Every ghoul’s dream is to enroll at Monster High, but Monster High: New Ghoul in School fails to demonstrate that exciting fantasy. Instead, a bland and mundane setting takes center stage in this snooze fest. Customization options and pun-filled dialogue makes the game tolerable, but does not save it from horrific game design.
After an opening cut-scene that loops Monster High’s theme song, the player is tasked with creating his or her avatar, which can be any race — Ghosts, Zombies, Werecats, and more — seen on the grounds of Monster High. The player’s race can only be chosen once, whereas picking clothes and hairstyles can be changed at any time. Having a customizable avatar can really immerse the player in games, but Monster High’s only strong use of it is the customization options.
Throughout the story, various branching dialogue options are available. They’re always one-sided and never affect the outcome — they just provide extra dialogue. It’s frustrating to be presented with false freedom of shaping the plot.
The simple story follows the female player protagonist around as she interacts with various school clubs. The main plot revolves around Toralei Stripe running Student Council, and it’s made very obvious there’s desperate need of a new president. The story doesn’t provide much engagement, but the writing is where the game shines as each character has a distinctly different style — some are full of life while others throw out a lot of puns, and a few even speak in garbled monster language. The dialogue is paired with excellent voice acting, but sometimes the voice actors don’t say exactly what is displayed on-screen, which makes for an awkward experience. Sadly, there are only voice actors for the main characters; the less important characters don’t have voice actors, which was surprising given the game’s minimal amount of dialogue.
Besides great writing, the rest of the game is ghastly. Every mission in the story involves gathering items or talking to someone. These tasks are given to the player by club members. Day in and day out, the player visits each club to complete item-gathering or social quests, which quickly becomes monotonous after the second day. Typically, the item or person is located on the complete opposite side of the school or on a different floor; this would be OK if Monster High had any sort of sprint or fast travel option. However, the player’s speed is insanely sluggish which makes the game longer than necessary, especially when gathering collectables.
There are three different collectables available: school pennants, locker combinations, and spiders. The pennants and spiders don’t serve any purpose. Using locker combinations gives players access to money, a pennant, or a spider. Money is also found scattered around the school, which can then be to used to buy clothes or fashion accessories from an app on the iCoffin cell phone.
Players can also use the iCoffin to access their text messages, news feed, and contacts list. The in-game social media system is really unique, but lackluster. It serves as yet another place to view some of the great writing the game has to offer, but lacks in the interactivity department. Unfortunately, there’s no way to send out a message or post a status as your avatar. The iCoffin also has a basic map that gives you a layout of Monster High and shows where your next objective is. I found the map to be an essential tool due to how easy it was to get lost.
While strolling through the hallways of Monster High, you’d expect to see some frightful art. Instead, you’re presented with dull hallways that all look the same, and each one has its own designated color such as red, blue, or green. The colors are supposed to assist the player in recognizing locations, but ultimately fails. If hallways were labelled when entering an area, it’d be somewhat easier to memorize the school’s layout.
To solve navigational issues, a red on-screen arrow is displayed at the foot of your character. It supposedly leads to the next objective, however, it’s horribly programmed and often throws you off course. For example, when I had an objective on the second floor, but was physically located on the first floor, the navigation arrow would sometimes direct me to a set of stairs all the way across the school instead of just sending me to a more conveniently located staircase nearby. Even when I was on the same floor as the objective, it sometimes pointed me down the wrong hallway. These awful oversights made the game more complicated than it needed to be.
While navigating, there’s always an electronic soundtrack that plays three tracks: one during the morning, one during lunch, and one after school. These songs become obnoxious fast, looping endlessly until you finish the portion of the day where you’ll be faced with the next maddening tune. These aren’t the only songs present in the game; the Monster High theme song plays during specific events. It’s always a relief to hear the theme song because it means a break from the other bothersome music.
Monster High: New Ghoul in School would have been an enjoyable game for Monster High fans if it weren’t for its terrible design. The writing and voice acting make the game somewhat entertaining, but the gameplay just isn’t fun. It feels like a chore. Perhaps with some intelligent design the game could have been more memorable.
Review copy provided by Little Orbit