After spending the last couple of years making games for Retro consoles such as the Spectrum and the MSX, Relevo Games have now decided to have a crack at a console that is a little more modern.
The title that Relevo have made for the PlayStation Vita is Baboon!, a cute looking game that combines platforming with puzzles – and packs a challenge that defies the cartoony looks of the game.
The premise of Baboon! is simple, there is an evil Pirate Baboon who has wreaked havoc on the game’s island with an anti-gravity gun. Using this gun, the Pirate Baboon has caused all the bananas on the island to float around, leaving the other monkeys on the island banana-less.
This is where you come in. Playing as brave little monkey Tumbili, you step out to reclaim the bananas for your fellow monkeys and with an aim to thwart the evil Pirate Baboon’s masterplan. You will travel across the island, visiting seven different worlds as you do so – making many friends on your travels. Each of the worlds that you do visit has been invaded by evil tyrants and their armies. It is your job to get through the stages in each world before you do battle with the boss in order to progress and get closer to meeting the Pirate Baboon.
Guiding Tumbili through each stage is rather unorthodox. Although he is a monkey, Tumbili cannot jump. Not very helpful when you are playing a platform game right? Luckily, Tumbili has a never-ending supply of bombs at his disposal that he can use to blast himself around each of the 60-plus levels. You can move around the levels using either the left analogue stick or the PlayStation Vita’s directional pad and when you want to get to an out-of-reach banana or platform, you will press X to set down your bomb. This will start a meter on the right-hand side of the screen, increasing and decreasing in power ready for you to fire Tumbili towards whatever you aim him at.
Each stage has three medals available for you to aim for. You will get the first one for simply getting to the end of the stage before the time limit runs out. The second medal is awarded to you for collecting all the bananas that are floating around the stage in one run, whilst the third medal is not revealed until you complete the stage once. To attain this medal you must beat the stage whilst matching the conditions that Relevo stipulate. This can range from beating the stage in a certain amount of time or finishing the stage with a certain amount of enemies remaining.
Getting a hold of all of these medals is not as easy as the game’s cutesy looks may lead you to believe. As you progress through the different stages and worlds of Baboon! there will be new obstacles in place to try and block your progression. Luckily the many inhabitants of the island will try to assist you on your journey, offering you new bombs or pieces of equipment that will aide you on your travels. Not all items are easy to obtain either, most of the time you will need to collect items from throughout the stages to exchange for whichever item the villager has to offer.
The items that you will need to collect are typically carried by some of the enemies that populate Baboon!’s stages. Coming into contact with one of these enemies, including bees, spiders, penguins and ghosts, will normally see Tumbili perish and the retry screen (which you will become familiar with) appear. You can, however, use the bananas that you collect as you progress to purchase items from the Mini Mart that will help you to repel and eradicate particular enemies. Each item that you can purchase will work to defeat a certain type of enemy, and you can use each item only the one time – so be sure to use them wisely! Some enemies that you will face in the game have a starry trail that surrounds them, these are the ones that are carrying the items that will be essential to your progression.
The different bombs that are available for Tumbili to use are also crucial in this game. There are the ice and fire bombs that will freeze lava to make a platform or melt ice that is blocking your path respectively. These bombs will work in conjunction with each other, using the ice bomb to freeze a fiery obstacle before using the fire bomb to melt through it enabling you to continue on your journey. Later on in the game you will come across the drill bomb – that enables you to drill through earth (doing this in each world’s hub will uncover bonus stages) and the ghost bomb which allows for Tumbili to pass through ectoplasm walls. Each of the available bombs are put to use in many ways and none of them feel gimmicky, which is always a good thing!
The only complaints that I have are that for the most part (barring the Turtle Swamp world) the stages do feel very similar and offer little variation. The worlds are colourful and the characters are great in the game, but for a lot of it you are simply undertaking fetch quests whilst trying to get to the finish line. This is not as easy as it sounds when some of the stages in the game seem to be remarkably difficult – don’t let the cutesy look fool you into thinking this is a game for kids! There were some that forced me to turn my PlayStation Vita off before I found myself throwing it out of the window/ at a wall they were that infuriating (in particular a windy stage in the Chilly Mountain world and the majority of the Spooky Spectacle world).
That aside, Baboon! is a fun platform-cum-puzzle game, with beautiful artwork that is complimented with a soundtrack that is both catchy and easy on the ear – reminding me of some of the soundtracks that accompanied games from my childhood – the early 90’s Mega Drive era. No matter how annoyed I got at how difficult the game was (or how good the game was at pointing out how bad my aim was) I found myself going back to Baboon! and overcoming whatever challenge I struggled with previously.
As much as I enjoyed Baboon! with its fun and charming characters and great presentation, I do feel that the game may put some people off with its price and difficulty. If you are a fan of either the platform or puzzle genre, then Baboon! certainly is worth a look at. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but for those that do give it a chance, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised!