Bomb Monkey Review
Nintendo 3DS eShop
This past spring I put Mr. Jools Watsham, co-founder of Renegade Kid, on the spot about Bomb Monkey. His goal? To make an original, action-puzzle game that captures the timeless, addictive qualities of Tetris. The key, he said, “is in the simplicity and timing of the game mechanics”. They wanted to make a game that is easy to pick up and is well-paced, challenging the player without frustrating them. Did they succeed? Though Bomb Monkey is not without some flaws, we say yes.
Bomb Monkey is a deceptive game. It seems simple enough at first; holding the system sideways like a “book”, you maneuver left and right, stack “bloks” of like colors, then clear them by dropping bombs. Let them stack too high, you lose. Anyone could do it for a period of time. But you reach a certain point after about ten levels where just clearing a few bloks at a time is not nearly enough to keep up with how fast and how high the bloks are stacking. I’ll admit- my first few runs of the Endless mode had me failing at around the same point every time. I thought to myself that maybe they’d gotten the pacing wrong, that the difficulty spikes to soon. But then I realized that this game is not as simple as it looks- the placement of the special bloks called “strikers” that clear entire rows and columns is crucial to chaining combos and quickly clearing out loads of bloks. Once I began carefully planning my placement of the strikers, I easily broke the barrier and began posting much higher scores.
This was also the time where I found myself becoming hopelessly addicted to Bomb Monkey.
The bottom line is, Bomb Monkey achieved its goal- we firmly believe that Renegade succeeded in creating a puzzle game that will have you compulsively trying again and again to beat your own high scores. It can come across as a game that you could play for a few minutes here and there, and it definitely works that way. What I did not expect was that I would sink over an hour into the game every time I booted it up. It grabbed me, and will not let go. The “Endless” mode is definitely the go-to way to play, but there are also five other modes to hold your attention.
The most interesting of the extra modes are “Rescue” and “Numbers”. The first is essentially the same as “Endless”, only with the added goal of breaking a cage that your blue, monkey friend is trapped in. This extra dimension adds a lot to the strategy, forcing you to choose between clearing bloks or hitting the cage, or employing a strategy that will allow you to do both. “Numbers” tests your understanding of how the bombs explode and play off of their surroundings, requiring you to blow up specific bloks in a certain order. Both of these modes are a great spin on the original design, and their added goals definitely help change up the gameplay. There is also a “Three Minutes” mode for those times where you only have a few minutes to play.
The final two modes are multiplayer-centric. “Co-op” allows two players to play “Endless” mode separately for a combined high score. The game ends when one player fails. “Versus” is also a spin on “Endless” mode where successive bombs and combos drop blocks on the other player’s screen, not unlike the classic Puyo Puyo multiplayer. Now, the way multiplayer is conducted will excite some, and disappoint others. The multiplayer is for two players on one system- player one using the bottom screen and d-pad, player two using the top screen and face buttons- and it works really well. That said, this is the only multiplayer option- no local wireless, no online. When you consider that the addition of these options would have greatly increased the price of the game- which is only $4.99- it will be easy for many to forgive their absence. That, and there’s something to be said for this game providing you with the opportunity to have a multiplayer experience in your pocket that does not require you to rely on anyone else having a system on hand. You can literally play it anytime, anywhere, with anyone- and that’s pretty neat.
As previously mentioned, the game is not without some small flaws. The bulk of the issues stem from presentation and user interface. First and foremost there is also no lefty flip, which is a common feature for the “book” style games. With the way the system must be held, it is easier to use the right thumb to play- but even right handed gamers generally have more d-pad dexterity with their left thumb. And while the game can be controlled entirely by the d-pad or the stylus, the menu must be navigated by touch, to the annoyance of d-pad players. These are both omissions that will bother some players more than others, but could have been easily remedied. Player’s have already begun to bemoan the lack of integrated leaderboards, which could have provided more incentive to get higher scores- though Jools has suggested that having leaderboards on Renegade Kid’s site is a possibility. Another disappointment was the lack of variety in music. Renegade Kid’s previous eShop effort, Mutant Mudds, boasted a few dozen tracks- but this one seems to have one basic tune for all modes aside from the title screen. Those using it as a pick-up and play game might not notice, but my extended play sessions resulted in a nearly muting the sound. On their own, each issue is a minor annoyance at best, but together they prevent this game from being as polished as other eShop efforts- even Renegade Kid’s own.
All in all, these issues are not enough to change the fact that Bomb Monkey is a great, addictive action-puzzle game. The gameplay is simple but strategic, and players will find that it brings them back again and again to beat their own high scores. And at $4.99, it is a good value given the variety of modes. Renegade Kid can once again pat themselves on the back for providing 3DS owners with another standout, must-have eShop title.