Space Chimps Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

In Space, No One Can Hear You Screech

Based on the movie of the same name, Space Chimps for the DS is not nearly as disappointing as the average movie tie-in cash-grab game. Space Chimps is a decent game that could possibly stand-alone without support from the movie.

Space Chimps screenshot

It’s not destined to be a blockbuster, but it’s a nice package that features good production values. There are some repetitive gameplay elements in addition to some mechanical flaws, but aside from some moments of frustration, the game is largely enjoyable. Space Chimps is an old-school platformer, incorporating the basic elements of the genre. The gameplay is not always fresh and unpredictable. Although the levels do change, there isn’t a lot of variety to break things up. Don’t expect any groundbreaking features. What the game does offer is cohesion, consistency, and comedy. It’s lighthearted and whimsical, and is aimed primarily at kids – and the kid in all of us that secretly enjoyed the animated movie. Hardcore gamers need not apply. This game will just make a monkey out of you.

Space Chimps, the game, takes obvious liberties with the storyline, using it as a premise from which to launch the various gameplay elements that include platform jumping, puzzle solving, collecting, combat, and flying. In the movie, as in real life, monkeys are exploited by NASA for various space flight experiments. But the monkeys in the movie and this game are more intelligent than the average game reviewer.

Space Chimps screenshot

To search for the Infinity Space Probe that mysteriously disappeared into a wormhole, three monkeys are blasted into space to embark on the mission. The trio is led by the rather large and imposing commander Titan and rounded out by the lead protagonist, Ham the Third and the lovely Luna. Ham 3 is the typical, young, good-natured hero with an exuberance and curiosity that kids can relate to. He’s also a former circus performer, and that gives him some serious moves. Luna is his love interest and also has a background in acrobatics. You can toggle between them in the game or combine them in the mini-game multi-player mode. The team crash lands on a strange planet where they are compelled to help the inhabitants escape from the clutches of an evil, overbearing king.

Space Chimps screenshot

The basic platform elements in the game are solid. You will run, jump, double jump, climb, and spin jump on enemy’s heads to neutralize them. It’s all very safe and predictable. The levels may differ, but you’ll always be doing the same thing in each of them. There are a handful of flying levels, but these are the exception to this platforming rule. Controlling the craft in the flying levels is encumbered by both a clumsy control system as well as the 3D graphics, which make it difficult to judge perspectives.

Space Chimps screenshot

The environments and characters are rendered in 3D, but the actual platforming elements are presented in only two dimensions. This is a classic platforming concept, a concept the developers should have adhered to in the flying stages since they are less than spectacular. They remind me of the underwater levels in Super Mario 3, my least favorite levels. In one stage, you have to guide the ship through an asteroid belt while colleting coins. The coins and the asteroids come at you from the back of the screen while you are staring at the craft head-on. The craft moves up and down and side-to-side but remains in the same fixed plane as the asteroids and coins move around it. Since the asteroids vary in size, and they become larger when they get closer, it’s difficult to tell exactly how far away a particular one is, which may cause you to move unnecessarily and risk getting hit by another. Since the flying sections utilize both screens, the craft will temporarily disappears from view when traversing from one screen to the next.

Collecting plays a huge role in the platforming levels. Coins and hearts are collected in the traditional way and can be used to increase everything from your health to your abilities. At the end of each level, a store appears where you can purchase weapons, health, clothing, various power-ups, and moves such as the double jump. Some rhythm is necessary to get through the levels, but you always have to keep a lookout for the enemies that lie in your direct path, so you can’t get too comfortable with your pattern and technique. Many of the enemies are repetitive and reappear throughout the levels. Boss battles can be quite frustrating due to some collision detection issues, which make it difficult to tell who is hitting whom.

The levels have a lot of visual depth, so they appear huge in scope. The camera angles follow along beautifully since they aren’t set to follow a 3D map. Environments are well detailed and colorful, with a separate scrolling background for added dimension. The characters are rendered well in-game, but the cutscenes steal the show. They look good enough to be in the movie, almost. There is no actual voiceover work, but plenty of text if you want to relive the story. The sound effects are good, but most of the in-game sounds are overshadowed by the coin-collecting ding.

It’s quite possible to beat this game in an afternoon. It’s not very long, and aside from some frustrating technical issues, it’s not intentionally difficult. You will get some replay value attempting to find all of the coins and unlockables, and you might even get a few hours out of the two-player mode, but not much more. The multiplayer component is little more than a mini-game and not a full-fledged co-op mode as you might expect. As it is, I can only recommend a rental based on the relative short gameplay and replay value.

Great details, colors, 3D environments, and characters. Movie quality cutscenes. 4.0 Control
Solid platform control system, but awkward in flying stages. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nice music and sound effects, but repetitive. No voice work. 3.2

Play Value
Good platform game, nothing special. Very short with little replay value.

3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Alternate between playing Ham and Luna exchanging humorous banter between the two acrobatic chimps.
  • 13 levels including 3 bosses.
  • Battle 2-player co-op style or fight as 1-player with an advanced AI-controlled hero at your side.
  • More than 35 new enemies from the Fluvian world to challenge your combat skills!
  • Unlockable 2 multiplayer cooperative arenas utilizing the chimpball or traversing on the back of Fluvians.

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