Family party games have been inhabiting systems since Mario bought the party to the N64. Since that period many other franchises have taken their chances at entertaining families and friends seeking console couch challenges. The Big Blue Bubble monster lineup is the latest with My Singing Monsters Playground. Despite entering a (potentially) redundant format, I quite enjoyed this game. The graphics, gameplay and unique nature of this universe elevated my game playing experience.
Review Platform: Nintendo Switch
Available Platform(s): PS4/PS5, XBox Series X/S, Steam
Developer:Big Blue Bubble
Release Date: November 9th, 2021
The Playground and Players
From the opening animation, I was enchanted by this game’s colorful, creative look. The monster’s playground easily puts you in the mind of a Skylander’s level. All that’s missing is a booming voice inviting me to play.
Sadly, this never occurs. Nor does any real explanation of where you are or what is occurring. Fans of a story element to their party game may feel disappointed with this. Instead, the game moves along to the character selection screen. Though the Singing Monster franchise has been around since 2012 this is my first exposure, so I must admit that I was oddly amused by my choices. They reminded me of the show Yo Gabba Gabba from Nickelodeon. For a franchise that touts 100+ characters this game has chosen to limit the selection to 7, which is somewhat of a surprise.
After selecting your player (and number of players 1 - 4) this game allows the player to travel around the small island visiting several huts along the way. The main three huts are the Tournament, Solo and Free Play - each allowing players access to minigames in varying ways. Games vary in style from tournament, 3 v 1 and 2 v 2.
The Tournament hut is the format players may most be used to in party games. You have the option to choose from 10, 15, or 20 games to compete in against your couch compatriots or the CPU. The highest score wins the game and the challenge. Players receive diamonds for winning a minigame. The number of diamonds awarded varies based upon the game type. After the final score players receive notes to redeem from the Prize hut on the island. The Prize hut allows players to convert notes won for outfits. Another hut allows players to swap characters and try out a different look.
Want to prove you’re top monster in the playground, then head over to the Solo tent. A single player is challenged to see how many consecutive minigames the player can win.
Finally, free play offers a chance to revisit any minigame you have already played. A great way to prepare before the Gauntlet.
The Games Monsters Play
It always impresses me to witness someone make up a game for a group to play. The ability to design an enjoyable gaming experience (real or virtual) for players doesn’t seem easy. On top of being fun it also should be understandable, competitive and still deliver something unique. Then there is the unfortunate situation of seemingly copying other games. I mean how many ways can you do a relay or race?
The minigames that My Singing Monsters Playground invites players to experience easily have counterparts on other party games. Still there is something about the 20+ games My Singing Monsters Playground has to offer that feel unique. What seems to have made the difference is how they embrace the world(s) it emerges from. The fantasy realm environments surrounding each minigame really bring them to life. At times I found myself so distracted by the stages I didn’t pay attention to what was going on in the game.
The minigames and the controls to play them are clean and concise. Most games consist of moving around although a few add a jump or power to the game. Prior to each minigame, a load screen lists the rules and controls. Once you familiarize yourself with the rules and confirm the game will begin. The games various load screens don’t take long which meant games moved quickly. Games don’t last extremely long, just enough time for you to get that true couch competition craving for another crack at that minigame.
At the (Monsters) Playground
Unlike the name of the 90s rap group with that hit song, this game isn’t another bad creation. It benefits from the outlandish and surreal world its characters come from. And while other party games can boast they too come from bizarre worlds, the hilarity of these creations, their laughter and snickers they give off when something happens isn’t something I can say I experienced in prior party games. The games, while somewhat familiar, have that zany competition style you get from an episode of MXC or ABCs Wipeout.
Against the backdrop of its world(s) the minigames MSMP delivers have a refreshing feel to them. Snow Roller easily pays tribute to barrel or ball rolling games you might have played in other games. The colorful and creative atmosphere you compete in while playing makes these minigames exciting. The environments are truly dynamic as well, there is always something going on in the play area that unintentionally (or intentionally) makes the minigames more challenging.
At the conclusion of the competition the 4 creatures take to the winners stage to return to their roots. In order they each lend their unique monster melody to create a quartet. You can easily skip this final cutscene but I can’t help notice it highlights Big Blue Bubble’s intent was with this game. Offering families and our little “monsters” a chance to play in their Singing Monsters Playground.