Saturday, October 15, 2011

Powder Monkeys - 0.99 (XMG Studio)

I’m not generally a fan of games with pirates, for some reason, they’ve just never rubbed me the right way. But after getting my hands on XMG Studio’s (developers of Cow’s Vs. Aliens, Little Metal Ball, and more), latest title, Powder Monkeys, I might just end up re-thinking my whole “stay away from pirate games” attitude. This casual exploratory strategy action-adventure RPG mesh of genre’s sunk it’s teeth into me, and wouldn’t let go.

You’ll play as Captain LaQuisha Boniqua III (this name can be changed when you start a game, but with a name like LaQuisha Boniqua, it‘s hard to want to), a monkey who’s after the pirates that are reeking havoc all around his little world. After your short training missions, you’ll be given a huge book of quests that you can take on, both Story Quests, and Side Quests. You will need to complete quite a few side quests throughout the game in order to level up, because Story Quests are unlocked depending on what level your little monkey is.
As you take on various side and story quests, you’ll explore the vast seas, searching for bug pirates, yes, bug pirates, and arriving to the rescue of monkeys around the world. Some of these quests will send you to cloud covered levels that you’ll need to blindly explore while looking for someone or something. Within these areas, there are various pirates and treasure chests to find, all with the possibility of wealth, or items that you can use to upgrade your ship.
Progressing through the game, you will need to build up your ship as you collect pieces from around the globe, so that you can keep up with the growing difficulty of the pirates as you level up. Fighting pirates is a sort of turn-based fight, in that you’ll need to wait to shoot items until they have cooled down. Stronger projectiles require longer cooling down, but generally, it will be a back and forth battle, each of you firing watermelons, fireworks, and other objects at each other until one of you looses all HP. With the inclusion of items that help catch or destroy projectiles as they’re coming at you, a certain degree of strategy is added on top of the already semi-strategic battles. In other words, you will not just be shooting objects at the pirates randomly until one of you dies, you will need to come up with a strategy that works for certain levels of pirates, adjusting your strategy as needed. Once you defeat a pirate, their ship will send out bags and bags of gold, but these need to be tapped on in order to be collected, and the screen fades out to the results screen pretty quickly, so if you're not fast, the gold can be lost forever. This seems kind of like a useless mechanic within the game, and it being set up like this will most likely frustrate quite a few gamers. The gold at the end of each battle should probably just be automatically collected, and hopefully this is changed in an update.
Now, onto the graphics. XMG Studio has had quite a few games that fall under the “cutsey” cartoony graphic styling. Powder Monkeys is no exception. When you see most of the monkeys, chances are, you’ll want to snuggle them til their eyes pop out. But on top of the cartoonish graphics, there is a nice atmosphere, though it doesn’t change much throughout the game. It’s a game that takes place in the water, and there’s only so much you can do with water. However, the animations are nice, and the water environment doesn’t get too boring. It would have been nice to see some different sorts of rocks, seaweed, different light structures (no nightfall yet), different types of birds (I can hear them, but where are they?!), something to help differentiate between different places. The music goes along with the game, but if you find it annoying, you are able to turn it off, and leave the sound on, in the options menu.
So, has Powder Monkeys changed my perspective of pirate games? In a way, yes. I will definitely not just overlook games with pirates in them just because there’s pirates in them any more. From now on, I will probably give more pirate games a chance, but I doubt many will live up to the standards that Powder Monkeys has set in my mind. Along with a great game, there are 7 different GameCenter leader boards for things like Battles Won, Damage Delt, Coins Collected, and more, as well as 18 achievements, all of which doesn’t really help with replay value, but will make you want to play the game as best you can to try and work your way up each and every one of those leader boards. But who knows? Maybe a low ranking will make you want to replay the game with the hopes of doing even better the second or third time around. With the game being Universal and priced at only $0.99, it’s a must buy for any fan of the action, RPG, exploration, adventure, or strategy genres. It’s clear that this isn’t just a game that was thrown together with a bunch of different aspects, and that a butt load of time has gone into merging everything in the game together just right to make it one entertaining gaming experience. The game also saves from where you close it at, so it’s perfect for 5 minute sessions as well as long gameplay spurts. It’s also easy enough for kids to play, as well as entertaining enough to keep adults interested, and once you get into the higher leveled quests, the strategy aspect plays a larger roll in the game, making it challenging to complete, and not because of it’s length or for any lack of amusement.

Powder Monkeys gets a score of 9 out of 10.


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