Baboon! Review – Jungle Bungle (PS Vita)
If there was one type of video game that ruled the roost in the 90s, it was that of the platformer. It was an era that birthed memorable mascots such as Gex, Croc, Crash Bandicoot, Rayman and Spyro the Dragon among many others, as developers iterated on the legacy of Mario and Co. with aplomb.
And while the genre has perhaps waned in popularity of late, its entrenched, venerable rule-set still resounds around the industry to this day. Case in point: Relevo Videogames’ cute puzzle platformer, Baboon!.
Harbouring a design set inspired by the aforementioned decade, the studio’s PlayStation Vita debut puts you in control of Tumbili, a budding little monkey with a big taste for adventure.
As heir to his grandfather’s legacy, we pick up at a time when our protagonist’s hometown of Bananaville has been thrust into turmoil. Using the power of his anti-gravity ray gun, the devious Pirate Baboon has usurped the island’s reserve of bananas (the currency of the land) and propelled them into the sky out of reach.
And that’s where you come in.
If Baboon!’s premise appears simplistic, its core value lies in the gameplay. Taking place across an array of diverse, themed environments, your journey will see you scale over 60 vertical levels in a bid to beat the clock and reach the top in the fastest time — and with the most bananas — possible.
The Sky’s the Limit
However, Tumbili isn’t a primate of the tree-swinging variety. Armed with an infinite amount of bombs, your task is to propel him from platform to platform, circumventing enemies and obstacles as you go. As such, the positioning of the explosive relative to you becomes paramount, not to mention the amount of oomph you think you need to make the jump.
Imagine assessing the level of power in a mini-golf game, only in this instance sending a hapless monkey skyward rather than channeling your inner Rory McIlroy.
In the beginning, with your parabolic curve mapped out for you, it’s easy to lapse into a mindset that Relevo’s user-friendly title is a piece of cake. Couple this with the fact that Baboon! sports a three star, Angry Birds-style progression system and you have a Vita game that doesn’t necessarily make for a good first impression.
But persevere through this slow start and you’ll discover an experience worthy of your time.
Make no mistake, Baboon! is difficult. Missing a ledge for the umpteen time is no doubt infuriating, but by the same token, when you propel Tumbili onto said platform and he celebrates by punching the air, you can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment — you know, at least until the next jump. In fact, once you make it to the latter areas, the margin for error becomes almost indiscernible.
Throughout the course of your journey, you’ll progress along levels in a style that echoes Super Mario Bros., with each of the six stages culminating in a boss fight. Most of these adversaries are standard fare, whether it’s an obese penguin or malicious spider, but still usher in a welcome change of pace.
We say welcome because despite the fact that Baboon!’s core gameplay is as challenging as it is rewarding, flinging Tumbili across the four corners of the area teeters on the edge of monotony on more than one occasion.
Rinse and Repeat
Granted, Relevo introduces novel mechanics such as new bombs and varying obstacles intermittently, with our personal bane coming in the form of Chilly Mountain’s relentless winds, but we still can’t help but feel that Baboon! would have benefited had these new-fangled features been implemented more regularly.
In saying that, there’s more to the studio’s effort outside of monkey business. As you wander across the seven different worlds, players will encounter a colorful cast of characters, too. From Pete the honey-loving polar bear to Shinobu, a wise-cracking motorcyclist who wouldn’t look out of place in a Japanese role-playing game.
Thankfully, these personas do turn out to be more than just token NPCs.
Looks Can be Deceiving
While the vast majority of your playtime will take place within any given level, encountering the “Retry?” screen a fair share of times in the process, you’ll happen across obstacles on the road that force you off the beaten track. More often than not, this detective work has you collecting certain collectibles, such as ultra rare feathers to wake up a dormant walrus. It’s all light-hearted and not terribly difficult, but it still serves as a nice addition that helps flesh out your pilgrimage beyond just accruing wayward bananas.
The takeaway? Don’t let Baboon!’s welcoming guise fool you, there’s a steep difficulty curve lurking beneath the game’s cartoon aesthetic. In fact, we’d even go so far as to say that it isn’t a title you’ll fall in love with immediately; rather, Relevo Videogames’ puzzle platformer demands your perseverance. With time and just the right amount of patience, you’ll discover that the studio’s effort is one of Vita’s more pleasant surprises rather than simply existing as a bright, breezy and forgettable comic strip.
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