Released in Late 2001 for the PlayStation 1, Monster Racer is a low-budget Mascot Racer developed and published by Microids with music provided by Knockin' Boots Productions. The game was designed and themed to be an impulse buy for Halloween. Conversely, the game was released only in Europe where Halloween as a spooky holiday is barely a thing.
Monster Racer is a Stealth Sequel to 1999's Halloween Racer. Although nothing about the marketing, title, platform, logo, or story ties them together, most of the cast of Halloween Racer and several circuits are reused, if reimagined. The former game was developed by Visual Impact and only published by Microids, so it would appear that Microids purchased the property and deliberately avoided connections to Halloween Racer because Visual Impact still had ownership over it as a product of their labour.
The setting of the game is Halloween, a realm between Heaven and Hell where many monsters end up for not fitting in elsewhere. The manual and the back-of-the-box differ in the explanation as to why the monsters of Halloween race against each other. According to the box, they do it for the fun of it. According to the manual, the race is about collecting lanterns by winning races to earn the right to compete against the forces of darkness to reestablish access to Earth to celebrate Halloween. The latter explanation fits better with the game's boss races, but either explanation works. Monster Racer offers ten default playable monsters, those being a Frankenstein's monster, a mummy, a witch, a vampire, a werewolf, a bigfoot, a succubus, a poltergeist, a skeleton, and a scarecrow. Two more racers need to be unlocked, which are an imp and a devil.
The game features four modes: Adventure, Arcade, Time Trial, and Arena, the latter of which subdivided in Hot Potato, Battle, and Team Battle. The adventure mode is the central gameplay mode through which more circuits, reverse circuits, and more racers are unlocked. The ten circuits to be found in Monster Racer are Botanic Garden, Port, Mad Jungle (collectively Episode 1), Egypte,note Castle, Museum, Mine (collectively Episode 2), Iceberg, Teath Pass, and Volcano (collectively Episode 3). The Volcano circuit is the boss stage where the player races the boss. To pass through the adventure mode, the player may come in fourth at the lowest each race, all of which are fixed at five laps. A full run through adventure mode, regardless of difficulty (Easy, Normal, Hard), consists of nine races against five other racers, one race against the sub-boss, nine reverse races against five other racers, and one reverse race against the boss.
A curious inheritance of Halloween Racer, Monster Racer utilizes a Password Save system in lieu of a memory card save system, which by 2001 was the norm for consoles. Passwords are handed out after beating each episode and depend on the chosen racer and difficulty. This means that saving is limited to the adventure mode. Time Trial results cannot be saved.
Not to be confused with Monster Racers, a mon-centric racing game, or Monster Rancher, a mon-centric simulation game series.
Monster Racer contains examples of:
- Abandoned Mine: The Mine circuit takes place in an abandoned mine. There are cobwebs, unmined crystals, abandoned carts, lots of lava, and the minecart tracks eerily end in a cave mouth lit with torches. A sign at the entrance goes as far as to declare the mine haunted.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Malicia has the off-putting habit of falling in love with any man that enters her line of sight. She herself is a witch with all the usual traits that conventionally aren't deemed attractive.
- Animated Armor: Lanclot is a poltergeist, the soul of a knight who fell in combat. He's taken a creaky suit of armour as his body.
- Ancient Egypt: Despite not taking place on Earth, there is a circuit through Egypt (using the French spelling "Egypte"). There's sand, natural rock formations, manmade stone contructions, a pyramid, and hieroglyphs inside tunnels which notably depict a pharaoh wearing the hedjet.
- Bat Out of Hell: Vampire Bats are weapons to be picked up that act as target-seeking missiles. Their usefulness is limited by the fact that they always take the shortest route to their target, so if there's any object blocking the shortest route they'll blow up against that instead.
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: Digo is identified as a big foot in the manual and, indeed, has the foot size for it. But his white fur and a sled as his vehicle of choice also make him look like a yeti, presuming the two creatures aren't one and the same in Monster Racer. Digo is notably clumsy and has been banished to Halloween for stepping on the feet of one angel and demon too many.
- Big Red Devil: Master is a corpulent, red-skinned devil with hooves, demon wings, and horns. He wears a toga, likely is the boss of Gigotin, serves as the game's end-boss, and may or may not be the Devil himself.
- Cave Mouth:
- Early in the Egypte circuit, the racers leave the outside by entering a manmade tunnel which entrance due to the presence of eyes and a suggestion of lips looks like a face. It's not particularly intimidating-looking, though.
- Towards the end of the Mine circuit, the minecart tracks suddenly end as a new section of the tunnels is introduced inside a cave mouth. The tunnel section inside is lit by torches that eventually lead back to the entrance.
