In Baboon! you play as Tumbili (great name). Your grandpa, Mumbili (greater name), needs your help because a group of bandit bees known as the Beetnicks have stolen all of the bananas and forced the monkeys to hide in their homes. As the game progresses you realise it’s actually the evil Pirate Baboon who is behind all of this. You need to collect these bananas and discover what Pirate Baboon is up to.
The game is really tricky. You can’t jump but you can place bombs on an invisible axis beneath Tumbili. These bombs blast you in the direction you want to go and are your primary means of moving your character – besides moving left and right there’s no other way to move. You can place the bombs slightly to either side of you so you shoot off in a particular direction too. You also control the power of your bomb by pressing action at the right time. This means that you can do a little hop to the right or a huge vertical leap depending on where you place the bomb and when you activate it.
The main stages, excluding each world’s boss fight, involve a long vertical climb and collecting lots of bananas. And you have to dodge the thorns. And dodge that world’s enemy. And each of the stages are timed. Starting to sound difficult? That’s because it is. No checkpoints, one single life, challenging controls and the many, many obstacles that get in the way mean that this is a really tough game. Things get even more challenging when different bomb types are introduced in the second world.
No option to reduce the difficulty means this can be a punishing game for anyone new to the genre. I expected the game to have checkpoints or even a way to purchase extra lives but that’s not the case. One little frustration that grew as the game went on was the lack of a jump button. I get that the whole game is predicated around using the bombs to jump but, really?, a monkey can’t even do a tiny little jump? I struggled at the beginning of the game because I just kept expecting him to be able to do this.
Frustration isn’t exclusive to the gameplay though – the biggest frustration I had was with the settings. Every time I started a new level I had to pause the game to add the flying guide. The flying guide shows you where you’ll land essentially. Being relatively inexperienced with 2D platformers like this I used it religiously and adding it in on every level got old really fast.
That said this is a really charming game and the level design is excellent. The art style is attractive, the music (while it wears thin after a while) is catchy and the sound work fits in well with the overall game. Tumbili’s reaction every time you detonate a bomb is hilarious and a nice little touch.
The art also changes significantly as you progress through the stages. You start in the monkeys’ village but eventually the levels will take you through fire, ice and jungle areas (to name a few). These different stages mean the look and feel of the game changes as you progress but also serve to introduce new challenges to keep the gameplay feeling fresh.
In true 2D platformer style the game includes boss fights which are generally quite fun. They involve memorising a pattern or navigating an obstacle course to perform an action – usually using your bomb to shoot yourself into the boss when it’s vulnerable. This was one of my favourite parts of Baboon!. Whenever I died I always felt like I was so close to winning I couldn’t help but keep coming back for more.
Following your instinct will only get you so far in Baboon!. To beat the most difficult levels will involve 25 percent remembering the patterns of everyone around you, 25% luck and 50% skill. If this doesn’t sound like your cup or tea then it probably isn’t and you should not play this game.