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HalloFREEn: Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess

(Originally published on the 1UP.com Freeloader blog in October of 2012)

Welcome to HalloFreen month on the Freeloader blog!  Each week, I’ll be taking a look at a creepy, kooky, mysterious and/or spooky free or indie game that will get you in the Halloween spirit (HA!).  Turn down your lights (where applicable).

There are (probably) few characters of horror more well-known than Dracula.  While (probably) not the first vampire created, his specific characteristics have created an unmatched legacy that touches every medium in every decade, from Noferatu, to Bela Lugosi, to Christopher Lee, to Castlevania, The Lost Boys, Count Chocula, Count Duckula, and even Twilight (those fuckers).  By far, my favorite iteration of the classic vampire is that incredible arithmomaniac, Count von Count from Sesame Street.  God, I hate math, but I do love that long-nosed, number crunching son of a bitch.  There’s a new vampire sucking his way to the top of my heart, though.  The protagonist of the PSP Mini and Xbox Live Indie Game developed by Mediatonic, Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, whom is known simply as The Duke.  The Duke is awakened one evening to find his Princess missing and must set out to defeat the vile monster that has (probably) committed the regal theft.  With little regard for due process, The Duke confronts each of the local monsters in turn, sure that one of them must (probably) be the culprit.

Each monster’s hideout consists of a vertical shaft, which The Duke must race upward, jumping up from platform to platform, performing the occasional wall-jump, in order to bash into the fleeing creature.  Bash them three times and The Duke will perform a finishing move, sending the hapless villain plummeting to the bottom.  A score multiplier can be increased by avoiding platforms that The Duke has previously landed on.  Building up a large enough combo results in The Duke performing an ultra finishing move, which doesn’t cause any additional damage, but does look pretty darn cool.  Looking cool is one of MPSMP‘s main selling points.  It’s got a fantastic, charming, art style which is animated superbly, bolstered by a great sense of humor and characterization, especially in regards to The Duke, himself.  On top of that, Mediatonic has added a groovy, pipe-organ based, high energy soundtrack and a level of polish rarely seen on the XBL Indie Games channel.

If there’s one stake that I must drive into the enormous heart of Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, it’s that the game is very short.  You’ll be able to make it through all of the stages in less than an hour, but it does offer a few achievement-like awards to go after, if you’re a gaming perfectionist.  With tempered expectations, I bid you download it; The Great Pumpkin would approve.

Purchase for Xbox 360

Purchase for PSP

Halloween COUNT-down 2009: The greatest pinball ever concieved

On rare occasions, something that we love crosses paths with something else that we adore and creates a synergistic windfall of glad tidings. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Beer and pizza. Steak and cheese. Scooby-doo and the Harlem Globetrotters. On the extremely rare occasion, a third item enters the picture, transforming the fantastical into the transcendent.

During the 1950s, some strange alignment of the creative forces of the universe occurred, and every single type of monster that we will ever need was created. The so called, and coincidentally named, “Universal Monsters” known as Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon are the archetypes of nearly every kind of horrorific character that has or will be created to frighten. Dracula is the original and quintessential vampire from which all others are based (even the insipid Twilight). The Wolfman, or werewolf, represents all those wild animals that go berserk and acquire a taste for human flesh, from Cujo to The Birds and even FrogsFrankenstein is the supernatural killer that can’t be stopped, and is often driven by some sort of deformity, whether physical or mental, like Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. Like the modern zombie, The Mummy has risen from the dead to shuffle relentlessly after those that have disturbed their sleep, their “mummy’s curse” representing the guilt of greed of those who would seek their treasure. Terrors from the deep such as Piranhas, Leviathan, and Jaws can actually be traced back to the earliest seafarers, but, well…the Creature from the Black Lagoon was in 3D!

Now then, as a fan of these classic monsters, I’ve certainly found my share of licensed entertainment that sets my heart a flutter.  If there is one thing I love more than video games, though, that thing is probably pinball.  There are quite a few tables out there that have featured some of the aforementioned beasties, and that is all well and good, but there is one particular machine that manages to cram all of them into one gloriously magnificent orgy of macabre flipper-flipping, plunger-pulling, quarter-eating, super monster fun.  That greatest pinball machine ever concieved, my friends, is Monster Bash!

Pinball and monsters combined were enough for me to swear fealty to the gods of Williams, but they were not content.  Why would all of these seemingly misanthropic and anti-social monsters come together on one single game board and share the spotlight?  The answer is simple and AWESOME!  Rock and Roll.

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