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DS  header logo

Space Chimps

For: DS

Making a monkey out of you?

Product: Space Chimps | Developer: Brash Entertainment | Developer: WayForward | Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Adventure, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Space Chimps DS, thumbnail 1
If there's one point of contention that will always divide those who consider themselves hardcore gamers and those derisively described as casuals it's movie tie-ins. Everyone for whom gaming is a significant part of their lives knows that movie tie-ins are almost universally awful. Those who only play the odd game now and again are often disappointed.

What makes things all the more confusing for those who don't haunt video game message boards 24 hours a day is that the quality of the movie has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the game derived from it. Instead the defining factors tend to be who the developer is and how much time they've had to make it (all movie tie-ins are notoriously rushed). None of which is easily discerned from reading the back of the box.

The good news here is that the developer is WayForward, who was behind the superb Contra 4, which you'll find being recommended to the hilt in our recent feature on the Top 10 Best DS Imports. The bad news is that, to guess from the game, they probably were only given seven months to make the game, as we feared when we first found out about the title.

As for the movie itself, it's the year's 331st CGI kids movie and seems to have been a complete flop. The game doesn't make the storyline at all clear, but it appears to involve super intelligent CGI monkeys being sent into space and landing on an alien planet run by a stock evil overlord. Naturally democratic change is out of the question, as is getting back to Earth without having some creepy anthropomorphised flirting with the team's only female ape.

Anyway, the game opens with an-into-the-screen spaceship level where you're trying to avoid asteroids. It uses both screens and moves at a fair clip, with surprisingly decent graphics and responsive controls. It's a good first impression and similar sequences are used throughout the game in order to break up the platform levels that constitute the majority of the action.

The graphics are all 3D but the platform levels work only on a 2D plane, although the camera does often move and rotate around you as you go, which is a neat trick. Not that the graphics are necessarily worthy of being shown off in this manner, their fairly simple designs apparently built for speed rather than looks. It's a good compromise though because the controls are highly responsive and the action moves along in sprightly fashion. The only real technical problem is that the collision detection seems to make the process of hitting or being hit by an enemy worryingly random.

Although there are a range of influences the game comes across most like a cross between Super Mario World and Sonic, with a relatively slow pace but a very familiar looking spin attack used for dispatching enemies. You can also jump on their heads, dodge projectiles or use a Mario-style wall jump to reach the platforms other jumps can't reach.

If you can save up enough golden bananas you'll also be able to buy a double jump ability from the between-level shop or even a gun. Although why video game shop owners don't just give you these things straight away is always a mystery, considering it's their planet you're saving as well.

The only other real complication is the ability to call in one of your two monkey pals and have them freeze time for you or wipe the screen of enemies. Apart from being largely unnecessary (there's some tricky platform jumping at times but the enemies are almost all push-overs) this also involves playing a very strange mini-game where you have to circle enemy icons on a rotating radar screen. Maybe this means something in the actual movie, but it's no fun in the game and yet has bizarrely been spun off into its own multiplayer mode.

Clearly none of the above is describing a game of any great originality but it is welcomingly competent and likely to please those younger scamps for whom it has presumably been made. The major problem for everyone else, though, is that once you've seen one platform level you've seen them all, whether you're jumping around a desert, jungle or snowy backdrop. Not that there's much time to get fatigued because there's only nine levels and half of those are the spaceship ones.

Oh, and the music's awful, but again it's not clear if that's really the movie or the game's fault. Still, publisher Brash Entertainment (a company set-up purely to create movie tie-ins, presumably as some sort of community service for evil games developers) should be well pleased with the effort and if it means WayForward now has more money in the bank to make something decent then everyone's a winner.
Space Chimps
Reviewer photo
Roger Hargreaves | 13 August 2008
Compared to some movie tie-ins it's a virtual masterpiece, compared to anything else though it's still only just above average
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