When Sony released the Eyetoy to the market, they probably didn't expect it to get as big as it is now. With many publishers putting Eyetoy small games into their titles and of course Eyetoy standalone titles available it was always going to be something that people would be interested in, especially due to its pick up and play quality. In our opinion thus far the Eyetoy games have suffered from one major problem and that is a lack of single player focus and also longevity. Monkey Mania will fix this and we recently went limbs on to see just how the game is shaping up.
Monkey Mania works on one of Sony's most popular games, Ape Escape. There is no real storyline behind it other than you take control of a monkey as your character (the monkey characters are customizable for each player) and play throughout a variety of small games. Thus far it doesn't sound that different to titles such as Play but where the game differentiates itself is the single player focused game, with a board game style used and in this way it feels a bit like Mario Party.
Of course the Eyetoy uses your limbs for control but we found ourselves moving around more and having to use more movement to control these games offering a more intense workout of your body. This is not a game you can play for hours and hours on end because you will get tired. The game at its core is made up of a number of small games like Play but they are a lot more varied and appear that along with the board game section will give the game a lot more longevity which should make it appeal to even more people. The game is also not focused at the younger market.
The single player mode as mentioned before really focuses on the board game section of the game. You, as the monkey, move around the board having to collect bananas. It's not a board game in the sense of moving from A-B to win, you have to acquire enough bananas before being able to finish the game. Of course along the way you can lose bananas by landing on particular spots, and also be thrust into small games via the same means. One thing which puzzled us was that not every spot launches a small game, and in fact the only time you know a spot is going to launch a game, is basically when it happens. This does keep the game a bit suspenseful but perhaps a few more spots by the time it comes out could be good. However remember that we didn't play this for an overly long time and really only scratched the surface.
The small games as expected revolve around the monkeys. Not all the games were present in the build we played but we got to try out a wide variety of what will be on offer. Games range from cutting bananas to feed young monkeys, swinging your arms during a baseball match, rubbing dirt off a monkey before slapping them (Ed - Hiyooo!), arranging a monkey's hair and generally doing things with a lot of monkeys. Although at first look it may not seem that different to a game like Play, it is. We found ourselves wanting to keep playing this game, where as with Play II, despite its depth we found quickly we wanted to stop playing. The graphics probably also help in this aspect. The monkeys are quite detailed and those who have played the Ape Escape games will instantly recognise the characters. The cartoon style graphics from Play and Play II have been retained which suits quite well.
Monkey Mania will probably be the Eyetoy game that gets previously uninterested gamers into this peripheral. It is a game that will finally give the Eyetoy some much needed longevity and even be a great game when you're playing alone, something which has always been a problem thus far with the ET games. Monkey Mania is currently scheduled to ship in March.