Monkey on Your Back
You think you have problems? Try being terrorized by a stealthy psychic monkey who wants to control your actions...
Monkey on Your Back is a good example of why I love the mobile gaming scene so much. I enjoy modern, 3D games as much as the next guy, but I make no secret of the fact that I'm a 2D gamer at heart. Home consoles and portable systems get the occasional 2D action/adventure title (especially the DS), but I get the sense that more and more of that 2D ingenuity is located within the development teams of mobile publishers. Monkey on Your Back is a game that would have fit right at home on the Super Nintendo. It isn't perfect, but it's still a good product, and scores bonus points for doing something different in a space filled with so many similar experiences.
The game opens in a lab, with a couple scientists (made up of stylized pixel art, along with everything else in the game) debating over whether they're going to clean up the corpse of a failed experiment or not. When they find out that a guard has "challenged an A-Bot to a hotdog eating contest," their decision is sealed, and they rush off to spectate. Yes, this is that kind of game, with zany humor always keeping things light. Their exit gives Nim, the monkey "corpse" that was not quite dead after all, a chance to escape. But not before wreaking a little havok on those that experimented on him.
Apparently all the experimentation on Nim left him as not just another monkey, but a psychic monkey. In addition to walking along the ceiling, dashing across gaps, and sending out a damaging psychic blast, Nim's other major ability allows him to actually leap onto roaming scientists, take control of their mind, and use them to aid his escape. As the game progresses Nim will gain the ability to control other, more powerful enemies including guards and hulking robots.
Levels usually play out as mixtures of action, puzzle solving, and stealth. Nim can only take control of an enemy if he's able to get close enough to them, and without being spotted. Early on sneaking up on them while crawling along the ceiling is enough, but more creative stealth tactics have to be employed later. The puzzle solving is light, and doesn't require much more than controlling the proper enemy type to needed to activate a switch or open a door.
In fact my biggest problem with Monkey on your Back is that the concept of a psychic monkey, while innovative, amusing, and fun to carry out, simply isn't taken far enough. The game almost seems to rush along, introducing one new ability after the other, until you reach the end. While this does help to keep things fresh, it also never gives the game a chance to breath. I felt like almost every level was a training level, teaching me something new, while moving right by what had just been introduced. The whole experience could use about 10 more levels to explore the game's mechanics.
The game's other problem is its unnecessarily complex control scheme. Some things, like leaping onto the ceiling, are handled very eloquently (tap up). Others are inexplicably complex. You move with the left and right arrows, but to dash left or right you have to hit 7 or 9, respectively. Awkward. Nim's attack button being set to 3 also creates some rough moments.
Better controls and a more fleshed-out adventure would have made Monkey on Your Back a better game, but neither comes close to being a dealbreaker. It's still a delightfully fun and creative title. Give it a chance.
What's Hot: Looks and sounds great. Genuinely innovative concept
What's Not: Concept could have been taken farther. Controls overly complicated