Playability is the key ingredient to any game. At times I, and my fellow writers across the web, focus on the wrong aspects of a game. Graphics, music and overall presentation is only the frame. What is important is what is inside the frame, and here we should find fun challenging but rewarding gameplay. Just think of it like this: a beautiful frame can really make a painting shine, but if the painting is a masterpiece by Picasso or Monet who cares about the frame?
Monkey Labour is a tribute to all those LCD games that had extremely limited graphical capabilities were a game had to be fun to be played. I remember spending hours in the sun playing my see-through Nintendo LCD game system. It had only the one game, and it ate batteries in the sun. Still I played it like crazy just trying to beat my highest score. It defined gaming for me, much in the same way as Doodle Jump and Canabalt have for iOS devices.
You are a robot called Mobot, and you are tasked with keeping a stack of logs from overflowing. For some reason your boss is angry with your slow piece of metal. In true monkey fashion your boss is a monkey throwing logs at you. I guess that is better than what monkeys tend to throw around at the zoo. As Mobot you have to try your best to kick back at the system, and stick it to the monkey of a boss.
A button is used to move to the left, and one to move to the right. That is all you get, and beside that it is all down to your skill. Mobot moves in classic pre-set spots, and so does the boss. Take a log, put it in the furnace, and repeat. Once the furnace gets hot enough it vents hot fire through one of three holes next to the boss. Timing it correctly gives the boss a fiery surprise, and buys Mobot some time. During this time Mobot can move just about two logs, and start up the fire again. Repeating the burn of the boss starts a multiplier that is the key to scoring big. Mobot has three lives, and looses them by being hit by the logs the boss throws down. Out of lives the game is over, and Mobot looses his struggle against the power.
LCD graphics done in a truly retro fashion is what you get in Monkey Labour. The entire game tries to replicate an old system, and succeeds to great effect. You can “smear” the screen by dragging your fingers across the play area. Tilting the device shows all the possible movements of logs, the boss and Mobot just like I remember from my youth. The sound also captures what I heard back in the day. You can listen to your own music, and keep the sound effects.
Achievements and leaderboards are available through Game Center. I would have liked some local high scores as well, or at least my personal best shown when playing.
Monkey Labour is all about the image inside the frame. Excellent replayable highly addictive gameplay in an uncompromising retro presentation. I love it, and hope to see more original games such as this.
Monkey Labour $0.99
Seller: Razum/Dawn of Play