Monkey see, monkey shoot
Have you Ben There, Dan That? No? Well, it’s about Time Gentlemen, Please!
Sorry. What I mean is, if you’re into indie point-and-click adventure games, go check those out. They’re cheap and short and hilarious, just do it.
Finished? How good are they?!
Well, Size Five Games, the studio responsible for those little gems, have opened their inventory and combined the items “Same Sense Of Humour” and “Completely Different Kind of Game” to create Gun Monkeys.
You play as the CEO of a power company, forced to deal with an energy shortage that may spell the end of your business. How do you fix this mundane problem? By staging monkey fights in the far-flung future, of course!
A renewable energy source has been discovered, valuable enough to sell to the masses at crazy prices. The only catch is that this energy is stuck hundreds of years in the future, and has obliterated all life residing there …well, then.
It leads to an interesting tug-of-war dynamic. Players are locked in a constant power struggle (pun intended)
You’ll need to send a crew of “enjoyably expendable monkeys” into the future to retrieve as much pure power as possible, fighting off the monkeys of competing companies with a variety of wacky weapons and power-ups.
Collect the energy cubes before your opponent does, and bring them back to your generator to top up your constantly-draining score. You win by reducing your opponent’s score to zero, and what remains of yours is converted to funds to buy upgrades later.
It sounds like the formula for a basic deathmatch kinda game, and at first glance you’d be forgiven for making that assumption. Give it a few rounds though and you’ll start to get a sense of the depth of strategy involved.
Winning and losing are fluid: since your score is always dropping, you and your opponent are usually more focused on protecting your own butt than killing each other. Besides, if you run in with the default weapon, the two of you are so evenly matched that fighting is almost pointless.
Combat requires a lot more tact. It’s best to sneak in a cheeky kill when you have an advantage, like when your opponent is weakened, or you find a stronger weapon or ability in a crate. Dying will result in an immediate score penalty plus a long respawn wait, where all you can do is watch your score keep ticking down while the other player collects cubes to their heart’s content.
And that’s the most devastating blow you can deal: not by killing but by returning cubes. Every one you get not only increases your score but also reduces your opponent’s. The more collected at once, the bigger the fluctuations in both, meaning the tide of battle can turn very quickly.
It leads to an interesting tug-of-war dynamic. Players are locked in a constant power struggle (pun intended), each alternating between offensive and defensive styles. When your score gets dangerously low, you might find yourself hurriedly collecting individual cubes to stay in the game, rather than taking the time to stack three at once for a bigger boost. While that player’s on the defensive, the other might take the opportunity to ignore their own generator and finish off their struggling opponent.
The stages and weapon drops are all randomised, meaning no two matches play out exactly the same. I mean, they may be extremely similar, but that’s fine. The potential for strategy deepens even further when you throw environmental hazards into the mix, including buzzsaws, mines, jetpacks, and underwater and space levels.
You may encounter a couple of bugs along the way, but nothing major. Sadly, the biggest problem with the game right now is that the servers are disappointingly empty. The US and Europe ones got reasonably busy at different times, but I never saw another soul in the “local” servers (ie, Asia). But hey, that’s kinda more your fault than the devs, right? Give the game some love, it deserves it.
As you probably gathered from the delightfully ridiculous story, the studio’s unique sense of humour is woven throughout Gun Monkeys, nowhere more evident than in the narration by The Actor Kevin Eldon. Yeah, I don’t know who that is either, but Wikipedia tells me he’s been in Hot Fuzz, Spaced, The IT Crowd, Black Books and a bunch of other good stuff.
Here he does a fantastic job of giving a voice to the game’s silliness. He sounds like your friend watching over your shoulder, providing commentary and tips. You can turn him off if he annoys you, but don’t do that. At the beginning, he’s invaluable to make sense of what’s happening, filling you in on the specifics in an unintrusive and entertaining manner.
In fact, the only problem I have with The Actor Kevin Eldon (as the game invariably calls him) is that there isn’t enough of him. He pipes in whenever you encounter new weapons or environmental features for the first time, to prevent any confusion over what’s happening. But as you learn what everything does, he gradually stops talking to you. His hilarious commentary is soon missed.
But while the aural funnies fade, the visual comedy continues. Monkeys are fun in any language, and the game is right to call them “enjoyably expendable”. They ragdoll around post-mortem, spraying blood and monkey giblets all over the place like a gratuitous internet cartoon. Your inner 13-year-old will no doubt be satisfied.
The Final Verdict
Gun Monkeys is a skilfully crafted one-on-one deathmatch game, its tongue-in-cheek presentation hiding a surprising amount of depth.
The game’s biggest flaw is the size of its community, meaning a match can be hard to find, but a local multiplayer option helps alleviate this. Once you get a round going with mates or strangers, you’ll find a fast-paced, strategic and original experience within.