Manic Monkey Mayhem
WiiWare | The Code Monkeys | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) / 2-4 Players (online versus)
Out Now | (NA) 800 Nintendo Points / (EU) 1,000 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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7th July 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
At its core, Manic Monkey Mayhem makes use of a structure that's been seen in many games before it. Everyone is situated on a platform high above the ground, and it's your objective to knock everyone else off and be the last one in the game. You can choose from a series of decent-looking characters who all carry different looks. Each participant has 3 lives as well as a damage resistance of 3, so you'll need to watch out for vengeful opponents. You've likely seen this sort of thing in Super Smash Bros. where you need to use direct attacks, or even in Mario Party where you need to bump rivals off. But what you won't be expecting is that you'll be using bananas to do your dirty work for you. Yes that's right, rather than going up to each opponent and slapping them silly, you'll need to play strategically and quickly to stay in the game as you make attacks from a distance.
Controls aren't that straight-forward but thankfully, the repetition of the in-game Tutorial missions is sure to be a big help. You move your monkey by aiming your pointer at the screen and moving the controller towards the left and right edges of the screen. If you aim at an empty platform, you'll be able to jump across to it with the press of the B Button. To actually throw a banana, you hold the A Button and flick the Wii Remote forwards as you release. The distance travelled is entirely dependant upon the strength of your throw. There's also the D-Pad which serves two purposes. For one, it allows you to dodge attacks by moving your monkey forwards, backwards or towards either side. Secondly, you can use these buttons to move a banana towards a certain direction whilst it's in the air. The setup may seem a bit odd at first, but you get used to it after a few rounds.
Each player starts off with a limited supply of bananas. Once you use them all up, you can replenish your supply in one of three ways. You can catch them before they hit you by pressing the A Button with proper timing. Shaking the controller will bring up a tree that you can shake to give you a few more fruit, but doing so will make you extremely vulnerable for a number of seconds. And finally, you can earn more by cracking open wooden crates located in the center of the stage.
In addition to equipping you with more bananas, these boxes will also contain other items. For example, you may be given an extra life, or a helmet that will make you untouchable for a short time. And other times, you'll be given a special weapon upgrade like a coconut, or a 'Bazookanana' that adds more power to shot. In addition to the welcome variety of items, there's also no chance of item abuse, which shows that the developers considered things very carefully in the development of this game.
Once you enter the fray, you'll quickly find that Manic Monkey Mayhem is very action-packed, hectic even. With bananas literally flying left, right, and center, this is the kind of game where you'll need to make some pretty quick decisions. And this is where the game's strategy element comes into play. You'll need to decide when is a good time to attack someone nearby, when to move to another platform, and when to summon a banana tree. The computers make the game challenging even when you're playing on your own and aren't very predictable. When there's 3 opponents aiming at you at the same time, do you dodge, try to catch one of the three, or just sit there an expect a miracle? So long as you don't go for Option C, you'll find that making mistakes is just a part of the learning process, aiding in the development of your skills and reflexes.
There 8 different stages in the game, each with expected backgrounds and, in some cases, different level layouts. I was surprised that loading screens in this game were almost non-existant. Choosing a stage would start it up right away, which was a nice feat in itself. The music in each stage varies randomly, but they're almost all variations on the game's theme heard on the Main Menu. And some of these can be quite catchy. I did notice two issues with the presentation, though.
For one, the warning icon for incoming bananas didn't always display, so it was annoying when I thought I had a clear shot, only to get hit from behind. Also, there were many times when I played against the computers and the game would undergo a short period of freezing. The game would stop for one second and skip like a record before returning to normal. It didn't happen often, but when it did, it was very irritating.
Depending on how much time you put into understanding the game, the controls may get in the way of your ability to make quick-second decisions. The act of making throwing motions with your Wii Remote requires that you judge the length of distance from you to your target. It's a trial and error system but once you understand how much power to put into long-range and mid-range attacks (i.e., opponents that are two platforms in front of you), it does work. Short-range attacks, on the other hand, are more finicky and they require more adjustment on the part of the player. Now, on the iPhone and the PSP, the throwing mechanism was mapped to a gauge where you had to hold and release once the power meter was at the desired level. As a result, short-range attacks were rather easy to execute - something that's evidently lacking here. I personally struggled to get things working consistently and I'm sure this will be your case too.
Perhaps it would have been more effective to make the game more accessible by offering two control schemes, one where you hold the A Button to raise the meter, and the other where you make a throwing gesture with the controller. Or maybe they could've added Nunchuk support for movement of your monkey instead of the pointer. Either way, the current control scheme resembles that of Boom Blox, except it's not as easy to work with. If you're willing to try something different, you can play using the Balance Board which takes the place of the D-Pad being used to dodge attacks. I found this was a tricky, albeit sensitive way to play but maneuvering bananas in the air without your character following the same direction is great.
Mode selection is another one of the strengths to this game. There are a total of 4 different campaign modes, consisting of missions that range from training beginners to challenging experts. Other than this, there are 4 different ways to play the game. 'Greatest Ape' is the standard mode of play where the last one standing is declared the winner. In 'Minute Monkey', players aim for the highest score within the allotted time. The 'Ape Team' selection splits everyone up until two teams and play continues until only one group remains. And finally, a multiplayer-exclusive mode called 'Pass the Parcel' is essentially a variant of Hot Potato where players toss around a ticking time bomb until only one is left standing. When participating in a multiplayer match, you can adjust the split-screen to a vertical or horizontal split. I did appreciate, too, that when playing with 3 or 4 people, the framerate was almost always consistent, something that both surprised and pleased me greatly.
There's also an online mode incorporated into this game. Up to 4 players can face each other online for a tense match via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. You can play against complete strangers, or choose someone from your friend roster where you can have up to a maximum of 32 friends. I'd be shocked if you can find that many people to play with though, even in just a normal match. I tried on multiple occasions to get a game going, but alas, no one ever showed up. It's quite sad, really, because I can see this game being good fun over Wi-Fi, but if not many people got the game to begin with, then the impressiveness of this mode decreases.
Admittedly, Manic Monkey Mayhem isn't something that everyone will like. Even with the amusing atmosphere, the game itself takes time to appreciate, and that's not something everyone may be prepared to do. However, if you think you and your friends and/or family members might like this party game, I say give it a go. It does have control issues that you'll just have to get used to, and the presentation values aren't amazing or anything. But if you can look past these obstacles, then there's a good chance you'll have a good time with this.
23/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Controls take time to get used to (especially short-range attacks), players must act quickly and decisively, items keep things interesting
Presentation 7/10 - Looks fairly good, loading times are practically non-existant, some technical issues, fitting music
Enjoyment 4/5 - Computers can be quite challenging to play on your own, lots of fun when playing a match with friends due to the tensity
Extra Content 5/5 - A good amount of content for only $8, multiple missions in the form of a Campaign, online multiplayer, five gameplay variants
Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)