Those who regularly watch the Discovery Channel will undoubtedly know the name Monster Garage. It's the show where motorcycle guru Jesse James and his team transform a vehicle into a functional machine with a purpose. It's no surprise that the fun, dynamic show would make its way onto video games. Unfortunately, the PC version released earlier this year was a travesty, due to its lack of strategic gameplay, poor design, and stability issues. Ten months later, an overhauled Monster Garage has turned up on the Xbox. The Xbox version yields mixed results: It makes numerous improvements but it also takes away some of the freedom offered in the PC version.
Jesse assembles his team of helpers for some new challenges.
The Monster Garage TV show works like this: Jesse James and a group of specialists are given a task. For example, they may have to convert an RV into a mobile skate ramp or a Porsche into a golf ball retriever. It's not that easy, though. The team has to complete the project in seven days and they are only given a budget of $3,000. Fortunately, the team is able to sell unused parts stripped from the vehicle to earn extra cash. Unlike the PC version, the Xbox version gives you seven brand-new challenges (plus a bonus challenge) with the same rules, except now you have $5,000 to spend. The challenges, such as the flying car or the tank, aren't something that you're likely to ever see in real-life Monster Garage, so they're actually quite fun to see in the game.
Each challenge in the game is split into four phases: design, construction, decoration, and trial. Day one is solely devoted to reviewing the design. You can only use one design in the Xbox version, whereas you had multiple choices in the PC version. The removal of choices really hurts the game because there is no incentive to rebuild any of the monsters once you finish each one. Days two through six are spent chopping up the vehicle, ordering materials, creating custom parts, and attaching parts to the monster. You click on a team member and you will get a list of tasks he or she can perform. Each task will take a certain amount of time, and adding or subtracting parts from the vehicle also eats up the time. On day seven, you are allowed to customize your monster with paint jobs and decals. When you're finished, you'll actually get to drive your monster.
It's the adult version of a paint-by-the-numbers coloring book.
And that's all Monster Garage has to offer. It truly is as straightforward as it sounds. That's because each challenge has a paint-by-the-numbers approach. There is only one way to build the monster. You can't cut any corners. You can't construct something cool on your own. Nope, Jesse is going to build a roll cage the same way every time. If you get stumped, you can review the part-by-part blueprint video on how to build the monster so there's no mystery about what you need. In the PC version, you could install parts in any order, so sometimes you would make an error if you weren't paying attention. In the Xbox version, you can't install a part out of order. It makes the game less tricky because you won't incur time penalties from reinstalling parts in the correct order. The Xbox version also has no mystery about what parts you'll need to fabricate. You can click on any team member immediately to find out what you'll need to make, so you can jot down all the raw materials you need and then order them immediately. Again, this removes any guesswork from the game by holding your hand throughout the entire process.
The biggest improvement in the Xbox version is with the team members. You'll be randomly assigned three team members for each challenge (Jesse James is always on the team). The team members all have varying statistics, so one person may be better at welding than the others. There still isn't any direct interaction from team members--you'll never see any person-to-person conversation, or see anyone walking around in the shop. But there are some random events that occur. For instance, we had team members who didn't show up for work one morning, and some guys said that they had gotten into an argument with Jesse and left for a few hours. These added touches are nice, but they hardly affect the gameplay. The varying times for job completion between team members don't make a difference in the long run because you can complete jobs well before the deadline in all the challenges. We also never had anyone leave the garage if they were working on a job. The result is that we never had any time pressure to get the job done, and as such, we never had to restart a challenge due to running out of time.