- At the start of the Iceberg circuit, two unhappy faces make up the hilltop to the left.
- Creative Closing Credits: The credits can be accessed from the menu at all times and play automatically when the adventure mode is beaten. In an area that seems a reimagining of The Garden from Halloween Racer, all twelve racers appear as ghosts floating in a circle. The camera moves from them to the surroundings and back to the racers while credits play in the foreground.
- Defeat Means Playable: There are only two characters to unlock in Monster Racer, namely the sub-boss and the end-boss. The sub-boss Gigotin is a jester imp who rides in a giant cauldron and who becomes available upon beating the normal level of the adventure mode. The end-boss Master is a devil, if not the Devil, who flies along the circuit. He becomes available upon beating the hard level of the adventure mode.
- Dem Bones: Clack is a skeleton with green fog feet, although he often looks to have nothing beneath his spine at all. His legs were removed as punishment for his habitual cheating at whatever game he participates in.
- Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: Tornadoes are obstacles the racers can put up for each other. Touching one locks a racer into the whirl for a few seconds.
- Excuse Plot: The game's appeal is having all kinds of monsters duking it out in wacky races. The superfluous explanation is that they're all in it to collect the most lanterns and be the one to vanquish the forces of darkness by beating them in a final race.
- Flaming Skulls: The Flaming Skull is a weapon that when thrown moves in a straight line forward and sets fire to whomever it touches. This being a racing game, the target doesn't get hurt, but can't move for precious seconds.
- Flying Broomstick: The witch Malicia participates in the races by flying on a broomstick.
- Fog Feet: The skeleton Clack has no legs, but instead coasts along the circuit on green fog.
- Frankenstein's Monster: Francky is a "man-made zombie" who is crazy about electricity, but also a walking hazard to any electrical grid he come sin the vicinity of. His ride of choice is a lab table.
- Halloween Town: The realm of Halloween is its own dimension between Heaven and Hell. It is implied to be one of several realms and not the only where monsters live. If so, then Halloween is the bottom-of-the-barrel dimension for monsters that aren't welcome anywhere else. The realm's landscape is diverse and not all sections are necessarily spooky. For instance, the Port circuit is just a harbor and the Iceberg circuit is just an iceberg.
- Haunted Castle: The Castle circuit goes around and through a castle that by virtue of being located in Halloween is the home of a monster. Which one is unknown, though. The Museum circuit also appears to be located inside castle walls repurposed for a museum.
- Helicopter Pack: Hitchpock has a helicopter pack as his vehicle of choice.
- The Imp: Gigotin is implied to be the imp to Master. He shows up as the sub-boss while Master is the end-boss, and after Master is beaten in a race it is revealed that Gigotin was watching the whole thing through cauldron scrying. He seems pretty happy with the outcome, suggesting he got an earful when he lost.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: The Mini-Monster spell causes every racer except for the one that activated it to become miniature versions of themselves. It reduces their speed and ability to bodily block.
- Interface Screw: There's two trap spells that affect the player's interface. Firstly, the Shambolic Switcheroo spell causes the racer's controls to become reversed for a while. Secondly, Jack's Fury causes the screen to flash white for a full second during which the player can only race on hoping for the best.
- Invincibility Power-Up: One of the beneficial pick-ups is the Shield. It manifests as a ball of energy around the one who activates it and protects them for a short time against all attacks.
- Jungle Japes: The Mad Jungle circuit takes place in a jungle. There are some manmade constructions here and there, like bridges and tunnels.
- Lethal Lava Land: The Volcano circuit is the boss stage and takes place in a volcano. Here, the player races only against either the sub-boss Gigotin or the end-boss Master. The both of them are denizens of Hell, so they likely feel at home amidst the lava.
- Mage Species: As an inhabitant of Halloween where everyone is a monster, it follows that Malicia is a witch by birth and not by profession.
- Menacing Museum: The Museum circuit goes through a museum. It is a relatively empty museum, with a few bookcases, some cages, two tapestries, a giant yellow crystal, and loads of pumpkin portraits.
- Mummy: The mummy Fidula is or was the servant of a princess. When she was mummified, garlic was added by the embalmers for health and safety, but they overdid the amount and nowadays Fidula has a bad case of garlic halitosis. When it comes to the races, Fidula rides on an upside-down pyramid.
- Nitro Boost: Each racer has access to a turbo boost, but they can only maintain it as long as they have the fuel for it. There are two pick-ups that refill the gauge. Bottled Bats Wings are the direct means of refueling the turbo boost, whereas the Magic Cauldron replaces the turbo boost's regular gauge with a magic one. While the Magic Cauldron is in effect, the turbo boost is much stronger but carries the risk of explosion.
