Size Five Games is best known for Ben There, Dan That and thus for being one of the few recent torch-bearers for Point & Click Adventure games. Gun Monkeys then, is something completely different – more Smash Brothers than SCUMM.
But is it King Kong, or King Krap?
[Disclaimer: Dan Marshall was kind enough to supply weekendwarrio.rs with three – count them THREE – Gun Monkeys keys (or Gun Mon-keys, if you will).]
Gun Monkeys is a 1v1, competitive, multiplayer, 2D action game. I love those sorts of sentences because they are one hundred percent accurate and yet tell you abso-fucking-lutely nothing about the game. Let’s try it again then, shall we…
In the world of Gun Monkeys, you control a team of stupid little monkeys who have been sent into the future to gather power cubes – the only problem is that someone else has their own team of stupid little monkeys, and they’re going to try and stop you. You battle with guns, bombs and a wide selection of powerups, and if your monkey face dies in battle it’s alright, you’ve got more to send into the future to keep the fight going.
This small bit of lore is narrated to you during the tutorial in the dulcet, accented voice of Kevin Eldon, with a superbly funny script that carries over into the commentary for the matches themselves. “Shoot him in his stupid monkey face”, he’ll mutter when you grab a powerup, and it’s just the right kind of weird and funny to compliment a game about monkeys battling in the far future.
Graphically Gun Monkeys is presented in stylised 2D, with a high-contrast colour scheme and a diffuse glow to the light sources. It’s simple, clean and distinctive, making it easy to keep up with the action and track the power cubes as they spawn on a level. The menus are presented as if you’re viewing a shitty old security camera feed, and the whole thing reminds me of Twelve Monkeys. Sending doomed critters into the future with haphazard, cobbled-together technology, watching it all unfold though the lens of an imperfect camera looking impossibly into the future… And I even made that connection before realising the obvious one. I’ll give you a hint – it’s in the name.
The levels are procedurally generated, neatly sidestepping the issue of veteran players stomping the inexperienced simply because they know the maps intimately. They tend to be a roughly symmetrical collection of scenery, with occasional hazards and destructible platforms. The levels are just big enough that you could theoretically stay out of the way of the other monkey and just peacefully collect powercubes… But where’s the fun in that?
Gun Monkeys has a level of subtle strategy that isn’t immediately apparent, but elevates the game from a simple shooter to a genuinely interesting battle of wits. Do you ignore the enemy as much as possible and gather powercubes as quickly as possible? Do you meet them head on with guns blazing in a race for the cubes that land between both your bases? Or do you drop a bomb at their base right as they’re returning with a sack full of cubes? If you’re any good you’ll do some combination of each, and all in the small handful of minutes it takes for a match to unfold.
It’s not all merry monkey murder though. The game is fantastic fun when you can get a match to connect, but that’s problematic right now. If the Game Hub on Steam is any indication, Dan appears to be working around the clock to fix issues with Gun Monkeys, so I’ve no doubt it’ll be smoother soon, but it’s something I still needed to mention.
If you’ve got a significant other, housemate, sibling, or pet monkey, you need not spend time waiting for the server stars to align, because local head-to-head is available. I’m a lonely man with a borrowed cat, so I can’t get too much use out of it, but I’m happy to see it included as it’s often overlooked these days in favour of all things Massively-Multiplayer and Online.
Gun Monkeys is a simple but compelling affair. In the same way you start hammering R as soon as you die in Hotline Miami, all you want to do at the end of a round – whether won or lost – is hit rematch. Once the networking issues are straightened out, Gun Monkeys will be a great way to kill time (and monkeys) in short bursts.
- Gamepad – Gun Monkeys defaults to keyboard, but has gamepad support straight out of the box. It’s more natural for the running, gunning and wall-jumping gameplay.
- Patience – For those aforementioned networking issues.
- A Friend – For some of that sweet, sweet local multiplayer action.