minis Monday: Manic Monkey Mayhem

March 29, 2010

As a big fan of alliteration, there was only ever going to one title to pick for the inaugural minis Monday column on infinitecontinues, wasn’t there? The unashamedly silly-named Manic Monkey Mayhem is the winner of this dubious honour. Launched on the 1st October 2009 and intended as easily downloadable content for newly-launched and much-maligned PSPgo, the minis range was thrown open to PS3 users with a firmware update just before Christmas. I’ve hitherto avoided them for one simple, shallow reason – I’m a trophy whore and minis will not furnish me with any! In a bid to throw open the breadth of gaming content on infinitecontinues, a new column called minis Monday will appear every (you guessed it) Monday to cater for those that enjoy snack-sized gaming on the go or on the sofa.

It’s quite unfortunate, then, that easily the best thing about Manic Monkey Mayhem is its name. Combine graphics that are sub-par to the original PlayStation’s first tentative stabs at 3D modelling, laughable animation and a gameplay mechanic that tries its hardest to produce a modicum of fun and only succeeds for a few seconds every couple of hours, and you have a package that will make you resent every penny spent on its comparatively steep £3.49 price tag.

Its basic premise is the control of your chosen monkey (from a selection of eight, with wacky names like ‘Professor Z’ and ‘Furious George’) and its ability to hurl bananas at a series of objectives by holding down ‘X’ to power up the strength of your throw based on how far away it is from your own platform. In the majority of Manic Monkey Mayhem’s ragtag collection of game modes, these objectives will be fellow simians, although you will swear that each said ape is just an angular collection of garish polygons prancing around over there. These monkeys populate a number of floating platforms in a basic arena. The lengthy and, sadly mandatory, tutorial mode guides you through the art of jumping between these platforms, the ability to dodge incoming bananas, and also how to apply ‘aftertouch’ to your thrown projectiles in order to hit any monkey that has the gall to dodge your speeding fruit missile. The major flaw in the game’s design however, sees both the dodge and ‘aftertouch’ mechanics mapped to the D-pad. So, in a faceoff with your furry adversary, a quick stab of the D-pad to the right in order to bend your banana onto his bonce could also very well result in you ‘dodging’ right into a return missile that otherwise would have been sailing aimlessly wide of its intended mark. It’s a major misstep, but curiously it still doesn’t make the game difficult. I tackled two of the three Campaign sections, with 10 challenges in each, before I could no longer stomach what was being offered to me – and only on one of these challenges did I fail.

The deathmatches and survival modes against other CPU-controlled monkeys are the most numerous modes, and the most dull. But the developers of Manic Monkey Mayhem, The Code Monkeys Ltd. (no, seriously), clearly had the ethos of throwing plenty of shit at the wall, and see how much (if any) of it sticks. So, step forward game modes such as Target Practice, where the aim is to hit crates floating magically above the platforms within the time limit; Golden Banana, a deathmatch mode where a successful hit instantly ‘kills’ your opponent but they still get three lives (wtf?) and Bazookanana (see what they did there), where your fruit is loaded into the most insipid rocket launcher ever created in videogames, providing little to no feedback that you are supposed to be holding a high-powered bazooka in your simian grip.

It’s not all rotten though; Pass The Parcel tasks you with flinging an explosive package to each of your opponents across the void. An invisible timer counts down, and the unfortunate primate clutching the package when it explodes is eliminated. When the field is whittled down to just two of you slinging the package between each other, with no idea when it’s going to explode, the result is literally minutes of fun.

Manic Monkey Mayhem has other game modes, but they were locked when I first fired up the game. I presume that they are still locked because I couldn’t bring myself to go through the exact same game types another ten times in the final Campaign mode in order to check. I appreciate that minis have a size limit of 100 MB to enable them to be stored easily on the PSPgo (which this feels optimised for, considering its many jagged edges on an HDTV) but Game Boy Color games looked better than this. Manic Monkey Mayhem is a very poor game by anyone’s standards, and a videogaming experience I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy. If this review feels incomplete because it doesn’t cover everything on offer, apportion the blame to the developer’s decision to lock down all the game modes and then build a turgid and lank gaming experience to grind through in order to unlock them. Time is precious commodity these days, with so many excellent games out on the market this year. Two hours of mine have been wasted, never to be seen again. Hopefully this will save yours.

Take your £3.49 and spend it on something more useful, and more entertaining; like buying stamps, and avoid Manic Monkey Mayhem like the plague.

26/100

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