Platforms: PSP Mini (Reviewed)| PS3
Developer: The Code Monkeys
Publisher: The Code Monkeys
It's been kicking around on WiiWare for a fair bit now, but Spring saw The Code Monkeys' relatively warmly received Manic Monkey Mayhem make the jump to other platforms. I'll be honest, I was rather less than impressed with the version for the Wii, which made poor use of the Wii's motion controls and then tried to marry complex arm manoeuvre's with a wide array of potential button inputs that made for a wholly unsatisfying game that proved to be hamstrung by frustration rather than filled with fun.
I'm happy to say that's not the case with the PSN port. Having taken motion control out of the equation, Manic Monkey Mayhem becomes a frantic little number that proves to be a little like the classic DOS game Gorillas crossed with Worms 3D. The basic premise is simple: there's an arena made up of a number of platforms, chuck in a few monkeys, a bunch of bananas and have them battle one another by using fruit as projectiles.
You kick things off after the title screen by picking your simian avatar of choice from a shelf of eight, each of whom comes with a lightly amusing description. There's not really any backstory or plot as such and none of the monkeys have any differences so choosing between them is purely a matter of aesthetic preference. I personally went for the statesman monkey in Clint, banana stub hanging limply from the corner of his mouth, and with a predilection for saying 'punk' a lot.
Once that's done it's time to get to grips with the tutorial, a rather comprehensive series of stages intended to teach you the basics of lobbing bananas, dodging incoming fruit, hopping around the arena, restocking on ammo, and catching offending bananas before winging them back with extreme prejudice. It's all rather sedate and easy to get into, with the game never really punishing you for getting anything wrong. Once that's all done, the other game modes open up and the real fun starts.
There are a fair few control inputs to remember, with the symbol buttons all doing different things such as throwing, catching and climbing trees to restock on ballistics, the shoulder bumpers used to jump across to empty platforms and the D-pad used for evasive manoeuvres that would put Keanu Reeves to shame. But bizarrely, these all seem to make much more sense on the PSP rather than the Wii. If anything, this port is a prime example of why motion control will probably never absolutely supplant the trusted control pad - well, at least not any time soon. Everything makes much more sense, there's no interface frustration and no danger of blitzing a screen through Wiimote violence. Firing bananas is, much like Worms or indeed most early Tiger Woods games, a matter of co-ordination, skill and timing, rather than being a haphazard whirlwind of flailing arms...and that's just the menu.
But I digress.
Campaign is a traditional series of single-player missions and scenarios, often with differing win requirements. Some will merely require you to survive without ammunition and play defensively, others will see you duelling, there'll be traditional deathmatch levels as well as point scoring levels conducted under a time limit. These little variations are welcome, the game could have simply been a monotonous repetitive of uninspired drudgery but it isn't.
Part of that is down to the game's presentation, its cartoonish visuals and cheeky animations recalling early Rare games. It's unlikely to win any awards in the beauty department and is a little rough around the edges, but it's smooth and serviceable certainly with some nice victory animations. Suffice to say, it looks far better comparatively on the PSP than it does blown up on a PS3, but that's to be expected. The sound would have been pretty hard to mess up, but the music has the right kind of animated whimsy to it and the yelping monkey noises add to the frenetic atmosphere.
There is a big minus though, and it could prove to be a dealbreaker for some. You see all of the faults on the Wii version could more or less be overlooked if you had a mate to share the experience with and unfortunately that's not the case here, the multiplayer excised like a wayward slice of tomato in a burger. Games like this are made to be played with others and in a way it's a shame that this game got released as a PSP mini, with its oppressive no-multiplayer restrictions. Don't get me wrong, it's a still a fun little title to pick up and play in short bursts, but when was the last time you played a game of Worms on your own? The Code Monkeys have done a good job with this port, and all of the control issues that plagued the Wii game have been rectified with the simple reincorporation of button inputs. It's certainly worth a punt at £3-4, but I'd have actually paid a little bit more for a full arcade release with a multiplayer mode and some spruced up graphics.
- Controls better than the Wii version
- No multiplayer
- No huge amount of longevity
- A missed opportunity?
The Short Version: A worthy mini and one that will certainly prove diverting for a little while thanks to some fun, frantic gameplay. But once all's said and done there's not a huge number of reasons to come back to this title, especially now it's lacking a multiplayer mode.