3DS Download | Renegade Kid | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now (North America) | $4.99
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5th July 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Highlighting quick thinking and strategy in a fairly fast-paced environment, Bomb Monkey isn't like your ordinary match-three puzzle game. Players control a friendly monkey character who loves to get his furry hands on blocks that come in from the very top of the screen. Walking along a rope spread out across the upper portion of the playing field, you'll use the Circle Pad or D-Pad to direct him across seven columns where blocks and bombs can be dropped. Alternatively, tapping the Touch Screen twice can produce the same effect as pressing the Down button. As you'll find yourself holding the system sideways, 3D functionality is not present. However, the 3D Screen is still put to some use by providing a home to what can we can only assume is your character's best friend; a blue monkey pal who behaves in a mild tone, bobbing his head, dancing in place, and grinning his teeth as you carry out your duties. Bomb Monkey has a cheeky and attractive personality to it thanks to these touches, as well as catchy, old-school-sounding music that suits the jungle theme the team went for.
Getting back to gameplay, though, instead of having a string of similarly-coloured blocks clearing out as they are grouped together, bombs must be dropped to clear units and execute the chains you desire. Bombs come in two forms: normal and timed. The latter appear in a super-sized format and can wipe out a much wider range of units than the normal bombs, but you have to be careful to use them quickly or they'll explode on you. Aside from the decorated stones (or Bloks), different set pieces exist to add a surprising amount of depth to the experience. The first of these are locked blocks which can be used in a link only after a bomb switches it to a usable state. In addition, pink-coloured strikers can produce a contained explosion capable of wiping out blocks in an entire horizontal or vertical line. It's fun to work out how these can be used as a preventative measure as the blocks continue piling up from the bottom and inch their way up to the top of the screen. Besides that, they're a quick way of clearing the board of pesky blocks and racking up score bonuses. Neither of these elements disrupt gameplay in a superficial way, but instead serve as nice complements to the overall flow of the experience, adding balance in the way they get you to think about how best to group blocks together in a non-linear fashion.
One final key feature existing within the game's mechanics has to do with the presence of blue balls marked with the letters "B", "O", and "M". Occasionally tucked away within new lines that emerge from the bottom of the screen, these balls present a secondary objective of having you spell out the word B-O-M-B. Because they're at the bottom of the pile, you essentially have to dig down to reach them, but the payoff is always worth the effort: a ten-second bonus where you can drop bombs to your heart's content. I appreciated the way in which the game doesn't make this the focal point as something you always long for, but instead something you can choose to adapt your technique towards. With the standard mechanics not being crowded out and the bonus window being just that -- a bonus -- the game's foundation remains in a secure state throughout the experience.
Speaking of, what I especially love about this game is its go-to spirit in the way it tries to appeal to different kinds of puzzle fans, but not as a means of masking a weak foundation. Presenting five gameplay variations aside from the standard option, there are a number of ways players can monkey around in this game, both in single-player and multiplayer settings. Let's talk a bit about the multiplayer options first. The two multiplayer options have you and a friend using the same 3DS system, each with their own screen to look at and control scheme to work with -- Player 2 uses B, X, and A. 2P Versus adds even more adrenalin to the already-fast pace of the main single-player mode, while 2P Co-op is a straightforward rendition with not much to say other than both players work independently with a shared score. Co-op won't get as much attention as Versus is much more fun and welcoming to come back to, but they both serve a valid purpose in this quick and easy package.
Continuing on that train of thought, you could make a similar remark about the three other single-player variations. The first of these is called Rescue Mode where your blue monkey friend has now been put in a cage that will take 50 hits to break. Because there's very little movement taking place, unless you have trouble continuing to group blocks together, it's not until much later that this mode becomes exciting to play. As is, it's a decent secondary mode, but I feel it would've been even more enjoyable if the target wasn't fixed in one location. For those who want to enjoy the standard Endless Mode but only have a limited time frame to go about getting their bomb-dropping fix, Three Minutes Mode might be what you're looking for. The caveat to playing under a tighter crunch time is the gameplay won't amp up quick enough, and since they were going for an even quicker-paced session, it would've made more sense if it was set up in such a way that the craziness would start up even sooner. At three minutes, the pace never reaches brisk level, and therefore the effectiveness of this mode isn't as strong as it could have been.
Unlike the last two modes where I found myself wanting a bit more, the final single-player variation, Numbers Mode, offers a fun twist on the basic principles and proves to have the most lasting impact. Your goal here is to clear three numbered balls (1-3) off the board in sequential order. Doing so will wipe all remaining blocks out of existence and present a completely new challenge for you to deal with. Sounds easy enough, except for the part where the game loves to make things difficult for you in how these targets are laid out.
Causing an explosion to two balls at once will end your game, and you'll often find yourself in situations where balls are situated very close together, forcing you to adapt your usual drop-and-go strategy into one with more foresight and care. And then, on top of that, elements that were previously a help to your cause can now serve as hindrance to your goals. What's really great about this mode is the way the lines of balance shift as you clear each puzzle layout. One second the horizontal and vertical strikers pose a threat if you put them in the wrong slot, and the next second you're using them strategically in conjunction with the locked blocks to clear a line in such a way that not all numbered balls will rest along the same axis. Observing the different positive and negative opportunities presented by both bomb types as well as the strikers, it's great to see how much more fun there is to be had from this experience simply by adding a stronger strategic element into it.
With the hook of any good tile-matching game, Bomb Monkey incorporates just the right amount of depth into its basic mechanics, turning a pick-up-and-play puzzle game into a go-to puzzle fix that will keep you coming back for more. Whether deciding to play a quick round in multiplayer or wanting to challenge yourself with the greater strategy element present in Numbers Mode, there's something here for almost everyone, and that in itself has led to an experience that's easy to become attached to. While not achieving the same degree of greatness as other titles that have come before it, Bomb Monkey's subtle attempts to explore a variety of approaches has led to a complete absence of tedium, making it an easy game to recommend even for those whose tastes may normally not gravitate in this direction.
24/30 - Very Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Great mechanics and setup, locks and strikers add strategy and depth, feels balanced, some modes show room for improvement
Presentation 7/10 - Cheeky personality, a few visual touches and decorations, old school music, everything works fine for the theme of the game
Enjoyment 4/5 - Tries to appeal to multiple kinds of puzzle fans, no boredom to be had, Numbers Mode is a great twist on the standard gameplay option
Extra Content 5/5 - Will definitely come back to this more than a few times, fun whether playing by yourself or with a friend, good number of variations
Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System