Yes folks, once again we're looking at a kid's movie released simultaneously with a game of the same name. The characters of Ham and Luna are here as well as everyone else, including the lead villain and support characters. Granted you can only use the two stars in this title and everyone else is simply relegated to appearing in poorly implemented clips from the movie. The game follows the story of the film somewhat closely but if you haven't seen the picture you'll have no idea what's going on in all honesty. Why are these monkeys here? What's the motivation of the villain? Which monkey is who again? These are all questions you'll have if you had never seen the movie but probably the biggest question is, "what's the point of it all?"
In all frankness the answer to that final question is that there really isn't a point. Space Chimps is a factory assembled mess from start to finish that has absolutely no spark of life or ingenuity attached to it. There are times Space Chimps is an almost average platformer but those are the game at its best. Unfortunately its best just doesn't happen frequently enough and in the end you're looking at a failure. The game isn't enjoyable as it is and it by no means captures whatever spirit or charm the film may have.
Things begin with a clipped moment from the film which features our heroic chimps landing on a foreign land and being pursued by some alien dictator in a technologically superior Laz E Boy. A big monster comes out of the sand and eats one of the primates, Luna, in a single gulp. This prompts Ham to go after her which takes up the bulk of the game's first half.
The problem here is that once the game starts you aren't given any kind of tutorial whatsoever. Brief commands flash on the screen but not before you have to execute jumps and attack enemies. It leads to some really cheap hits early on and this is a common theme with this game as it progresses. At any rate, Ham monkey punches his way through toads and alien soldiers in an effort to get into the belly of the beast. Without any real explanation you step into the paws of Luna. This is disconcerting at first because, hey, she can't attack and nothing in the game tells you that. Imagine my surprise when I tried to attack an enemy and nothing happened!
Eventually you'll be told to find something called a Squirt. Now, this may seem well and good but due to the poor graphics in the game Squirt looks like little more than a blotch of textures in the location he's standing. I spent 10 minutes just going back and forth through the same area trying to figure out what a Squirt was and why I was supposed to be able to attack with his tongue. It was by accident that I walked over the little guy and suddenly I was able to attack.
Once you figure out that you're playing two fundamentally similar yet different characters (Luna can shoot things and Ham just melees) the game opens up somewhat. Unfortunately due to its structure you're unable to choose who you play as and you're stuck because stages are simply designed around some gameplay mechanics versus others. For instance Luna gains butterfly wings later on in the game so there are stages that take advantage of that but Ham is stronger and able to pick up exploding guys and blow stuff up.
As far as platform games go the variety of what's offered here is "decent". Each stage has something new to bring to the table but unfortunately the same puzzles and enemies get recycled to the nth degree. "Oh look, a blue switch, I guess I have to find a blue key!" Adding to that are kid-friendly collectables in the form of blob things and Dole bananas which, again, are a sign that the game is limited in its scope. Giving kids hundreds of things to collect for the sake of doing it doesn't forgive sloppy gameplay and terrible level design. Some of these jumps are killer and even seasoned professionals will fall repeatedly. One particular series of jumps with Luna took me thirteen tries to get through. I can hardly see a kid tackling the game with equal tenacity.
The sad part is that it's not like the game is really that difficult. In fact it's a breeze the entire way through and can be beaten in less than two hours easily. The challenge here comes from sloppy controls, a terrible camera you'll have to constantly fight with, and new mechanics that simply aren't introduced in a timely fashion. "Hey, did you know that you can deflect green shots back at enemies?" Gee, that nugget of information would have been good about ten minutes ago when I was actually being shot at!
AI is another sore spot. Expect enemies to stand there and not notice you or perform all-out attacks. There's no rhyme or reason for the computer's actions so combat is a total bore. This is exemplified by the fact that the CPU doesn’t react to being hit. You can be pounding away at them and there simply isn't an animation for it. In other words don't expect that just because you're beating an alien to death he's going to stop from attacking you. This completes the "Cheap Damage You'll Take" checklist.
Whether you're a gamer looking for something to fun to play or the parent of a kid who enjoyed Space Chimps, don't bother with this game! The gameplay is rushed, sloppy, and frustrating like you wouldn't believe at times. Don't even get me started on the flying stage since it's one of the worst I have experienced in about a decade. All around this game is just plain bad and kids could easily find something to twiddle away time with that would provide more stimulation.
If you're an achievements monger then you'll be pleased to know that this title doesn't set the bar very high. Beating every enemy in a stage, collecting all of the pieces, going through without dying, and even watching the end credits nets you points. In the two hour dash to finish the game and get my suffering over with I finished things off with 365 points without even trying. If you're a real glutton for punishment you can try to go back and grab all of the bananas and break record speed by beating times in stages for additional points.
Looking like a first generation Xbox title, Space Chimps is definitely not easy on the eyes. The design rudimentarily captures the spirit of the film but it in no way looks as good as other kid movie to game endears such as Kung Fu Panda or Wall-E. The stages are bland and sloppy, textural glitches abound, and animation is kept minimalist to put things nicely. It may be bright and colorful which will keep very young gamers happy but then again a box of crayons is just as vibrant and at least cultivates creativity.
The audio quality in the game is just as sloppy and repetitive as the gameplay and graphics so at least Space Chimps has the element of consistency. Voices from the film, sound effects, and music are all mashed together in a potpourri of quality. Some of the lines are amusing and some of the tunes are good but beyond that you're looking at a game whose sound will bore you to tears.
If you couldn't tell by now, I did not enjoy Space Chimps. The gameplay is flawed from the moment the game starts and right up to the end it never really gets better. Some rare pieces from the occasional stage stand out as an offering from a mediocre or less than average platform title but those moments are few and far between. This title is an afterthought that was pushed out the door to milk a little extra money off the license and considering the film itself was overshadowed by better, more successful kid movies I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that this feels like a second string effort. If your kid wants to play with monkeys in space buy him a barrel of monkeys and a toy rocket ship; it'll be cheaper and probably more enjoyable for both of you.