IGN Review of Space Chimps
Space Chimps had two things working against it before I even put it into my DS. 1) It's based off a summer CG movie named "Space Chimps." And 2) It has nothing to do with the great and completely obscure TV show "Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys." Hence it was a with a heavy heart that I switched on the DS; expecting another mindless movie cash-in title that will be played once and then thrown into the dark game vaults of IGN. However, much to my surprise, Space Chimps is actually a solid platformer that is held back by a few baffling design choices and its overall short length.
The premise of Space Chimps is as simple as they come. Ham III (the descendant of Ham I and Ham II apparently) is a circus chimp that is recruited by NASA to find a lost probe that got sucked into a pesky wormhole (wormholes always cause trouble). Ham is joined by the obligatory female chimp love interest, Luna, and their commander, Titan. They crash land on an alien planet, find out that the aliens (who look like failed Dr. Seuss experiments) are being subjugated by a slightly angrier looking alien who is using the NASA probe as a race-enslaving war machine of death. You also fight an evil clown made of clouds. Who knew?
The game is divided up into nine stages, four of which are horrible flying missions (more on that later). All the characters and environments are modeled in 3D, but the platforming itself is very 2D- a hybrid that feels a lot like New Super Mario Bros or the Sonic Rush series. This works completely in Space Chimp's favor. The character models are well detailed, each level has a unique look with little visual touches such as sunlight streaming through tree canopies and pollen flying around, and the actual platforming is very tight. This is a very old-school type of platformer: spin-jump on bad guys, jump on moving platforms, and collect gold, shiny things. Slap some gel in Ham's hair and you'd swear this was a Sonic game.
However, the platforming is a little too straightforward for its own good. Although each level looks different visually, you're basically doing the same thing through the entire game. The enemies aren't very diverse and the level design actually gets less interesting as you progress through the game. To try and shake things up, you can call your friends for help via a bizarre touch screen game where you circle radar blips -- a touch screen game that also serves as the equally bizarre wireless multiplayer mode. Your monkey / alien friends then pops up and does things like clear the screen of enemies or freeze time, but these effects are largely unnecessary. You can also go to a shop between levels where you can revisit levels, purchase unlockables like more health, different costumes, a gun (!) or a double-jump move. Annoyingly, this shop is only accessible when you beat a level: if you get tired of the level you're on and want to visit the shop, you will have to keep playing that level until you beat the boss.
Speaking of bosses, Space Chimp's bosses are pretty much larger versions of normal baddies . . . only more buggy. For some reason, the hit detection is terrible for the boss fights. How are you hitting him? How is he hitting you? Why are you stuck in a wall? These questions will frequently pop up in your head. It doesn't break the game, but it is irritating.
However, something that almost does break the game are the utterly useless flying missions. I hated them. Both screens are used during these Star Fox knock-off levels, and you basically blindly flail forward while avoiding things. The problem with using two screens is that there's a huge gap between the screens: your ship / alien will disappear momentarily if you fly into this gap or (even better) appear on both screens at the same time! It is really easy to get hit when this happens. It is also hard to judge the distance between things, where gaps are, and it's very easy to get caught on a wall until you die. These sections are tedious, unnecessary, play badly, look ugly, and should be banned in most countries.
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