Review: Monkey Madness: Island Escape (Nintendo DS)


Monkey Madness: Island Escape
Publisher: Storm City Games
Developer: 7 Raven Studios
Genre: Rail Shooter
Release Date: 03/23/2010

Of all the games I expected I was going to review, I have to say that this was in no way near on that list. I mean, I only found about this game when we needed someone to review it, and even then, information was surprisingly hard to come by. All I could really gather was that it was a rail shooter where you fought off hordes of angry monkeys. I thought it would be one of those games that took only a few hours to completely demolish and I could have a review up in relatively little time.

I was right on both accounts, but I’ve been right about that kind of thing before and turned up games that I actually liked, such as Aliens in the Attic or Garfield’s Fun Fest. They weren’t particularly good, but I had a decent enough time with them.

I’m not sure I can say the same for this game.

Story/Modes

The plot for this game, including all lines of dialogue and exposition, is shorter than the introduction above. A guy and a gal are flying around when their plane gets damaged and they crash land on an uncharted island. Monkeys attack them. They fight back to get off of the island, though apparently they find some treasure along the way. That last part isn’t really expounded upon, so there’s very little to go on.

After the introduction, there were only two instances of story development. Each consisted of a single static screen with a single sentence to go with it. I have never seen something with a story be this bare bones about it. There’s so little here, I can’t even tell you if it was good or not. I can tell you than the “ending” is something of a sham and doesn’t really seem to end the game at all, but rather just leaves you with a confused realization that you’ve beaten the game.

There are four modes to play around with. Story mode puts you through each of the game’s ten levels in succession. If you leave, you can start where you stopped off last time, and you can replay previous levels. Survival mode gives you one life and tasks you with playing the same course as story. Once you die, your score is recorded and it’s game over. Time Attack allows you to play any level in an effort to get the best time. It too is a one off deal. Finally, there’s a multiplayer mode titled “versus”. I didn’t get to try this, as it required two copies of the game. I haven’t even seen this game in stores, Gamestop doesn’t seem to know of its existence, and even if that weren’t the case, I can’t think of anyone I’d know who’d buy it. The description in the manual didn’t help much either. From what I can surmise, it appears to be the kind of thing where both players play through the same level and the one with the highest score wins.

It all boils down to you replaying the same levels over and over again. Without branching paths or special bonuses like you’d see in something House of the Dead, it means that you’re very unlikely to get much out of any of these modes unless you’re really bored.

Graphics

This is one of the least impressive looking games I’ve ever played. I won’t say it’s the ugliest, even on the DS, with Unsolved Crimes still taking first in that category. The whole thing seems like some child’s drawing come to life. That might sound interesting, but I’m talking about a kid who can’t draw here. And, by come to life I mean popped into very crude 3D graphics that were surpassed by games on the GBA.

The character models are OK by comparison, I suppose. They at least look like cartoon versions of the animals they’re supposed to represent. It’s mostly just strangely bipedal monkeys in various costumes that loop the same two or three animations until you put them out of their misery. They don’t look good, but they’re tolerable compared to the backgrounds.

The backgrounds look awful. Many buildings and trees look they were cut out of single sheet paper. And before you ask, it is clearly not an aesthetic the game is going for, because some other sections are quite as bad. The 3D models for the backgrounds are even worse than the characters, and it never stops looking bad.

The rest of the visual package details those scant few story screens. These are just static images of bad drawings that probably took all of an hour to make.

Like I said, the game is just unimpressive to look at.

Audio

The music is probably the best thing about the game, but don’t let that statement fool you into thinking it is particularly good or anything. It is, however, really fitting for the game. The tunes are light, fast paced, and carry a good beat that suits a rail shooter. The jungle inspired songs are enjoyable enough, but they leave your head instantly when you stop playing the game. As I write this, I can’t hum any of them, and I had the game on less than half an hour ago. AND I was listening to the music in particular. Oh well.

The audio effects are a wash. You hear the same annoying monkey screeching noise and muffled explosions over and over again. Each monkey makes the same noise when you finish it off, the effects are tinny coming out of the DS speakers, and they do nothing but detract further from the game.

Overall, the presentation for the game is pretty pathetic. It isn’t dreadful, just lame in almost every endeavor.

Gameplay

The game controls really simply. You move the stylus on the touch screen in order to move a cursor on the top screen. You press up to fire. The controls are responsive, though they take a little while to get used to. The cursor on the top screen is rather large, but it only hits in the middle, hence the slight learning curve.

The game is a true rail shooter. You shoot from first person, with no view of your character or weapon. The camera swerves to a new view constantly and only shifts when you’ve cleared out all enemies. You keep shooting until you get to the end of a level. A few levels feature bosses that take considerable damage before they go down, but are otherwise exactly the same as regular enemies.

