Posted by Ben Potter
“Chimpanzees are members of the Hominidae family, along with gorillas, humans, and orangutans, and live in large multiple-male and multiple-female social groups called communities. Well known for making nests at the top of tall trees, chimps are constantly falling down 2-300 meters only to have a mysterious force fling them back up to their homes.” – Sir David Attenborough.
If you’ve ever locked horns with the all-conquering Angry Birds or Doodle Jump, then you’ll be no stranger to Chimpact. Combining the elements of careful monkey launching and platforming, it really is the estranged love child of both casual gaming juggernauts. And you know what? It totally works.
There are two main game modes, the predominant one being ‘Gem Quest’. Taking place across four 12 level worlds, Mr. Chimp (our nickname for the protagonist) is stuck at the bottom of the forest and needs to get home. Using the touch screen, you drag the vine he’s sat on until you’re satisfied with his trajectory and launch him to the next vine. Once he’s passed a vine, he cannot fall through it, essentially acting as a checkpoint. Upon reaching his home, the level ends. It sounds simple, but there’s a lot more to it. Rather than ascending vertically, you’ll frequently have to launch Mr. Chimp both left and right to knock down branches that clear the way, bounce off mushrooms, and find secret areas.
As Mr. Chimp is hurled from vine to vine, collectables are everywhere. Gems are the main goal here, and besides the guaranteed Gem at the end of a stage, you’ll need to collect at least four of that level’s five in order to unlock new stages. They’re usually hidden in secret areas that are initially difficult to find, but once you understand the Gems, and learn how to think like the Gems, finding them isn’t overly taxing. Bananas litter the levels and act as the game’s currency. Often marking the trajectory you should take, ‘nana trails attempt to lure you away from hidden areas, causing you to miss out on a Gem or two.
As the levels pass the game introduces hazards. Occasionally a spider will block your path, swinging from its web. Nothing too detrimental happens if you hit it, but you do bounce off it with some force. At the start of the game this wouldn’t have been a problem, but as you progress, vines no longer act as a checkpoint. Sometimes there’ll be several vines in one area that you must successfully traverse in order make it to a ‘safe vine’, and if there’s a spider, one mistake could send you tumbling down to the bottom. These hazards get more dangerous as the game continues. Poisonous plants and spiders must be avoided lest you lose 100 bananas or more. While you can’t ‘die’ as such, and you’ll probably have more bananas than you know what to do with, it’s definitely worth avoiding them.
The other game mode ‘Totem Trail’ is set out in a similar style to ‘Gem Quest’. There are several worlds with a dozen levels in each. The levels are a smaller, more concentrated version of the stages featured in Gem Quest, and task you with completing various challenges. These range from getting home in a tight time limit, popping a number of poisonous pods, collecting clocks to extend your time limit as you collect other items, and only using each vine once as you traverse your way home. There are an impressive five challenges per level, which adds up to a lot of game time. Your reward for these feats are, you guessed it, more bananas. The amount you earn is calculated based on your remaining time upon the completion of each challenge.
You can spend your hard-earned fruit in the shop on multi-use power ups. There are multiple items of varying, but affordable, prices, including bug bombs, which let you clear nearby nasties away, magnets, which attract nearby bananas, and a time extender, for those tricky challenges. All of the items are fairly standard fare, and we made it through the game without needing one of them, so it’s easy to feel that your impressive banana collection is for nothing.
Unfortunately there are a few small problems. At times the game struggles to keep up with the frantic action, leading to mistakes as you run out of screen estate. The sound is disappointing, too, as, outside of some badly looped menu music, there's no real audio accompaniment to the gameplay. This is a particular shame as it may have covered up the repetitive sound effects Mr. Chimp produces when he bounces off things. It could also be said that in the Gem Quest mode, it takes a few too many Gems to progress. It would’ve made more sense to unlock new stages as previous ones were completed. This can be particularly frustrating when a Gem is missed by a millimetre, a checkpoint vine is passed, and you must begin the level again to reattempt.
Chimpact is a fantastic little game and a great addition to the rapidly increasing PlayStation Mobile catalogue. There’s a wealth of entertaining content that’ll keep you coming back for more, and, even if you get frustrated, you’re frequently showered with in-game achievements, which provides the necessary encouragement for one more go. It may openly ape other games in the genre, at times drive you bananas, and leave you hanging around while you reload a stage, but it’s chimply marvellous, and a primate candidate for mobile gaming. Just punderful.