Cute cartoon characters check. Simple shooting premise check. Four player multiplayer check. Wicked Monsters Blast is a game that seems to do everything right, letting you, and up to three of your friends and family pick a cartoon character, and play through a series of timed 'shooting range'-type mini-games to try and get the best score. It has all the makings of what could be a thoroughly good multiplayer game, particularly for the young(er) audience it's aiming at.
There are no complicated button combos to remember or dual analogue sticks to contend with all you have to do is to point your Wii Remote at the screen and fire with the B button, occasionally hitting the A button to use a power up that'll hinder your opponents when playing in multiplayer. Despite the fact all the mini-games centre around this same 'point and shoot' mechanic, it rarely feels repetitive, as there's quite a variety in the games on offer.
Whether it's taking pot shots at massive logs to create crazy sculptures (hit it enough times in certain places, and bits of wood will chip away to reveal a fancy sculpture beneath), shooting a series of specific dishes as they slide along a conveyor belt in order to feed a famished whale, or clicking on sleepy students to stop them falling asleep mid lesson they're all suitably wacky, brightly coloured and fun. There's even a couple that require a bit more thinking rather than just mindless shooting, as some require you to match up pictures, solve simple maths equations or remember the order some panels have flipped over in.
The meat of the game is its multiplayer up to four people can play together at once, either through the mission-based Arcade Mode, or by choosing their choice of minigames directly in the Family Mode. In multiplayer, each game becomes an interesting mixture of co-op and competitive multiplayer, as you work together to complete the challenges, whilst scrabbling to be the player who makes the largest contribution towards your goal - with a limited number of points to go around, you want it to be you who comes first. To make things more interesting, as you play through each stage, items appear at random (wrapped in gift boxes) that only add to the mayhem, jamming up people's guns, removing their cursors, or making bombs fly around. For lone gunslingers though, there's also a single exclusively single player game on the disc, Survival, which throws level after level at you until you fail one.
In Arcade mode, you (and up to three players) get to follow one of the eight characters through a story mode of sorts although with only a few quick pages of writing setting the scene, and a little bit at the end, it's less of a story, and more an excuse to get you to play through a string of minigames. In order to complete each stage, you'll have to earn a certain number of points as you play through the level, with points being awarded for chipping pieces of wood off the aforementioned log, for example. As there are only a certain number of points to go around, you'll have to work with your friends, and against them, as you scramble to earn points, whilst working as a team to complete the mission objectives. Playing in multiplayer, at the end of each level, if you didn't manage to earn the number of points required, you'll lose a life - lose all three lives, and it's game over for you, while the rest of the group play on but with a range of difficulties to suit everyone, it should at least be possibly to make it to the end.
For a less competitive atmosphere, the Family mode does away with lives and lets everyone join in playing a selection of minigames of their choosing chosen via a funky balloon-bursting interface that's more fun (but possibly a tad more awkward) than a boring list. Once you've chosen your games, it plays pretty much the same as the Arcade mode really shoot stuff in an attempt to get more points than your opponents, except this time round no-one gets dropped out if they don't score enough.
But as much as the game gets right, there's one big problem with Wicked Monsters Blast - it's painfully short. There's only twelve different games to play through, each lasting around thirty seconds each meaning you could, in theory, see everything there is to see in less than a quarter of an hour after a couple of runs through the Arcade Mode. And while there is an impressive amount of variation in the dozen games included, they do start to wear somewhat thin after a few games.
That said, it is worth remembering that this is intended as a pull-out-every-once-in-a-while budget party release, and is available at most shops for around £20 - so if you're looking for a multiplayer shooting-type game you can't really go too far wrong. It's also available in a funky bundle with two chunky plastic 'blasters', which you can fit your Wii Remotes into to turn them into a gun. Even though the game functions fine without them, it did make for an entertaining multiplayer session, with two of us wielding their plastic pistols, while the third opted for the giant plastic shotgun from the previously reviewed Western Heroes.