Monster in My Pocket is a Celebration of Creepy Creatures
Monster in My Pocket is a fast-paced, snappy action game built around the collectible toy line of the same name. Filled with a few dozen unique monsters, it, along with Castlevania, showed that Konami really was king of action horror games in its early days. While a short game, it squeezes in a ton of interesting creatures and some great play that makes for a fun exploration of creepy creatures from film and folklore. It’s also a nice reminder of childhood days spent collecting tiny monstrosities.
Monsters were a big deal for me in the early nineties. As a huge scaredy cat, I wasn’t quite willing to watch any horror movies. However, I was fascinated with the creatures. Werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and other figures from mythology kept me poring over books at the school library. I definitely wasn’t the only kid interested in this stuff at the time, because this is when monster toys, books, comics, and cards exploded into my life. This was all thanks to the Monster in My Pocket brand, which was putting out monster stuff in any format they could. I found the cards first, stumbling onto them at the local convenience store. They were a buck a pack. Reading about hydras, invisible men, behemoths, and other twisted beasts was the best use of a dollar I’d seen.
The Monster in My Pocket brand was all about oddball creatures, delving into all sorts of areas to find new, exciting monsters. The game used that energy to cram all kinds of creatures into it. However, the monsters were all miniature versions of themselves. This game IS about a line of small toys, after all. The plot of the game references this in the manual. I guess there was a monster convention, a volcano explosion, and then everyone shrank. The good monsters, lead by the Vampire and the Monster, kind of settled into their new, shrunken life. Then an evil Warlock wants to kill you. Better kill him first! It’s not an amazing plot, but enough to get an NES game rolling.
For playable characters, you get your choice between a vampire and Frankenstein’s monster. They both play pretty much the same, being able to jump and swing their fists to create an explosive shockwave in front of them. Now, while I love Castlevania and its plodding hero, there’s just so much to enjoy about moving and fighting with the Monster and Vampire. They’re fast and agile. They take swings quickly, allowing you to hammer foes. No worrying about whip swing speeds, here. This makes it very easy to pick up the game and blast through it on a whim. It’s more action than horror, but it works well with its playful nature.
Since your characters fight faster, Monster in My Pocket is more willing to toss tons of creatures at you. You’ll frequently have multiple monster types flitting in at once. Ground and projectile enemies will close in on either side in groups of five or more. Things will bomb you from above while you deal with enemies that awkwardly leap around. While I enjoy having to really plan my strategies in Castlevania when I’m in complex combat situations, in this game, it’s all reflexes. The Vampire and the Monster can move and swipe so fast that you just roll with it. It feels really good to do so, too.
Monster in My Pocket offers you a delightfully silly perspective on the action as well. Instead of massive monsters swinging at each other, things play out in a miniaturized view. Picture the Chip N’ Dale game, but with zombies. As such, you’ll cleave through cockatrices and ghouls across kitchen countertops. You’ll ride on can lids through the sewers, and creep up chain link fences as monsters dive at you from above. It’s a goofy perspective, but really plays up the link to the miniature monster toy line. It gave me some new adventures to imagine with my handful of monster toys as a child.
Most of all, I appreciate the sheer variety of monsters in the game. You get your basic zombies shambling at you, but there’s also these twisted masses of bones that huck skulls. Witches teleport out of thin air in front of you. Lion-headed beasts try to stab you with short swords. Even Charon shows up as a guy in a red hat and a kilt who swings a paddle at your head. Not sure what they were going for with that, but it was a treat just seeing that unique take on the ferryman of the dead. The game just keeps offering up new creatures in each stage. They look great, too.
The monster all behave differently in Monster in My Pocket, too. Some charge right at you, while others hop around. Coatlicues – two headed creatures wearing a skirt made of snakes – will walk away from you if you move toward them. Turn your back and they’ll charge. Baba Yagas fly around in pots and will keep flitting around the screen until you deal with them. Hydras fly toward you and will swoop to attack, but will stop short and breathe a fireball instead. There’s many different attack styles to account for, which keeps you invested in the combat.
What I enjoyed the most was how these creatures drew from horrors in all kinds of different places and brought them into an enjoyable NES game. Castlevania had already done this before, and done it well. However, the big, colorful creatures in this game really stand out even more, to me. The ghosts holding their severed heads, the hanivers bursting from the earth, and many other creatures show that the developers were delving deep into monster lore and making some great new designs of it. I felt like I already knew many of the creatures from Castlevania, but this title was giving me whole new creatures to love.
Monster in My Pocket is a fantastic, if brief, action game that really celebrates monsters. It feels like it draws from far more places and mythologies to introduce the player to all kinds of creatures they haven’t seen before. It’s a treat just to see what new creatures you’ll see in each stage, and from a gameplay perspective, it gives you many new threats to deal with that keep the action fresh. It’s a game I wish had gotten the sequel treatment the same as the Castelvania games, and a wonderful throwback to a time when tiny monsters were all over my own home.