If you were a PC gamer back in 2006 you might remember a little cartoon deathmatch game called Gibbage. It was created by indie developer Dan Marshall – then Zombie Cow Studios but now known as Size Five Games. He now runs Size Five Games and is best known for the hilarious point-and-click titles Ben There, Dan That and Time Gentleman please.
Fans of Size Five Games have been eagerly looking forward to their upcoming title The Swindle. However they’ve decided to have a little break to work on a smaller project – Gun Monkeys. The game is inspired by Gibbage and we’ve become rather addicted to it.
We’ve seen a lot of games recently that have been unsuccessful when trying to create some kind of backstory or reason for the game existing. The explanation behind Gun Monkeys is complete nonsense but it’s funny and it works. In the future humans have invented a fabulous new kind of energy which unfortunately wipes out half of the universe. This energy sits around as little blue cubes but the future is a dangerous place. So scientists train monkeys to use guns and send them to the future to harvest it.
The story is explained to you during the optional tutorial mission that is voiced by British actor Kevin Eldon. He provides a great voiceover which is full of humour and during the mission you get to learn everything you need to play the game. The controls are simple with WASD keys to move, Spacebar to jump, E to shoot and Shift to drop a bomb.
The game itself is an online multiplayer deathmatch between two players. Battles take place on a procedurally generated level where each player takes control of a monkey with a gun. You start with a number of points which gradually drops so you must collect power cubes. You can collect up to three at a time and must place them in your power core. There is a greater reward for returning multiple cubes than just a single one.
These cubes randomly spawn around the level and as they are limited it forces you to fight against the other player. If your points hit zero then it’s game over and the other player wins. Monkeys can leap around the level and can double-jump and wall-jump to help get around. Your monkey starts with a simple gun but can collect upgrade crates for more powerful weapons including mines, a controllable nuke and even a laser that shoots through walls.
Monkeys also carry bombs that explode horizontally and vertically so you must watch out for these and also move quickly away from your own. If your monkey dies then you need to sit out for a few seconds and this feels like forever as you watch your opponent get back to collecting cubes in peace. The wait feels really harsh but you are waiting for another monkey to be sent through time so it’s not that bad.
The points you earn from a match translate into in-game dollars that you can spend on perks. These fall into the categories of upgrades, weapons and power-ups. At any one time you can have four perks active. You will want to choose perks that compliment your play style. Our favourite perks are magnetic which increases the attraction of power cubes to you and the no arms perk that leaves your opponent without arms for longer when active.
Before heading to the main game you can also customise your monkey by choosing two different colours which helps identify it during play. To start a game you need to pick a server to join a lobby then challenge another player or accept an incoming challenge. After a match you can also opt for a rematch. Battles can be over in a matter of seconds but when two skilled players meet they can take a few minutes. These battles are fiercely competitive and an incredible amount of fun. Trying to better a skilled opponent is tough but so rewarding when you beat them.
When things don’t go your way the game can have you screaming at the screen and frantically jabbing the rematch button in hope of revenge. Some of our best sessions have been when we have continually played the same person. The game monitors some simple stats such as games played, deaths, frags and win percentage to help you match up against similarly skilled players. In addition to the online play you can play locally on a single PC against a friend.
Graphically the game is fairly simplistic but it looks fantastic in motion. The levels are drawn in black silhouette but there is plenty of bright neon going on in the background. The music also deserves a mention as it’s rather catchy. We liked the way the menu system is presented as a futuristic company intranet too.
We had a few issues with the tutorial refusing to let us blow up a wall and a few niggles in play when your monkey gets stuck trying to pass a ladder. The biggest issue facing Gun Monkeys right now though is the size of the community. There have been people playing each time we’ve gone online but only a few so there is a little wait for matches. As more people get the game this should improve.
Gun Monkeys does what it sets out to achieve by providing a fast-paced competitive multiplayer game. It might be too simple for some but the simplicity allows it to focus on the core gameplay which works really well. Competitive players who enjoy platformers and shooting stuff should check this out. Gun Monkeys costs £6.99 on Steam and for just over a tenner you can get an extra copy for a friend as well.