Do you ever wonder what it must be like to be the guy who plays Godzilla in all those movies? By day, he's Godzilla; by night, he's Todd. He gets paid to act like a monster, but he's only too aware of his actual limitations, just as he knows that King Ghidorah isn't really a giant, alien space dragon; King Ghidorah is really Bill, and his wife is leaving him. Now you too can share in Todd's feelings of disillusionment and despair with Atari's new Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash, a game that ostensibly lets you burn cities, crush armies, and defeat monsters as Godzilla, but actually serves to remind you that you're just a normal guy or gal playing a bad video game.
The story is incomprehensible. A crystal meteor hits earth and causes all sorts of damage, so you have to take control of two monsters and kill the army, other monsters, and eventually Space Godzilla, who is behind it all. As the game begins, you pick two monsters from a group of several, and then begin the side-scrolling shenanigans. Your first impression will probably be that Godzilla Unleashed looks and plays just like a free Internet flash game. Your first impression will be spot-on.
You'll presumably begin as Godzilla and quickly discover that you can kick, punch, breath attack, and jump. As you learn this, planes will fly toward you shooting what appear to be basketballs. After a level or two, bombers will appear on the top screen and drop bomb after bomb on you. So between the storm of basketballs, bombs, tanks, and kamikaze pilots, Godzilla basically gets blasted from all sides constantly, and unlike in the movies, this stuff actually hurts him. Also unlike in the movies, blocking or ducking is not an option here.
When Godzilla is nearly dead, you'll hit a shoulder button. This will cause Godzilla to exit screen left, and Mothra, or some other flying monster, will enter the top screen. Given that only one enemy in every 10 can actually shoot upward, Mothra can fly through a level relatively unmolested as long as she sticks to the top. However, if you charge up Mothra's breath attack, she rears up and removes every part of herself from the screen except for the very tip of her abdomen. If you do this in the left corner of the screen, even the enemies that shoot upward will not be able to hit you. Nothing can stop Mothra's flying bum.
There are two instances that you cannot simply butt-glide through: crystal structures and boss fights. When you encounter a big crystal, your monster flies up to it and a prompt tells you to "Use your combos!" Then another prompt says something like "Y, Y, B" or "B, B, Y." You press the buttons, the crystal breaks, and if you tear it down fast enough you get a bonus, such as 20 seconds of invincibility. There's no challenge here, and the rewards are pointless because flying monsters are invincible anyway.
The boss fights are better because you actually have to attack them to win, and they fight back. Every boss has four or five attacks that hit different areas on the screen. Each of these attacks will hit Godzilla multiple times, whereas Mothra can easily avoid them all. It's also worth noting that by discharging a half-dozen breath attacks during the course of the preceding level, you can build up a super attack for each of your two monsters that can't be avoided and deals heavy damage. Naturally, you burn both of these, at which point your opponent is half dead. Then you simply finish the job with Mothra. This strategy takes about an hour to learn in the course of playing, and with it you can defeat any boss in a minute without any risk of death--even Space Godzilla, and he's behind it all. Curse you, Space Godzilla!
We don't know if he's behind the graphics, too, though they're actually quite nice. The art style is crisp, consistent, and hip (like a flash game), and as you hover over Tokyo in the form of Mothra's keister, you'll notice three things: the pretty background moving by, the planes and tanks moving in the opposite direction, and snowfall or ash (depending on the level) falling from above. The effect is entrancing and serene, like a lava lamp. But the music is inconsistent. The monster island level features a very catchy tune, but an earlier level is played to what can only be described as a mash-up of an alarm clock and someone banging on a screen door. It's so painful to listen to, it could bring down a flying saucer.
After you beat the game, which takes an hour or two, you'll unlock some new monsters. Consequently, we grabbed Destroyah and Megalon, and played through again. This time the story, levels, and bosses were all different. Unfortunately, given that Destroyah has such a huge butt, our top-left strategy wouldn't work anymore. However, in consideration of the beast's tiny head, we moved him to the bottom left corner, where he became mostly untouchable. You'll also find that this game is playable with two players, although this doesn't actually improve it. It's quite the opposite; the fewer people playing this, the better.
And that's Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash: a terrible side-scrolling game for the Nintendo DS that should be free on the Internet. With a perfect storm of terrible game design, bad play mechanics, and uninspired destruction, this game does what oxidation bombs, volcanoes, and Matthew Broderick couldn't: It kills Godzilla.