- Non-Indicative First Episode: The intro video is an oddity compared to the game because of the design differences for several characters. First off, the scarecrow Hitchpock has his looks from Halloween Racer with the dangling arms and the four-prong base, while his in-game model has straight arms and no base. Then there's the vampire Dragoula, who wasn't in Halloween Racer but did appear on the cover. As on that cover, he rides on a gravestone in the intro video, while in the game he flies by his own power. Also, his skin is uniquely purple in the intro video. Next, as per Halloween Racer, the skeleton Clack has green fog feet in the video, but in the game those fog feet aren't ever visible if they're there at all. Fourthly, the mummy Fidula wears a nemes in the intro video, while she wears a modius, specifically one that resembles Tutankhamun's, in the game. Meanwhile, Wolf's snout in the intro video is over four times what it is in the game and rather than surfing on a large bone, he's posited on it like a bird in the intro video. Lastly, there are two weapons used in the video that aren't present in the game: Fidula throws a jack o'lantern bomb and Dragoula answers that by throwing saw blades at her.
- One-Track-Minded Hunger: Wolf suffers insatiable hunger and will eat anything he can get his teeth into. He also has perpetual digestive problems because of his eating habits, which is what makes him grumpy.
- Our Imps Are Different: Gigotin is all but confirmed to be an imp. He is a small, green-skinned jester in service of Master and is the game's sub-boss as well as an unlockable racer. He rides in a floating cauldron, which he also uses for scrying. His name refers to a dish containing a small lamb's leg (or modernly any small piece of meat or fish) and is akin to name like "Morsel" or "Crumb".
- Our Vampires Are Different: Dragoula is a pitiful vampire rejected from Heaven for being a vampire and from Hell for being a hemophobic vampire. And so he's ended up in Halloween. Dragoula is an impish vampire who either flies or rides on a gravestone.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Wolf is a werewolf with a never-ending desire for food and equally never-ending digestive problems. He surfs along the circuits on a giant bone.
- Password Save: Progress in as well as the unlockables from the adventure mode are saved by means of a password system. Passwords consist of six numbers and are given out after beating the first episode on normal, after beating the second episode on normal, after beating the third episode (and sub-boss) on normal, after beating the first episode in reverse, after beating the second episode in reverse, and after beating the third episode (and end-boss) in reverse. Passwords depend on the difficulty and the character, but +/- 1 nets you the passwords for another character. For instance, on easy Malicia's passwords are 110143, 220103, 120583, 010573, 100233, and 120873. Turn those final 3s into 5s and you've got the passwords for Wolf on easy. Incidentally, to tie the game to Halloween, the password section illustrates the passwords with candy.
- Poltergeist: Lanclot is a poltergeist, the soul of a knight who fell in combat. He's taken a creaky suit of armour as his body and he rides on a large shield.
- Pumpkin Person: Jack himself is the mind behind the races and it's his lanterns the contestants race each other for. The pick-ups are also his work, as evidenced by the fact they're in crates with his face on it. One trap, Jack's Fury, creates a blinding flash preventing its target from seeing for a second or two. Jack doesn't appear in the game itself, but he is on the cover as the races' flagman.
- Pyramid Power: Fidula rides on an upside-down pyramid while seated for meditation.
- Scary Scarecrow: Hitchpock is a living scarecrow with a stick holding him up instead of legs. He participates in the race by means of a jetpack. As an outspoken know-it-all, he's not very popular in Halloween.
- Sinister Schnoz: Both the witch Malicia and the vampire Dragoula have exceptionally pointy noses, although Malicia's is easily twice the size of Dragoula's. Her nose combined with her pointy chin somewhat makes her look like she has a beak.
- Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Iceberg and Teath Pass take place on ice- and snow-covered terrains. Despite that the circuits look slippery, they are not.
- Sticky Situation: Wolf traps are obstacles the racers can put up for each other. They work in reverse of what is usual: the chain attaches to the racer and the trap itself holds on to the ground, which for as long as it is in effect slows down the racer.
- Stock Femur Bone: Wolf surfs on a huge femur bone of unspecified origin.
- Succubi and Incubi: Though she looks like a run-of-the-mill ghost, Victoria is a succubus. She's a neat freak whose obsessive behavior drives others away.
- Thin Chin of Sin: The witch Malicia has an exceptionally pointy chin which along with her pointy nose somewhat makes her look like she has a beak.
- Unlockable Content: Before a circuit can be used in Arcade, said circuit has to be unlocked in Adventure. Circuits are unlocked per episode rather than individually. On top of that, beating the adventure mode on easy level unlocks the option to speed across circuits in reverse.
- Wicked Witch: As an inhabitant of Halloween, the witch Malicia isn't particularly evil but her association is with the spooky side of magic and her appearance checks all the key components of a witch better avoided.