Genre: Puzzle, Arcade, Party
System: Nintendo Switch (also PC, PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Studio Gauntlet| Crunching Koalas
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: US $14.99| UK £12.99 | EU €14,99
Release Date: January 29th 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Crunching Koalas
Bring Monkeys Together
Many folks are stuck indoors these days so we are having to spend more time with each other and figure out distractions that prevent us from tearing each other apart like wild animals. So the need for a good co-op video game has never been higher. Something to bring people together and have a few chuckles before returning to reality. Bonkies is a game aimed to do just that and bring some joy into your lives with cute graphics, construction-like puzzles and a lot of monkey business.
It’s the future and scientists are colonizing various planets in space. However, colonies are not built in a day; they need a ragtag crew of monkeys in space suits with giant robot arms to put together the constructions while the humans sit back and have a nice cup of coffee. The premise is light-hearted and the 3D graphics are colourful and vibrant. The characters have big cute eyes and it’s hard not to look at them and warm to their adorable appearance.
Stack the Blocks
The game has two campaigns, a co-op mode and a single player. You get to choose from a variety of monkey characters as well as a few other animals you can unlock as you progress. In both campaigns, you enter single-screen levels with the task of putting together a construction with blocks within a time limit. Using your giant robot arm you can grab onto blocks and place them correctly in the highlighted region. You often need to stack blocks on top of each other and soon it all becomes a balancing act where you need to hold the structure in place for 3 seconds before finishing the stage. As the levels progress more challenges are added where additional blocks are added as you complete individual challenges. If you’re really fast, which I rarely was you can unlock the golden banana. It’s hard work but it offers an incentive to replay the levels and master them.
Controls and Blocks
The controls are fun but take a little time to get used to. You can fly around with your jet pack and boost, then use your robot arm to grab blocks and press the face buttons to help orientate the structure and even stabilize it. This is handy when you need to put small blocks in the right place. Blocks carry weight. A heavy one will be harder to carry even with your super robot arm and if you over boost your monkey will sort of fly around disorientated for a bit and sometimes even destroy the structure you spent ages building. It is about getting the balance right. So if you play together expect to be barking orders at each other about carrying certain blocks in the right order.
The gameplay reminds me a lot of a mode in Snipper Clippers where you cut shapes out and also fit them in a highlighted region. The difference with Bonkies is there is a lot more physics at play. Balancing blocks and holding things in place often had me at the edge of my seat or gritting my teeth, praying it would hold. There are a variety of different blocks you can also use to assist you, such as girders, magnets and blocks that hover in mid-air. These were all fun to experiment with, except for the rocket block. This block fires fire out of one end projecting the blocks it is attached to. This just didn’t work for me on some levels as it was hard to control and balance. Imagine shaking a carbonated drink and shooting it at a tower of blocks and it gives you an idea of what the rocket block is like.
In co-op, you often need to work together with both characters helping carry heavy blocks and assisting in stabilizing structures. To me, the game was at its most enjoyable when sharing it with someone else. Even when structures fell apart it’s hard not to see the funny side. A minor niggle I noticed is some levels in the campaign are recommended for 3 or more players which felt confusing. It felt like part of the game was gated off to us since we lacked the additional players instead of the game just adjusting its difficulty to match the players present. However, in practice, you can play these levels with just two people. The game doesn’t do the best job of making this clear.
The single-player campaign does a good job adjusting the gameplay to suit a single monkey. I enjoyed my time in the solo campaign but I wasn’t giggling as much as playing it in co-op. A second player can actually jump in on the solo campaign but they have no robot arm so all they can do is fly about and help you stabilize structures which is not as much fun for the second player. It’s still excellent the developers considered the single-player audience.
When you look at a game like Bonkies it’s hard not to smile. Cute graphics, sounds and a puzzler that is highly enjoyable to play particularly if you can enjoy it with someone else. No monkey business here, the developers have created a wonderful experience which is sure going to bring smiles to many people’s faces, who I’m sure could really do with it in these challenging times.
Final Verdict: I like it a lot