There is nothing inherently wrong with making video games about monkeys. Though they aren’t my favorites, Super Monkey Ball and Ape Escape are cute and well made games with their share of fans, and Donkey Kong is one of the most enduring characters in gaming. If Monkey Madness: Island Escape, Storm City Games’ new on rails shooter for the Nintendo DS, happened to be the first game I’d ever played featuring monkeys, however, I would be wary of any other games I came across featuring the animals. Though I have played games worse than Monkey Madness: Island Escape, it is still bad enough to make me want to throw in the face of one of the game’s titular murderous mammals.
The gameplay in Monkey Madness: Island Escape is very easy to explain. You play as an explorer who has landed on an island full of monkeys in costumes that want to kill you, so you have to mow them down in an arcade style shooting gallery. There are two characters to choose from, though the only difference in playing as either of them comes from seeing their icon on the character select screen, three modes that feature the same ten levels in the same order, and three relatively indistinct difficulty levels. If the game were fun, it might be easy to forgive all of that, as it would give you a chance to buzz through it again and again in the name of being a completist, but, unfortunately, it isn’t. The game is slow moving and repetitive, as it leads you around in circles to shoot screen after screen of monkeys and the occasional boring boss fight, and uses strange touch screen controls that are frustrating and can be the cause of massive hand cramps.
At first glance, it would seem like Monkey Madness: Island Escape at least manages to make up for some of its gameplay problems by having nice graphics. The environments you’re led through are bright and colorful, and even though it’s obvious that the different types of monkeys are the same graphic with different textures slapped over the polygons, it at least appears that the developers put some effort into it. After a few minutes, however, the graphics lose their charm. The bright colors begin to look garish and irritating, especially in the neon red and lime green tunnels, and as you get closer to your enemies, you can see how sloppy their designs really are. The textures on the backgrounds also look distractingly wobbly and pixilated, which, when combined with the ultra bright characters, can actually tend to make the enemies less noticeable than the areas they inhabit. Not even the still pictures used in cut scenes are safe from these issues, as they feature fragmentation along their outlines that shows an unwillingness to take five minutes to clean the images up before putting them on a game cartridge.
The sound is, thankfully, not quite as bad as the gameplay or graphics. It is a little grating to hear endlessly cheerful music played against a background of squealing animals and the gunfire you send towards them. Still, the sound effects work well enough for the purpose with which they were made, and though the music is inappropriate, the game is too short for anyone to really get sick of it, meaning that it remains fairly pleasant through the entire gaming experience.
Because Monkey Madness: Island Escape is an inexpensive game, retailing for twenty dollars, it could be seen as a bargain for fans of on rails shooters or people who really don’t like monkeys. However, there is no reason to see this game as a good value. It is boring, badly made, and tries to pass the same thing off as several different game modes by changing the amount of lives you have or putting a timer on the screen. The game’s length also doesn’t do anything to recommend it as a purpose. I’m generally terrible at shooters of this sort, and I was able to see everything the game had to offer within 90 minutes, so I can only imagine how quickly someone with any amount of skill could get through it. Unless you are being forced at gunpoint to buy a DS game for a gamer that you strongly dislike, there is no reason to buy or play Monkey Madness: Island Escape.