One of the hallmarks of Pixar, the digital animation studio behind such movies as Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and, most recently, Monsters, Inc., has been its ability to entertain the young, the young at heart, the old and cynical, and everyone in between. It's unfortunate that the same cannot be said for Kodiak Interactive's PlayStation 2 game based on the film Monsters, Inc., which will likely bore the older players and frustrate the young.
Monsters, Inc. follows the story of Mike and Sully, two monsters who have unwittingly allowed a human child called Boo into Monstropolis. As the big, blue-furred Sully, it's up to you, with a little help from your one-eyed sidekick, Mike, to get Boo home. Simply put, Monsters, Inc. is a very straightforward 3D platformer that suffers from virtually every gameplay ailment that has plagued the genre. There is an overabundance of item collection, switch flipping, crate smashing, and backtracking, ultimately turning what could have been a lighthearted romp into several hours of drudgery. Your control over Sully isn't very conducive to platform jumping either, which is unfortunate, as the game relies heavily on this.
While control and gameplay issues abound, the graphics are better, if only somewhat. The environments capture the exaggerated, whimsical feel of the film, and most of the characters look about as close to their prerendered counterparts as possible, though an up-close inspection of Sully reveals a pretty ugly-looking fur texture. Sully's animation is also kind of sketchy, but the biggest graphical shortcoming is the game's frame rate. While it rarely comes to a screeching halt, most of the time the game feels like it's trying its hardest to maintain a consistent 30fps, which it's barely able to do, giving the whole experience a rather jerky feel.
The game tries to keep things upbeat with its big band soundtrack, which is a good fit for the off-kilter urban environments of Monstropolis and will likely appeal to anyone who doesn't have an aversion to lots of loud, punchy brass sounds. Voice duties for the main characters have been taken over by sound-alikes who do a good enough job to keep you wondering if that is, in fact, Billy Crystal's voice you just heard.
The underlying problem with Monsters, Inc. is that it seems unsure of what audience it's catering to. There's plenty of hand-holding for the kids, but it's negated by lots of frustrating platform jumping and other sources of unnecessary difficulty. Adults may enjoy some of the DVD extras documenting the making of Monsters, Inc., but that's about it.