MONSTER PARTY / Bandai / NES
If you weren't around for the NES days, you really need a little historical context to understand how bizarre Monster Party is. Nintendo has always been the platform of "no blood and gore" to some degree, but they started to ease up on that stance with the SNES and have successively loosened up more and more with each new console generation since then. In the NES days, however, they were *swift* with that censorship brush to anything that appeared "disturbing" to children.
Inexplicably, however, they let things go here and there. Monster Party is one of the most inexplicable of the bunch that slipped through. It's not only exceptionally creepy and full of blood and corpses, it even has mild cussing! Well, they only say "hell" a couple of times, but even that got vigorously scrubbed out of most games of the time.
The game opens with a grim visage clenching the logo in its jaws, while slime spills about and a parade of bosses from the game trots across the background. This is accompanied by inexplicable cheerful, boppy music, which sets the tone of kids themes combined with surprising morbidness. The thing that really makes the game stand out is that it doesn't appear that the designers were intentionally going for some sort of "deep" juxtaposition between stock cutesy platformer themes and disturbing imagery - it's like whoever designed the game just thought it was perfectly normal to combine cartoony characters and music with rivers of blood and gruesome bosses that tell you they're going to kill you in messy ways.
I've pondered the mystery of this game's existence for many years now, and the best explanation I can come up with is that it was originally designed as some sort of a horror game, but Bandai decided that would never sell or pass muster for whatever reason, so they hastily started to convert it to a kid's game, but never got much farther than the main character and some of the music. And somehow that was good enough to pass Nintendo's watch during their most restrictive period.
Monster Party consists of eight stages through demon-infested terrain, as you guide the baseball bat weilding Mark through numerous dangers. Bert, the bird-alien who irresponsibly dragged Mark into all this, can join the fray for short periods of time when Mark finds a pill capsule lying about the landscape (another fine lesson to kids - pop pills you find lying on the ground for special powers!) It's a fairly standard platformer, but Mark's main line of defense is to reflect enemy projectiles back at them with the bat. Additionally, when he changes into Bert, instead of jumping he can fly by tapping the jump button repeatedly.
The first level is easily the most memorable of the game - cute smiley face blocks everywhere change abruptly to skulls oozing blood when you pass some magic giant cactaur randomly at the midway point of the level. Each level has you searching doorways scattered throughout it to find a series of three bosses, all of whom must be defeated to obtain the key to the next level. These mini-bosses steal the show with their bizzare and random designs, and most of the appeal of the game is in seeing what drugged-out beast will be thrown at you next.
Ultimately the game is just a novelty, since the gameplay and level design are only marginally good at best (but still much better than a lot of crap on the NES.) But it's quite an interesting novelty and worth experiencing. And if you can't hang in there for the ending, definitely look it up on Youtube - I'm pretty sure someone at Bandai actively hated children, and possibly their job as well.
* Interesting beta screenshots
* Gameplay Video