IGN Review of Godzilla Unleashed Double Smash
Isn't it amazing how much fun Godzilla movies and games can be without actually being very high in quality? It's like the very presence of the radioactive lizard automatically makes things more enjoyable. So we wonder just how horrendous Santa Cruz Games' Godzilla: Unleashed Double Smash would have been if it didn't star the king kaiju, because right now, even with the Godzilla fun-factor, it's pretty freaking awful.
Double Smash is a co-op, side-scrolling, smash-em-up that teams up two famous monsters from a line-up of about a dozen Godzilla universe beasts. Players control their monster of choice, guiding it through various cities and destroying wave after wave of planes. Each screen is dedicated to a monster, and the player can switch control at any time with a tap to the shoulder button. But the obvious question comes up: why would we want to switch to crappy Mothra, when we're already playing as Godzilla? The top screen is far less exciting and generally has a poorer selection of characters.
The game is extremely basic. Godzilla punches and kicks, and can shoot his atomic breath, but that's pretty much it. Each level has just four types of enemy: little plane, big plane, little boat, and big boat. The sprites change for each locale, but it's all the same thing. As a result the game gets extremely repetitive, as beat-em-up games tend to do.
In addition to being repetitive, the gameplay is just plain bad. The screen scrolls slowly, forcing the level to progress at one pace. Maybe this is to hide how hideously short each level is, but it makes the game crawl. There are dead areas with no enemies, usually right after some important powerup, rendering it fairly useless.
The game is very easy, which helps the mask the poor collision detection and glitchy gameplay. Playing Godzilla Unleashed is very similar to watching the old films, where the actors in a kaiju suit would pull his punch, and Godzilla would go flying like he had been smashed. We kick and punch, planes explode, but it doesn't look or feel like they're exploding based on our actions.
There's so much gunfire on screen that players will have to jump around to dodge. Nothing makes Godzilla look more ridiculous than when he's leaping through the air, doing jump kicks and spinning his tail like a huge, reptilian helicopter.
Every level has a miniboss and an end boss that are defeated by just standing there and using the atomic breath over and over until the boss goes down like a wimp. There's no strategy, and no fun, involved. We know Jet Jaguar sucks, but he would have put up more of a fight than that (not to mention he was on Godzilla's team in the only movie he appeared in).
The story mode is pretty short, but has to be played in one sitting. Much like classic side scrollers, Double Smash does not save the progress after the game has been quit. It's something that works for, say, Contra, but not so much here. The biggest problem is that the game never says it doesn't save. It's clear that it's saving something after each level because the unlockables are stored even after quitting. But there's nothing about loading up the game. In fact, it seems like it was a feature that was taken out, because "Saving and Loading" is a chapter in the Instruction Booklet. Ironically, turning to that page reveals a distinct lack of any said chapter. So if players decide to take a break from Godzilla and play a different game, they'll be greeted to the unskippable opening cutscene every time they load it back up. It's not exactly a story that's worth watching multiple times either.
Honestly, we don't really know what's happening in the Godzilla Unleashed plot. There is some sort of story here, but it's so mangled by the horrible cutscenes that it may as well not even exist. Some space crystals come down and crash all over earth, screwing everything up. Australia turns into an arctic tundra, San Francisco goes volcanic, and the entire city of Cairo gets abducted by aliens. So Godzilla, the ever chivalrous kaiju that he is, sets out on a globetrotting mission to destroy the crystals and beat up the other monsters that have gone berserk. The story is told from the perspective of some guy and his kid, so it's hard to follow closely. We could have really used a pair of tiny Japanese lady fairies to explain what the hell is going on.
Maybe the story would be more straightforward if Double Smash didn't have embarrassingly bad cutscenes. Still frames aren't necessarily bad, but, when the characters are so poorly drawn that it looks like they were done in MS Paint, it makes the game look tacky and cheap. The gameplay graphics don't look much better, either. It's really disappointing when Godzilla comes tromping onto the screen, and he more closely resembles Godzooky than the King of the Monsters.
By suffering through the story mode, more playable characters are unlocked. As cool as it is to get to play as the likes of Gigan and Destroyah, the fact remains that the game isn't any fun. It's actually more entertaining to just look at the model sheets and other unlockables than to play the game again.
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