When it comes to the lineup of Nickelodeon cartoons from the 90s, I always felt that AAAHH!!! Real Monsters was slightly overlooked in favour of stuff like Hey Arnold!, Rugrats and Rocko’s Modern Life. That’s not to say that the other shows are bad (they’re definitely not!), but AAAHH!!! Real Monsters always felt a little more unique than the rest of its peers.
The show follows the misadventures of three monsters who are trying to get through Monster Academy and graduate as fully fledged scaremongers. With a voice cast including the legendary Charlie Adler (Cow & Chicken, I Am Weasel, Tiny Toon Adventures) and Christine Cavanaugh (Rugrats, Dexter’s Laboratory), the show ran for four seasons between 1994 and 1997, and spawned a single video game in 1995.
AAAH!!! Real Monsters follows the show’s trio of monsters – Ickis, Oblina and Krumm – as they set out to complete their “mid-term exams” for the Monster Academy, by venturing into the human world to collect specific items and scaring the crap out of anyone that they encounter.
The first thing that is noticeable about AAAHH!!! Real Monsters is just how faithful the art style is to the TV show. The fantastic Klasky-Csupo style that runs through many of the classic Nicktoons such as Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys is used to full effect here, and is undeniably a highlight of the game. There’s a huge amount of personality in each of the characters and is paramount to nailing the vibe of the show.
The music in each level is just as quirky and bizarre as you would expect from a game with a concept like this, and it does a good job of making each monster’s roars stand out from each other. It’s just a shame that the music isn’t very memorable, and become pretty repetitive over the course of the game’s long duration.
Gameplay-wise, AAAHH!!! Real Monsters plays in a similar fashion to the Lost Vikings series, in that players must use the three different characters’ unique abilities cooperatively to progress through each level. Ickis can leap further than his colleagues, Oblina can jump to higher platforms, and Krumm can use his detached eyeballs to scout off-screen areas. In terms of weapons, players throw garbage at their enemies. This adds a level of strategy to the game that is very much appreciated.
This “use different characters tactically” approach that worked so well in the Lost Viking games doesn’t quite hit the mark in AAAHH!!! Real Monsters, as the game can be incredibly particular about triggering these moves. All three monsters need to be standing on solid ground and in close proximity to each other, and considering how players have no control over their two computer-controlled colleagues, much of the time playing the game is spent just trying to get everyone in position, which is frustrating to a point where controllers will be launched at the screen.
Also included in the player’s offensive arsenal is the ability to perform a limited-use “SCARE” method, which defeats all normal enemies on the screen at that time (and takes a considerable amount of health away from bosses). These look great, especially when we see Ickis’ eyes turn red as he grows several times larger (also one of my favourite parts of the show!), but the powerups that enable the scares are few and far between in each level, so you won’t be experiencing them very much.
The game’s setting alternates between the monsters’ home area and a regular stage, ranging from the garbage dump to warehouses and factories. Again, this is where the visuals are pretty great, showing off a great deal of detail in the scrolling backgrounds and platforms that players will be landing on. It’s unsurprising that certain visuals start to get repeated a bit more later on in the game, but it doesn’t detract too much from the experience.
AAAHH!!! Real Monsters contains around 25 levels, each getting progressively trickier as they go along. Compared to other similar games of this era, this added length to the game is both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, players are getting more bang for their buck with a game that will take some inexperienced players a long time to finish, but the levels end up getting so frustratingly finicky and boring that there’s not much of an incentive to get so far in the first place.
Overall, AAAHH! Real Monsters is one of the more frustrating platform games for the Super Nintendo. While the graphics are an element that I fully appreciate and the game is incredibly faithful to the source material, but these aspects fail to make up for the poor game design and annoyingly high level of difficulty.
If you’re a fan of the cartoon, then by all means check this game out, just don’t expect to get very much enjoyment out of it once you get over the initial rush of nostalgia. Why not try one of the Ren & Stimpy games instead?
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