Monday, February 9, 2015

Puzzle Monkeys (Wii U eShop) Review

Our first review of this week is a game made by a new independent developer, Log Games. Their first effort is Puzzle Monkeys. While the game leaves a little to be desired, it does make me quite interested in the developer's next projects.

It's hip to be square.

A lot of independent developers seem to have a fixation on two game genres in particular: the platformer and the puzzle game. This is by no means a bad thing, as those two just so happen to be two of three favorite genres of mine. Log Games' freshman effort is a puzzle game highly reminiscent of Dr. Mario in the form of Puzzle Monkeys. For an affordable game with an MSRP of $2.99, you can do a lot worse than Puzzle Monkeys, but at the same time, you can do a lot better as well.

Puzzle Monkeys requires the player to line up three blocks of the same color either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally to score points. At the beginning of each game, there is a sprinkling of blocks with monkey faces on them, and the goal is to eliminate all of these through matching them with other similarly colored blocks. When this task is completed, the player moves onto the next level where even more monkey mug-coated blocks need to be destroyed. This process continues until the player reaches the tenth level which serves as a play-till-you-fail-type of experience, where monkey blocks continually push up from the bottom of the screen.

Massive combos feel as good as you'd
expect them to be. (Real good.)
The blocks that fall downward for the player to set on top of the positioned blocks below are 2 x 2 squares. These can be turned clockwise or counterclockwise in midair in order for the player to arrange the block to fall on similarly colored blocks to score points. Eliminating a monkey gives the player 75 points, but the ability to earn ten times that amount is possible, as long as you keep destroying a monkey block with each dropped square. This is how high scores are attained, and thankfully there are online leaderboards to compare your best scores with every other player of the game.

The bright colors can be a pain
on the eyes. (Literally.)
Puzzle Monkeys features two main modes which are appropriately titled Mode A and Mode B. The former has the gameplay features of a typical Tetris/Dr. Mario style game with blocks falling, the player needing to position them on top of other blocks, and matching three-of-a-kind to score points. Meanwhile, Mode B has a series of blocks moving horizontally across the top of the playing field. Tapping the red, blue, yellow, or green buttons on either side of the screen destroys the colored blocks of the same color within the horizontally scrolling blocks at the top. This causes the other blocks to fall onto the playing field, hopefully matching some colored blocks together to eliminate them and score points.

Mode B proves that you need more than
innovation to have a deeply intriguing mode.
Each mode in Puzzle Monkeys features the option to set a starting speed and level for the player. On a purely aesthetic front, players can also select the background and music to play while they match monkeys and score points.

With just two modes in Puzzle Monkeys, repetition and tedium come quite quickly. Mode B isn't even that fun of a mode to begin with, despite being an interesting take on the puzzle formula. This means a player is left with Mode A, and one can only play that mode so much before Puzzle Monkeys just becomes too boring to regularly play. It further damages the game that even though there are online leaderboards to compare scores, there is no way to directly compete with players, as there is no multiplayer to speak of, as baffling as that is.

The presentation of Puzzle Monkeys does not offer much visual variety. If a player loves primary colors, then Puzzle Monkeys will definitely be a feast for their eyes. For everyone else, the bright set of four colors can get very painful to look at after extended periods of play. That said, the backgrounds and music within Puzzle Monkeys are just the opposite. The former is pleasing to look at while the latter sounds great and catchy.

For a first title released by the developer, Log Games' Puzzle Monkeys is serviceable enough for the cost of the game. However, a lack of interesting modes, no multiplayer to speak of, and a very basic presentation throws a monkey wrench into the fun. While Puzzle Monkeys is a competent start for Log Games, I only hope the developer's next title has a lot more depth to it.

[SPC Says: C-]

Review copy provided by Log Games Ltd.

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