100% an impulse buy on the visuals alone, Dad’s Monster House is a point and click puzzle game made by Cotton Game. Does the artwork look familiar? It probably does, as you’ve probably stumbled upon Isoland at some point.
I have one of the games for the PS4 but haven’t installed it since buying it a couple of years ago. Life issues for a gamer that’s gotta have them all. Though I haven’t played the console game, diving into the curious world of Carlos in Dad’s Monster House is an interesting one, well worth the look if you’re a fan of problem-solving.
After receiving a distress call from his estranged father, Carlos heads to his home/lab to assist. Y’see, he’s one of those mad scientist types – a genius, but quite mad. Upon your arrival, he’s nowhere to be found, but you’ll get to meet many of his… creations in his absence.
Dad’s Monster House Review
Listed as a horror game, it’s more a surreal puzzle experience as you’re thrust into the playground of a screwball. Well, he’s ambitious and perhaps not all that crazy; it’s just that his ideas are a little unorthodox, and in your mini-quest to locate his whereabouts by solving some mysteries, you’ll uncover some insights.
Immediately you’ll locate dad’s diary – a beautifully illustrated scrapbook with a living lock preventing you from uncovering all the truths in one go. Said lock is an insect that will stretch its legs around the pages until you feed it a DNA capsule to reveal the next few pages. Said DNA is located throughout the rooms, usually in plain sight, but at the same time, beautifully blended into the scene.
Dad’s Monster House is hand-drawn throughout, and it has that distinct Cotton Games aesthetic, with a little Tim Burton thrown in for good measure. As a point and click, you’ll fully appreciate each scene – digesting all the elements, not only through talent but because every scene is embedded with hints.
Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink
Other than the diary, there’s no dialogue/text in Dad’s Monster House, so you have to look out for these hints, ideographs and logic puzzles to unlock a new room, secret or item. Naturally, there’s backtracking, and while the setting is small, it’s not one of those games where you’re constantly going back and forth, desperate for a clue. That said, it’s not always forthcoming, and some puzzles are a hairline away from frustration.
But that’s good design. Mini-games like a Snake-inspired videogame where you can’t go back on yourself proved challenging when you only have limited moves to complete it – the same with rearranging tile-based puzzles to reveal a key, or locked room. There’s also the objectives of helping dad’s creations, but there never feels like any urgency, and you can almost run through approaching in the order you prefer.
What I will say is Dad’s Monster House isn’t a combine X with Z, but recording diagrams or writing down binary. I loved this element – grabbing an old envelope and recreating the patterns I saw on a wall earlier. Some were a little more complicated, so I took a photo of my monitor using my phone for quick reference. You will still use items to solve a puzzle, but that element is straightforward enough.
Where The Hell Is Dad?
Dad’s Monster House isn’t a big game, but due to the problem-solving involved, you’ll spend a decent amount of time working out each puzzle. While you could probably do this in one sitting, nothing is pushing you to rush through, and due to the appeal of the illustrations, you might find yourself hanging about a bit longer than you’d think.
There’s also a fair amount of achievements and secrets in the game, and it’s not crazy talk to say you’ll be doing repeat plays to unlock everything for completionist sake and for the fun of it. What I’m trying to say is the game does have a bit of longevity in it for a short puzzle game, and overall, I came away with a pleasant feeling. Perhaps not the horror vibes you were expecting, but a satisfying puzzle game nevertheless.