Tuesday, April 10, 2012

PAX East 2012: Bomb Monkey

[This preview is also posted on NintendoWorldReport.com.]

When Renegade Kid first entered the digital distribution scene, it released the well-received platforming adventure Mutant Mudds on the Nintendo eShop.  Now, Renegade Kid is continuing its releases with a puzzle game starring a monkey with a tendency to throw bombs.  This game has been kept under wraps for the last month or so, but at PAX East 2012, I was able to get a brief but satisfying preview of the game’s early build with Renegade Kid’s Jools Watsham.

Bomb Monkey stands as a unique 3DS Download Software title because it does not make use of the 3D screen, at least in the form I played.  The 3DS is held on its side, with the D-Pad facing the player.  At the top of the rotated touch screen is our simian protagonist, and from the bottom of the screen, a tower of colored stone blocks rise.  If any part of this rising tower reaches the monkey, the game is over.  In order to prevent this, players move the monkey along the rail at the top of the screen with the D-Pad, and pressing down releases what he holds toward the rising blocks below.  The game also has touch-screen controls for those who find the D-Pad awkward, but for me the D-Pad was sufficient.

However, just dropping blocks will not diminish the others below, but that is where the Bomb part of Bomb Monkey comes into play.  Every few blocks, Bomb Monkey pulls out a large bomb, which upon colliding with a block explodes into a cross explosion, reminiscent of Bomberman’s weaponry.  Any block that is hit with the explosion will be destroyed, and any connected group of like-colored blocks, when ignited, will be destroyed at once.  To make things even more complex, there are a number of unique blocks which affect the bomb’s explosive path.  Blocks which are covered in chains must be hit twice by an explosion to be destroyed, and that can lead to some broken combos.  Amid the blocks are boxes with arrows pointing either left and right or up and down; igniting these boxes cause great explosions which cover an entire row or column, depending on the arrows’ directions.  Over the course of the game, bombs covered with the letters B O M and B again, when all collected, will cause Bomb Monkey to go into frenzy, throwing ten bombs in a row for complete block demolition!

The game’s early build seemed fairly complete, having at least three modes available to try out.  There is an Endless Mode, in which players play Bomb Monkey until they ultimately fail.  Once I had explored that mode, Jools sent me and my brother to 2-Player Battle Mode, using one handheld.  One player controls the D-Pad, while the other controls with the four face buttons.  Here, the game plays similarly to that of the normal mode, but as you blow up larger combos, more blocks randomly descend on the other player.  I will admit that I lost, but I was close, darn it!

The game also has a 2-Player Cooperative mode and a special Rescue Mode, where Bomb Monkey must help destroy cages to free his friends (hopefully they can stand explosions!).  When pressed about leaderboards, Jools said the game would not have online features of the sort.  Considering that, the game appears to be more of an offline affair, so those expecting online multiplayer or shared leaderboards should lower their expectations a little.  Bomb Monkey will not be as deep or as large of an experience as Mutant Mudds, and the game, without having an actual price announced, will be aiming a bit lower than Renegade Kid’s first eShop title.

Despite those missing features, the game stood out as an addictive experience.  The concept seems simple, but the added modes and different blocks make the game more puzzling than your basic falling block title, especially when you are the one dropping the blocks which can ultimately become your downfall.

Bomb Monkey is nearing its completion, and barring any major problems, it should be out in the coming months.  Be there or be square (and you know what happens to square things in Bomb Monkey!).

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