppose. But this was a cartoony, very Super Mario 64-esque game. And it was awesome.
I had heard good things about Muppet Monster Adventure and knew it was a 3D platformer, but I just wasn't sure about it. Although I just talked about much I enjoyed Gex: Enter the Gecko, I much prefer the N64 for my early 3D platformer gaming, what with the amazing Rare games and all. Yeah, I know Gex 64 exists, but let's ignore that minor detail for now :)
ANYWAYS, I finally gave this game a go a few weeks ago and I was immediately hooked. The first thing I noticed is how well the game runs. The framerate was very good for a PS1 game of this nature. And it actually held up the entire game. There were a few very minor framerate hits, but nothing like Banjo-Tooie (which was an awesome game, but so difficult for me to play on the N64).
The story is a typical Muppet story...I guess. I don't really know. I hadn't thought about the Muppets in a LONG time before playing this game. The general gist of it is some of the main characters (i.e. Kermit, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, etc.) have been turned into monsters and it's up to Kermit's nephew, Robin, to save them! But for some reason, he also inherited these wacky monster abilities, essentially one for each Muppet you need to save. It's really just an excuse to give him abilities like climbing certain objects, gliding through the air, diving underwater, etc.
The levels are fairly straightforward with some very basic puzzles and lots of platforming. They definitely ease you into things and I thought maybe the game was going to be too easy....even for a guy who likes easy games. While it was overall a pretty easy game, it definitely had some surprisingly difficult segments. Some of it was from tricky platforming sections, but there were also some annoying enemies. For the most part, the enemies were reused throughout the game, just slightly changing in appearance to fit the level theme. But some of those enemies were kinda cheap and thus, annoying.
But that was all okay because I welcomed the challenge. You start with 3 lives, I think, but there's really no penalty for losing them all. Sure, you get a Game Over screen and your ego takes a bit of a hit, but you start right back where you left off, albeit at the beginning of the level. And that reminds me of one of my favorite things about this game.
YOU BASICALLY NEVER LOSE PROGRESS!!!
What an amazing concept, right? Don't get me wrong, I love being challenged in games...sometimes. But other times I want to progress through the game and experience the gameplay. And in a collectathon, I don't want to have to RE-COLLECT a bunch of junk just because of a cheap enemy or my slippery digits. Every time you pick up a collectable, the game remembers it. As long as you save your game at the end of the level, you will never have to collect that thing-a-ma-wicky again. Even if you lose all of your lives, get the Game Over screen, you can still continue and it will remember what you've collected....just remember to save (which you can do before you even retry the level you died in). I'm sure this type of mechanic was implemented to help assist the target audience (i.e. gamers about 30 years my junior), but I'll take it.
I remember being annoyed at Banjo-Kazooie on the N64 where the music notes would reset every time you left a level. But...but...I had 99 of them!! Then on the Xbox Live Arcade version, the game would remember which ones you picked up. Well, Muppet Monster Adventure had that figured out long before Microsoft and Rare did it. So take THAT, you non-believers!
The general flow of the game is you play through three platforming levels, then fight a boss. The boss fights were another nice surprise as they're all quite different from one another. They weren't particularly challenging, with the exception of one that was actually more of a platforming / racing level than a true boss level. I really struggled with that one and it was one of the very few moments that your progress is NOT preserved. For this boss, you had to make it through three distinct segments of a course and I could easily get to the third one, but then I kept dying on one of the first obstacles. The problem is, that level was ONE HIT KILLS and you had to start allllllllll the way over. My main issue with this is the first two segments were absolute JOKES. I could've probably gotten through them with my eyes closed. Okay, not really, but they were significantly easier than the final segment. That was the only part of the game that mildly frustrated me, so other than that, it was an enjoyable experience all the way through.
So you have some nice platforming, just enough difficulty to keep you on your toes, interesting abilities, a silky smooth framerate (for the hardware), multiple unique bosses, some above average music (forgot to mention that), and lots of levels to explore. Oh, and I guess I should also say there's a ton of stuff to collect! Your main item to collect is "evil energy" (i.e. stars), which is essentially the same as music notes in Banjo-Kazooie and is required to open new levels. Some levels had HUNDREDS of these to find, although that's a little skewed since different colored stars that would add more than one to the total. But still, there's a lot of stuff to collect. You're constantly finding stars sitting around, busting open containers (which require certain attacks), and using your abilities to find little nooks with more stuff.
The game took me 9 hours and 44 minutes to achieve 99% completion. Why didn't I get that last 1%? There are actually three reasons:
- I'm fairly certain three of the collectibles glitched out on me. I know one of them HAD to because it was a small level and I scoured it MULTIPLE times and could not find the final star. I mean, I looked EVERYWHERE.
- I legitimately couldn't figure out how to find at least one star. I could see it, but I could not figure out how to reach it. So that one's on me.
- Due to the previous two reasons, I opted to not re-play a couple of levels to find the remaining stuff.
So yeah, if you want 100%-ish completion, it'll take you about 10 hours. I'd say that's pretty good for a budget kids game.
Alright, Let's Wrap This Up
I wasn't sure how this article would go and I sort of just typed things out with my gut. That's resulted in a long-winded post with a lot of rambling and very little detail on what the game is actually like. I'll improve upon this in the future, but for now, I'm going to lay down the ever-popular pros / cons breakdown for ya.
- Super smooth framerate (for the hardware)
- Just enough challenge to keep things interesting (while still being an easy game)
- Lots of things to collect
- Multiple context-sensitive abilities (a la Conker's Bad Fur Day), of which you have 3 per level
- Fitting soundtrack
- Interesting and varied bosses
- Progress is (almost) always kept
- Good amount of content (nearly 10 hours for 99% completion)
- Reasonable load times for PS1
- Quite a few minigames
- Weak story (this is a borderline con since I don't need a great story for this genre, but whatever)
- Some cheap and annoying enemies (but at least they kept things interesting)
- A few collectable glitches
- Some wonky controls, especially when running
One final note is that the game isn't super common, which has driven the price up a smidge. I almost included this as a con, but it's really not the game's fault. I don't think it's had a digital release, so you're limited to the PS1 release if you want to play it. It's available on eBay and will generally run you $20+ if you want a complete copy. Personally, I'm glad I finally played it, but given its simplicity and relative lack of replay value, it's tough to recommend paying more than $15 or so. It's a fun ride, but not something you'll want to revisit unless you have nostalgic ties to it.