Halloween Bits: Doc Mock’s MonsterTime!

October 9, 2020 — I have a secret Halloween Season tradition. And the next sentence will make that first sentence obsolete. For years now, when it’s late at night, after my family’s abed, I light my pumpkin candle, grab a hard cider and some candy corn, and play a Halloween video game called DocMock’s MonsterTime!

I have a fraught past with video games. I have to stay away from them. If I allow that pastime to pass into my life, I will wrap both hands around a controller and not let go until I’ve lost my job, my family, my health. Just will. Video games consume me. I love the immersion, I love switching my brain to pure reaction, I love the repetitious work of aiming for high scores or exploring a level, I love the empty sense of accomplishment. Video games are better than everything else in life.

So, as part of fighting that potential addiction, I often keep a simple game at hand to jump into here or there when I’m having trouble with a manuscript or when I want to fast-forward the next half hour. It’s the equivalent of ordering a club soda at the bar. Or a nicotine patch. I don’t know.

Doc Mock’s MonsterTime! has been perfect for me at this time of year. It’s a free online game created by Roger Barr & Friends at i-mockery.com, one of the original sites to celebrate the long Halloween and, well, one of the original sites, since it started in 1999. I have no idea when or how I found I-Mockery, honestly. The years 1996-2006 were a blur for me web-wise (I do sort of remember running my own pre-OTIS website sometime around 2000-2001). But MonsterTime! itself came out in 2009, after I’d found my internet legs.

The game is based on the mechanics of BurgerTime, the 1980s arcade game where you play as a chef who’s trying to build burgers with his feet, by walking across all the fixin’s, which are laid out across a multi-level Donkey Kong-type scaffolding. You cross the bun on the top level, it falls and hits the lettuce on the next level which hits the cheese, which hits the beef, which hits the bottom bun. And you’re trying to get it all stacked on that bottom level. Meanwhile, anthropomorphic foods are trying to stop you. You have to avoid them, but if you time a falling piece right you can make them fall with it or smash them beneath it.

Simple, but satisfying mechanics. The only thing it needs to make it perfect is…monsters. And Dock Mock’s MonsterTime! fixes that.

In Roger Barr’s version, you’re a mad scientist (Doc Mock) building classic horror monsters with your feet while modern horror monsters try to stop you. It’s a monster mash even more than the Monster Mash. You build thid Fiend Club by stacking slices of nervous systems, skeletons, musculature, and skins. Each level you’re creating a different monster—Frankenstein, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Bride, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Phantom of the Opera, the Mummy, Dracula and, in a bit of a flourish, a Mole Man and the Werewolf of London. The modern monsters trying to stop you from resurrecting the classics are Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, and Michael. I felt like I just transcribed the entirety of Elvira’s Monster Rap with this paragraph.

When you finished stacking all the slices, they merge into that level’s Universal Monster, which then comes alive and scares the 1980s (plus Leatherface) slashers off, who flee in terror leaving chainsaws and fedoras and knifes and hockey masks behind. I’d say it’s those details that make this game charming, but it’s pretty much everything that makes this games charming. Also, if you fail and the slashers murder you in a gout of 8-bit blood, your failure is greeting by an end screen where Doc Mock is hanged by his eviscerated intestines. Like I said, charming.

At one point, in 2012, I held the high score, with JWO right at the top of the board (and down most of the rest of it, en route). But it's been walloped multiple times since then by people I assume I'd love to hang out with.

So if you’re overwhelmed by all the seasonal streaming entertainment options these days, but still want to do something fun in front of a screen with a low learning curve that evokes the holiday, totally jump on Doc Mock’s MonsterTime!. Just save me some space on the leaderboard, please.