From the pages of the past, games of yesteryear – The Movie Monster Game

This game was a lot of great fun. Lots of monsters to pick from, city sandboxes to smash up, and objective-based scenarios coupled with a score system challenged players to outdo their previous movie moments in bigger, better ways.

In 1981, Automated Simulations (which would later become known as Epyx), released the tactical monster sim, Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!.

It turned tiled cities into turn-based buffets for whatever monster you picked — or created — as you attempted to take on the world’s greatest traffic jams with whatever your claws, breath, lasers, or slime trail could muster.

The movie monster genre didn’t go viral after that game, but it had its fans, and about five years later, Epyx came out with its action packed spiritual successor in 1986 — The Movie Monster Game.

Gone was the tactical, turn-based, stuff. Building your own monster was also dropped so you didn’t get to roll your own walking WMD like in Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!. But what it did keep were a pick of famous cities around the world, now rendered in isometric pixeliciousness, complete with nicely rendered representations of their most famous landmarks.

Also included were the monsters — including a licensed Godzilla for real wrecking power. Others included:

  • Mr. Meringue – imagine the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man but made of meringue. He blasts bad guys and buildings with globs of meringue, but isn’t very tough endurance-wise. Also, he floats in water. And he’ll also dissolve in it.
  • Sphectra – Hate wasps? Sphectra’s the giant mega-sized version of one. A sonic weapon allows this giant bug to shake targets into shattered wreckage, but Sphectra’s also got a glass jaw. Water is absolutely deadly to this bug, but Sphectra is the fastest one — and flies along with slowly regenerating damage.
  • The Glog – is really the “Blob” monster. He can take punishment, recover damage faster than Godzilla can, but he’s kind of slow and doesn’t have a lot of punch. But everything he touches, he destroys. He’s the Ivan Drago of formless, blobby monsters.
  • Tarantus – is the giant spider monster. Fastest on the ground and can shoot webs that can capture targets like crunchy cars and soldiers and has a scream stun. Not really the greatest monster in this lineup, but he’s got a lot of creepy factor just for being a giant spider.
  • Mechatron – the “king of robots” wields a mean laser and hits with his fists about as hard as Godzilla does. Unlike the other monsters, he can’t regenerate damage and water will also wreck his circuits.

And the list of six cities featured a number of great landmarks to rip apart:

  • Tokyo – the capital of Japan, Godzilla’s original stomping ground, arrives for the buffet with the Tokyo Tower, Zojoji Temple, Asahi Newspaper Building, the Diet, and the Yasuda Kasai Building.
  • New York – arrives with the Statue of Liberty, Plaza Hotel, Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, and a building named Epyx’s.
  • London – the Tower Bridge, Royal Naval College, and Big Ben were on the list of places for monsters to crush into dust along with a building called Epyx House.
  • San Francisco – Epyx World Headquarters, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Building, and the Golden Gate were here for monsters to mash.
  • Paris – the Maison d’Epyx, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe were all included for art hating, radioactive horrors to peel apart with their breath.
  • Moscow – the famous Gum Department Store, Red Square, the Kremlin, Pokrovosky Cathedral, and the “Ministry of Epyx” awaited monsters willing to take on the USSR.

Scenarios revolved around destroying a specific landmark, simply escaping from a city, lunching on whatever you can to keep your strength up, searching for your baby (Godzilla gets to hunt for a mini-Godzilla hidden somewhere in the city, for example), and Berserk where you wreck as much as possible before dying or escaping. Whichever comes first.

The manual also included reams of text describing the cities, the monsters, and had even led in with a vignette of dialogue by a director yelling at Godzilla to get his scene right. There was even a list of monster movies in the back of the booklet for players to get their history on if they wanted to know where these critters came from. It was fantastic stuff, though that was the usual thing for game packaging back in the day. Even the in-game menu to setup the game (your pick of monster, the city you want to trash, and the scenario to follow) was made up to look like a movie marquee.

The Movie Monster Game was released for the Apple II, Commodore 64, and the IBM PC. Today, it exists only as abandonware or as a Youtube video. Like Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!, it didn’t quite inspire a massive surge of monster games though a few monster-themed titles revolving around Japan’s famous radioactive lizard came out in the years afterwards, most of which were on consoles. Even Bally Midway dipped their arcade toes into the glowing sludge bringing Rampage to audiences everywhere in the same year.

It didn’t necessarily set out to revolutionize anything in particular, or redefine the genre. It was simply a fun, and action packed arcade-themed monster game for computers allowing for hours of fun as your favorite beast — even if it was as an orange Godzilla.

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