Space Chimps is the very definition of a cheap movie tie-in title. Mix one part summer children’s animated film, one part simplistic and repetitive gameplay, one part ugly graphics, and then make sure it hits shelves at the same time as its theatrical release. Although this formula often results in a profit, it also usually produces many subpar and generic video games. Even the plethora of children who are likely clamoring to play as their favorite space faring chimps may be disappointed, as this game is rated such that it is deemed inappropriate for anyone under the age of ten. Sadly, I believe this virtually eliminates most of this game’s potential fan base.
The basic concept of Space Chimps sounds like a pretty terrible joke. How many chimps does it take to save a planet? The answer is three, one chimp to get kidnapped by an evil dictator and the other two to break the first free by overthrowing said dictator. If this lame joke describing the storyline behind this game doesn’t make you laugh (which it shouldn’t), then chances are this game’s fairly weak gameplay won’t win you over either.
Space Chimp’s gameplay is made up mostly of platforming, with some combat and very minor puzzle elements scattered throughout. The puzzles found in this game can barely be qualified as puzzles. The solution to almost everything in the game is find the Zartog (evil dictator) statue located nearby, activate it, grab the Zartog head that is produced, and then use it to advance. These statues will produce either yellow or blue glowing heads, used as keys, or a big head, used to weigh down switches. There isn’t any variety to be found here, just these same types of puzzles over and over again.
Combat is equally as repetitive since you only have one attack button. You can press the B trigger once for a basic attack, press it three times for a combo, or jump and press it for a ground pound maneuver. Aside from the game’s Luna levels that will have you utilizing a strange creature named Squirt as a makeshift acid-spitting gun, these attacks are all you have. Since your arsenal of moves is extremely limited, combat is a fairly painful experience. Brawling with enemies is also a risky affair, as foes tend to come in groups and love to hit you from behind. Luckily, besides a few rooms that require you to defeat the present enemies to proceed and the final boss, players can just run past most enemies and continue on with the platform jumping that makes up the rest of the game.
Platforming fares much better than I would have expected, giving players a decent variety of maneuvers to perform. Playing as either Ham or Luna, you will get to climb poles, scale vine covered walls, slide down rails, double jump, and even run on green goo-coated walls. With all of its acrobatic similarities to the popular old-school franchise, I wonder why they didn’t just call it Primates of Persia, besides the inevitable lawsuit. Later in the game, Luna will acquire her own set of flutter eye wings, which allow her to fly somewhat. When taking to the sky, players will need to keep a close eye on Luna’s flutter eye meter, as she will plummet like a brick once it runs out.
Unfortunately, even these somewhat entertaining platforming mechanics are hampered by this game’s complete linearity. During any of this game’s levels, there is only one path that a player can follow. If you happen to see what appear to be multiple paths, don’t be fooled. These only exist so that players can collect a couple different Zartog heads to solve a “puzzle”, thus allowing them to continue down the level’s only real path once again.
Even with the utter lack of any kind of choice involved in traversing its levels, the game still feels the need to hold your hand throughout the entire experience. While most players wouldn’t find it difficult to find their only available path or the only object they can interact with within range to proceed, Space Chimps goes out of its way to point out what your next move should be. Bright flashing arrows appear on or near anything that you can interact with, further drawing attention to the game’s completely linear nature. Instead of actually having to figure out where to go or what you should be doing, these arrows just point you exactly where you need to go, so you can finish the game without ever having to actually think for yourself.
As with most movie tie-in games, Space Chimps’ success and appeal hinge more on its name and movie assets than on its gameplay. Sadly, fans of the film will likely find this aspect disappointing as well. Small clips from the movie function as the glue used to hold together this game’s compilation of similar and irrelevant levels. Okay, so I’m jumping, running, and solving the same simplistic “puzzles” again. Why exactly am I doing this? This time it is because I have to save Luna, now it’s because I need to get to the Horizon, next time it’s because (fill in the obligatory reference to an event from the film). Fortunately, these clips from the film are of high quality and help to remind you of why the film is a vastly more enjoyable experience than playing this game.
Other than these cinematics, Space Chimps is a graphically underwhelming game. The Ham and Luna character models look decent and are well animated, but they are difficult to appreciate since the camera is often much too far away to make out any real details. Besides some differing abilities and audio, it can honestly be incredibly difficult to tell which of the two primates you are actually controlling. Backgrounds are made up of a mishmash of dull and overused textures, making this game look more like an N64 game than a Wii title. Although some levels may contain some plant life or spatters of color here and there, most are rather dark and drab. Everything including the ground, walls, platforms, and even most of the game’s water appears to have been dipped into a bucket of brown paint before being put into the title.
While this Space Chimp’s platforming is fairly solid, its linear nature and numerous problems succeed in removing any enjoyment that could possibly be derived from this movie tie-in. Instead of buying this game, your money could be better spent watching the film again or even saved to purchase its eventual DVD/Blu-ray release. Since this game takes only three to four hours to complete, you’d actually be paying less money per hour for a much more entertaining experience either way.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.0 Graphics
Unless your favorite color is brown and you haven’t played a game since the N64, expect to be disappointed. 2.5 Control
The controls work as they should for the most part, thanks mostly to the fact that you won’t be using motions for virtually anything. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While the quality of the included music, sound effects, and voices are good, they quickly become repetitive and irritating. 1.5
A single-player mode that takes three to four hours to beat combined with extremely limited multiplayer offerings makes for a very short and disappointing experience.
1.9 Overall Rating – Avoid
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.