Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Released in 1989 on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Monster Party was one of the earliest video games I recall picking out for a rental, and I'm sure you can see why with one glance at this cover, a breathtaking work of art I wish I could print directly over my front door. Faux Audrey II and the skull-demon-xenomorph were what really sold me, but the selection here is only slightly representative of the game itself. Most of these chuckleheads are, if anything, far too normal to be Monster Party's poster children.
Monster Party wraps up with some satisfyingly twisted imagery that you'll just have to see for yourself to believe. Even with the cop-out at the end (OR IS IT?) it's some pretty bent stuff - did Bert just want the other monsters out of the way before his own reign of terror? Does he just not understand that humans don't consider it a "present" to wed an infectious corpse? I guess we'll never know, since rumors of a sequel, "Monster After-Party," were only an internet prank.
Fortunately, we can hold a little after-party ourselves, since we're not done with this game yet!
TOP TEN MINOR ENEMIES
Bats that are also deadly, flying umbrellas - a video game classic! This old standby may draw a bit from the Kasa-obake legend, though it's more likely just a play on how bat-like an umbrella already looks. It's weird how much their anatomy seems to change when they're resting upside down.
These transparent beings appear to be some sort of ghost or spirit, but have a pretty unique look with their shiny, bubble-like surface, smiling mouth and lack of eyes. Maybe they're supposed to be flying jelly blobs? They're vaguely reminiscent of Slimer, so we could be looking at another mangled cameo.
In the flooded forest of the third stage, you'll see what appear to be the fins of sharks - until they jump out of the water and oh no! They're just LITTLE sharks playing pretend! Haha! Unfortunately, they're as deadly as everything else in the game. Why do they even bother with the gag fin? It just gives away their position!
The sewer-like second stage is home to some pretty icky mutants. These large, purple mouths cling in place by their blunt tentacles and vomit as you approach. I love the idea of barfing mouths in the sewers. Much more unnerving than alligators, though the stage includes those as well.
In the second to last stage we encounter this blatant reference to the "Elephant Man," a real person who suffered a shocking degree of deformity. When we knock off their cloth masks, we find literal elephant heads, which manages to be a whole lot creepier than one would expect.
Another sewer denizen, these fish with disturbingly human legs represent one of my favorite underused monstrous archetypes, the "reverse mermaid." These are not to be confused with "fish people," mind you, who have fully humanoid torsos and arms. It's the combination of straight-up fish with an incongruous set of walking legs that makes a proper reverse mermaid, a visual both disturbingly eerie and hilariously pitiful. I wish things like this haunted sewers.
I know they're incredibly simple. I know they're a huge cliche. That doesn't stop disembodied eyeballs from always, always being one of my favorite things wherever they appear, and they're always a delight when they have almost no body to speak of. These are nothing but raw, massive oculars on fat, wormy tentacles. What more could you want?
Appearing in the grisly latter half of the first stage along with the walking eyeballs, these polka dotted pig-dogs with floppy man-faces are possibly the most legitimately frightening visuals in the entire game. Imagine one of these coming at you out of the darkness, an idiotic smile on its drooling, unblinking human visage!
Not so frightening, however, are these disembodied pants wandering one of the later stages. Or maybe they've got legs in there, seeing as they also have socks and shoes? It's entirely possible that these are an "upgrade" to our #1 Monster Party mook, the one and only thing more bizarre than killer pants:
Scattered throughout the first stage, these completely stationary and essentially defenseless "monsters" appear to be either naked humanoids buried upside-down to their waists or just bodiless, flailing legs. Like every enemy in the game, they damage you on contact - perhaps because they never, ever stop kicking. They never go anywhere and they have no projectile weapons. They're legs - just legs - sticking straight up out of the ground.
These things are, as a matter of fact, the very first thing that I remember about Monster Party. Before I recall that it's the game with Sorry, I'm Dead or Watch my dance, these ridiculous floor-legs pop into my head, and I find myself fascinated. Why and how does anything like this even come into existence? Whose idea was it to have deadly butts sticking out of the ground? I don't know why, but I freaking love these things. They're so incredibly simple, yet equally as compelling. What dark secrets are you hiding, naked leg monsters? Where did you come from? What do you want from us? Do you yearn for the walking pants, or are you mortal enemies?
Monster Party's world of positively loony, sometimes sincerely unsettling bogeymen has long been an inspiration to my own dumb ideas...and I'll admit, I still secretly dream of being able to work on some sort of unofficial sequel or remake, if I only knew anything about making games past the art stage.