Enemies come in three forms. Firstly, you have monkeys. They come in several costumes such as ninja, pirate, soldier, and even a few mummies here and there. They usually just walk around and throw projectiles at you occasionally. The ninja monkeys are a bit different in that they often dash around at a faster rate. The second type of enemy is the non-monkey. These include seagulls, bats, and giant insects. These take only one hit and often drop items such as weapon upgrades and health. They don’t attack, but they will disappear after a few seconds. Finally, there are the bosses. They’re slow, but they are often huge and take a long time to kill. The biggest threat they possess is that they can block your view of other monkeys, meaning they can shoot at you without you having the ability to retaliate.

You get three different weapons in the game. Well, actually, there’s four. You get a slingshot if you play as a guy and a water gun if you play as the girl. There’s no difference. You can pick up ammo for a machine gun and a bazooka as well. Machine guns fire shots that are weaker than your normal weapon’s, but they fire much more rapidly. The bazooka fires slowly, but takes everything but a boss down in one hit. I found the bazooka to be the most useful, followed closely by the starter weapon. The machine gun is fine at the beginning of the game, but becomes useless by the end because it takes twice as long to kill things because of the lack of power.

There’s not much left to talk about here. The game keeps track of your score, and you can earn multipliers to boost it. When you run out of hits, you instantly go to the next life without restarting.

As a rail shooter, the basics are there. The controls work even if they aren’t ideal. The real problem is the lack of variety. There are almost no tangible differences between enemies, and the weapon types are all introduced during the first level, so there’s nothing to discover. It’s playable, but nothing remarkable.

Replayability

I kind of touched on this in the modes section of the review, but the game gives you barely any reason to replay it other than sheer boredom.

There are three difficulties to choose from, but all they really do is affect the number of lives you start with. There was no difference in terms of enemy placement, patterns, or even item drop rate. It was kind of a bummer. It furthers the notion that no matter what mode you play, the experience will be the same.

Worst of all, the story can be completely completed in less than half an hour. Without branching paths, real changes in difficulty, or any other of the niceties usually found in the genre, the game will definitely NOT give you your money’s worth. It just doesn’t last long enough.

Balance

Difficulty during levels fluctuates constantly. There will be some screens with a single dumb enemy sitting in the open. Other times, there will be five or six monkeys, all of whom are throwing weapons at you, and defeating them only causes replacements to spawn.

The biggest problem I had with the game was the end section. Instead of making the boss hard by giving it a small weak spot and powerful attacks, the developers instead had the absolutely amazing idea to have the finale consist of three giant robot monkeys that each step right up to the screen, taking up most of it and firing point blank shots. All of this is furthered by the fact that regular monkeys will stalk you from behind these bosses. You cannot hit them, even in the leg, during these sections. You have to hope they step into your line of sight.

Overall, the game is mind numbingly easy thanks to dumb AI, but there are still moments of frustration that make you detest the people who thought the game up.

Originality

Hmm.

Here we have a rail shooter than offers no branching pathways, customization, mini-games or just about anything you could want. All you can do is play through the same levels over an over again by yourself.

It’s a huge step back in every regard. There’s nothing original about it at all.

Addictiveness

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. How can you possible get addicted to a gaming experience that doesn’t last more than half an hour. You might point out casual games as the perfect example of exactly that, but they almost always offer something to keep you going, such as rewards, or the ability to compete with friends. This game has none of that.

I’ve played short games before. Starfox 64 isn’t long by any stretch of the imagination, but the different endings, branching pathways, and interesting level designs make it a game that you can keep coming back to for multiple playthroughs and have a different experience each time.

Monkey Madness is a game that you’ll be glad to be done with. Once this review is finished, the game is going back into its case and will be taking up a small bit of space in a cardboard box somewhere. I’ll almost certainly never feel the urge to touch it again.

Again, it isn’t that the game is overtly bad or anything. It just has nothing to offer but a little bit of killed time. I can get that done in countless better ways.

Appeal Factor

From what I can tell, there aren’t any stores carrying this game at the moment, so obviously no one out there feels there is a market for the game. Again, I couldn’t find the game on Gamestop’s website, and I’ve certainly never seen it in one of the three locations near my house. No one has even heard of the game.

Even if that weren’t true, the game hardly has any appeal at all. Most people like monkeys for one, and wouldn’t relish a game where you go about massacring hundreds of them. Fans of rail shooters can find better games on the DS if they really want to, but aren’t likely to be looking anyway.

If there has ever been a game without a proper audience, this is it.

Miscellaneous

I believe I’ve said everything I can say about this game.

It is thoroughly uninteresting from start to finish and has probably already disappeared into obscurity. Yet here I am, posting a review up for it.

Life can be strange sometimes.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Poor
Graphics: Very Poor
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Very Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Worthless
Miscellaneous: Worthless
Final Score: Bad Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

The score for this game is a bit misleading, especially if you’ve taken the time to read this entire review. Sadly, we have no score titled “completely uninteresting in every way and not worth the time I spent playing it or the time I spent writing this review.” I’ll likely forget this game exists in about a week until I randomly look through the archives and wonder what poor soul got stuck with it. Then I’ll realize that it was me and have a good laugh. That will be the most entertainment I ever get out of this game.

Tags: , , , , , ,

No Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *