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Review #009: Hotel Transylvania 3: Monsters Overboard (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewed By: John B.

Developed By: Torus Games Published By: Outright Games Category: Adventure, Arcade, Action, Strategy Release Date: 7.10.18

Download from the eShop here

Purchase from Amazon here

When I was a kid, movie tie-in games were largely uninspired platformers that showed little interest in innovation. Certainly there have been a few classics here and there, but by and large the reputation of movie tie-ins has not improved. Hotel Transylvania 3 Monsters Overboard for the Nintendo Switch won’t do a lot to change that perception. It takes a tried-and-true formula and creates a game that largely underwhelms.

Monsters Overboard

The title of the game is almost the best summary of the story there is. The gang from the Hotel Transylvania films are on a cruise, and during a storm they all get knocked overboard. Drac (as in Dracula) and Mavis (his daughter) are in charge of exploring the chain of islands where everyone washes up and reuniting their group of friends. They also have to find pieces of the ship’s compass, the only device capable of steering them through the storms of the Bermuda Triangle, according to the captain. It didn’t seem to help much during that first storm, but OK. Sure. We’ll go with that.

The story isn’t the sharpest one around, and the writing isn’t really all that clever. The movies tend to be pretty snappy with their dialogue and do a great job developing personalities for the characters, but the game doesn’t spend too much effort on that. The cutscenes are joyless affairs, with no animation or motion, just some very simple dialogue exchanges with an occasional dry joke thrown in to remind you that this is a comedy. I suppose it’s meant to be suitable for kids, but the main draw of the movie series is the colorful, animated cast of characters. They’re not really given a chance to shine in Monsters Overboard.

Well, If Nintendo Isn’t Going to Make a New Pikmin

Hotel Transylvania 3’s gameplay is taken pretty much directly from the much-loved Pikmin series. While we wait on Nintendo to finish a proper sequel, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a clone out there. I just wish it was better. Players choose between Drac and Mavis as their avatar, through whom they control creatures called Impas. Impas copy the form of the HT gang as you rescue them, unlocking new abilities. For instance, the first Impas you meet copy Drac’s vampire abilities, growing bat wings. They can fly and lift items into the air, such as bridges.

Impas are summoned at portals scattered throughout the islands. The portals aren’t hard to find; they’re almost all on the main path. You need to bring Imparite to the portals which allows you to summon more Impas. Different color Imparite grants you different numbers of Impas; red gets you one, blue gets you two, and so forth. Impa classes can also be changed at the portals; if you have vampire Impas but you need wolf Impas, you can do that there.

Drac and Mavis literally throw Impas at their problems, be it fallen trees or giant crabs, and they attack it until the problem goes away or they all die. You can use the cursor to recall Impas from a task when they’re done. You can also throw Impas at Imparite and hidden treasures to have the Impas pick the items up. If you get those items to a portal you can unlock their benefits. Treasure chests contain upgrades for your Impas. It’s never explained why the lord of all vampires needs minions to do his dirty work, or why he can’t just turn into a bat himself and fly over the obstacles in his way, but I might be thinking about things too much.

Hotel Transylvania 3 also inherits Pikmin’s arbitrary time limit per night. You can only explore the island for up to ten minutes at a time before Drac and Mavis need to head back to the ship during the day. The gameplay over all is solid, I suppose, but very dry and repetitive. You just throw Impas at stuff and wait until they finish. The pathfinding “puzzles” aren’t really worth the name, as there’s seldom something to figure out. If you can’t go right, go left. You’ll get back around to the right soon enough. I suppose the game is meant for kids like the films, but I have a hard time believing kids have the patience to wait around while the game plays itself.

For An Animated Feature There Sure Ain’t Much Animation

HT3’s graphics aren’t much to look at. The in-game graphics are pretty basic and don’t have much in the way of detail, but I suppose they do look like the movie characters. The backgrounds are similarly barebones, but perfectly presentable. Where the game’s visuals truly fail to capture the spirit of the films is in the cutscenes. They are done visual novel style, with static images. The movies rely on their characters’ big personalities to carry the narrative, and they do not come through at all in cutscenes here.

Monsters’ Overview

Hotel Transylvania 3 Monsters Overboard takes a solid gameplay premise and source inspiration and fails to do much of interest with it. The game is solidly built, but not well designed. The gameplay is straightforward but very monotonous. The visual and auditory aspects of the game fail to capture the manic magic of the source material, and the whole enterprise is just lacking in personality.

Final Score: 3/10

Download from the eShop here

Purchase from Amazon here

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