Saturday 30 January 2016

Monkey Magic (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Steven MacIlwee, Roy Lynch, Richard Skelhorn
Publisher: Micro Design
Released: 1987

Monkey Magic is a multi-screen action game that was developed by the same team as Leapster (1988, Atari 8-bit).

You play as the Monkey King who's been commanded by the powerful Buddha to collect Holy scriptures from India. To do this you have to complete two screens with differing gameplay types. First up is a static action-platformer where you must collect six peaches by jumping onto ropes, climbing ladders and avoiding enemies. It's simple in principle but what makes it challenging is the shoddy programming. Due to dodgy collision detection you'll suffer an abundance of unfair deaths just by jumping towards a rope; it's bizarre and seems like pot-luck as to whether you grab on or mysteriously die from touching it! Climbing ladders is always an adventure too as you need to be lined up just to the side rather than dead-centre. Once you've collected all the peaches you gain a Magic Cloud and the game transitions to a side-scrolling shooter where you have to defeat 18 creatures that swoop in from the right-hand-side. The problems are many with sluggish controls that make your character move at a snail's pace; you can also only have one bullet on screen and there's a lack of danger as enemies can't fire. It's utterly boring and far too easy to beat. After defeating the necessary amount of creatures the game loops and you're taken back to the action-platformer screens; however, there's never any variety in enemy / peach placement or the difficulty. The graphics are one of the better aspects as there's some great pixel shadowing, parallax scrolling and impressive walking animations where you can even see your character's hair moving in the wind! The music is also good with some nice oriental themes (including a snippet of Turning Japanese by The Vapors!) that suit the action.
Monkey Magic would have benefitted from more variety and a greater emphasis on polishing its gameplay quirks. Even if you give it a fair shot there's really not much to see and after a couple of minutes you'll likely pack away the tape in a drawer and forget about it.
Random trivia: The game was later re-published by Alternative Software, although the exact year is unknown.

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