when we thought that Gex 2, Croc and Crash Bandicoot 2 were the only
types of Platform game worthy of inserting into our beloved
consoles, up pops this little beauty to take us back in time to the
days when gameplay was all-important and plasticine was freely used
in Art College.
Skullmonkeys is indeed a highly artistic Platform game and packed
with humorous innuendoes. I suppose if you wanted to categorize this
title you could say that it is a next-generation Rayman moulded from
The player assumes the role of Klaymen, the hit clay hero of the
critically acclaimed PC adventure game, The Neverhood. He must
prevent his nemesis Klogg from destroying his home planet.
Skullmonkeys features over 100 levels set over 20 unique worlds
taking the player through a series of abundant challenging levels
and a wealth of game secrets.
Interactive returns to the roots of platform gaming with
Skullmonkeys. This unique clay-animated adventure features an
electric array of off-beat stop-frame animated characters and
engaging story line created by the makers of the award winning
Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood.
graphics are very tasty indeed. The themed backdrops remain
motionless throughout, gently scrolling by. However, the same cannot
be said about the foreground which is alive with movement, vibrant
color, stunning effects and super smooth animated characters.
The player controls Klaymen whose movement is about as flexible as
you could imagine his clay structure would allow him to be. He is
pinky flesh colored, wears a super-hero outfit and his features look
as if they have been stuck on as an afterthought - two dots of
plasticine for eyes, oversize ruby red lips, a rigid tuft of hair
springing from the top of his head and when he runs his rubbery legs
go twelve to the dozen.
The majority of his enemies are wild monkeys with skull faces. They
patrol back and forth over their territory until they catch a
glimpse of your character and then frantically beat their chests
before waving their arms menacingly in the air while offering a high
pitched squeal. You don't just get ordinary monkeys. Oh no, you come
across flying monkeys, snowball firing monkeys, robot monkeys, hover
monkeys, while some of them even jump right out of their skin (just
like in the movie The Fly).
The platforms you must cross appear in many forms. Some remain
solid, others collapse on contact. Many hover around up above
allowing you to climb to great heights while some float over the
water and may be boarded to take a ride. There are even huge
concrete platforms with chains riveted to them which can be swung
and then climbed upon. The usual Platform collectibles appear as
brightly colored balls of clay while power ups are illuminated in a
shroud of colored mist.
The explosions and fire effects have been extremely well handled
and look quite realistic. On one occasion you must cross a line of
flame burners which give off a small puff of smoke just to give
warning before an almighty blaze of fire roars out from the grates
almost singing your eyebrows in the process.
Unfortunately there wasn't time to play through the entire 100
levels but of the twenty plus I got through I noticed a variety of
themed environments such as snow settings, sewers, gardens and
industrial, each molded entirely out of clay. Remarkable!
few weeks ago I was contacted by someone connected with the games
industry who asked my opinions on video game music and if I thought
that it could sell on it's own merits. My answer was that the music
in most video games is only part of a complete experience which, if
separated from the package, would probably not be of any commercial
value. However, I do believe that if the music is of a high enough
quality then it would undoubtedly sell on it's own merits. This has
been proven in the movie industry.
The music in Skullmonkeys is a good example of this point. Terry S.
Taylor's selection of of tunes are so catchy that it will take you
days to get them out of your head. The funky retro soundtrack
reminded me of the style of music that Kid Creole and the Coconuts
found fame with in the eighties. Excellent.
The sound effects further add to the atmosphere of the game,
although the incessant screaming of the monkeys can lead to a severe
gameplay in Skullmonkeys follows the usual platform style - jump,
shoot, jump, collect, jump, fall, die. The controls are simple
enough to get to grips with. The run, shoot and jump actions are
allocated to the face buttons on the pad. The shoulder buttons are
only used when you gain each of the special powers.
Now these special powers are something else and I doubt whether you
will have come across anything so weird. During the first level a
Phoenix Hand may be collected which is a sort of a homing bird that
attacks the enemy and explodes on contact. Soon you will gather the
wonderful Phart Head. Get this, when activated your character bends
over and lets off a fart discharging a cloud of green gas. This
gathers around his body and forms into a ghostly figure which you
now have full control over. Leaving the main character behind your
apparition continues the game until either the effect wears off and
he returns to his normal form at the reached point or he dies and
you return to the transformation point. This allows you to
investigate a treacherous area ahead without loss of life. Other
powers are the Super Willie and Universe Enema where your character
expands his frame into the shape of Mr Universe then explodes
killing everything on the screen at the time of detonation. A great
help when the going gets tough.
The object of the game is survival and to help you out extra lives
are gained by collecting 100 balls of clay or picking up a
suggestively strange looking glowing icon. Bullets are gathered to
shoot down the enemy, glowing halos offer an extra part-life and Ma
Birds must be jumped on to save your progress. Why are they called
Ma Birds? Simple, they scream "Ma" when you jump on them
Collect all of the blue spiral icons and a special bonus world is
awarded at the end of the level. Should you gather three '1970'
icons and your character is transported back to the year 1970 (let's
hope that the enemies don't appear as the Osmonds).
Other interesting power-ups include a Hamster Shield where four or
five hamsters protect your life by spinning around your body killing
anything that comes into contact with them. By collecting a Glidy
Bird Klaymen can sprout wings and hover over larger jumps.
After completing a few areas you must defeat a Boss Character who
again is both weird and wonderful. It's a giant real-life head that
belches fireballs and spews eyeballs out of his sockets. This has to
be seen to be believed.
are one or two occasions where you get that feeling of déjà
vu, particularly if you have played Rayman before, but overall
Skullmonkeys is an entertaining and refreshing game that throws up
several new ideas.
you enjoy your platform games in the older side scrolling style then
check this out. It is highly addictive and raises more than a few
smiles. The only down side is that as the game wears on the
difficulty moves up a few more notches until it becomes
excruciatingly hard. Against this you will always find a way to get
by and with unlimited continues you do not have to restart all the
way back at the beginning.