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February 19, 2002
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 Overall Score: *83*ESRB Rating: Teen (T)

Skullmonkeys [Sony PlayStation] 

by Electronic Arts & The Neverhood  Reviewed by: Mark Skorupa  


ScreenshotOverview

When I first heard the title of this game, my mind was ablaze with possibilities. What could it be, I wondered? With a name like Skullmonkeys it must be something seriously evil. As the press information started rolling in, I soon realized that this game was not evil at all. There would be no blood, guts, or gore. Instead, it will be filled with running, jumping and, ummm, butt-bouncing? The point is, don't be fooled by the title.

You are Klaymen, a clay action hero. It is up to you to save the Skullmonkeys. As it turns out, the Skullmonkeys are not quite bright enough to figure out that they are being manipulated by the evil Klogg, who is planning on building a huge metal monster to destroy the world of Idznak. It is up to you to get your clay butt into the action, bring down Klogg and save the world.

Gameplay

Skullmonkeys is the second title developed by DreamWorks Interactive. The first, The Lost World: Jurassic Park had beautiful graphics, but the control was frustratingly sloppy, making the game nearly impossible to play. Did they learn from their mistakes? You bet.

Like I said above, from the title of the game, I was not quite sure what to expect. I know that I was not expecting anything near what the game turned out to be, that is for sure. The best way to describe Skullmonkeys is to classify it as a side-scrolling platform adventure game. It follows all of the cliches of this genre but as luck would have it, I really enjoy the old-school platform game. To mix things up a bit, you will find various weapons --more details on this later -- to battle your way through to the end of the many levels.

ScreenshotStop me if you have heard this before. You play as the hero of the game, Klaymen. It is up to you to move Klaymen from the left of the screen to the right of the screen (occasionally up and down) collecting various items. The most prevalent of these items being orange balls. When you collect 100 of these orange balls, get this, you get an extra life. But wait! That is not all. As you are progressing from left to right, you will encounter bad guys. You can kill these bad guys by jumping on their heads! I know it sounds crazy but it is true! For the clincher, when you make it to the end of the level, you will face a really big, tough bad guy called a Boss. You must beat the Boss to advance. Crazy!

Ok, seriously now, even though this game does sound like every other platform game ever made, it does have a couple of things going for it that make it different. The first being the awesome levels and level design. This game has more secret areas, bonus rounds, and locations to keep even the most seasoned platform veteran searching around for days. The box claims to have 90 levels of gameplay. I can't say if there were that many, but there were quite a few.

The other thing this game has going for it is its off-the-wall type humor. To give you an example, your weapons include a Universal Enema, Phart-Head, and hamsters that act as a shield. Your check points are called Ma birds because when you jump on them they let out a screech that sounds like a crow saying "Ma". If that is still not enough for you, collect the three 1970 icons hidden throughout the levels and you will be rewarded with an extra level set in the 1970's. The thing that tops it all off, though, is the song in the bonus round. This has to be the best song in a video game in a long time. I will not give it away, but all I can say is just listen to the words. It will leave you on the ground in laughter.

On the down side, even though the level design was cool, the game did get a bit repetitive. The enemies were all similar in design. After a bit, I was just looking to make it the end of the level just so I could face some new enemies. Unfortunately, getting to the next level only solves this problem for a short time because you will find the enemies will become quickly repetitive in that level as well.

ScreenshotGraphics

DreamWorks Interactive has the graphics thing figured out. As with Jurassic Park, this game sports some excellent graphics. The one thing that makes this different from many other game out there is the fact that everything was created out of clay (or so they claim). It is unbelievable how good the backgrounds look and how smooth the animations are. There were times that I found myself unbelieving that it was made from clay. The characters, although repetitive, did look great and had real personality. As with most games, the intro is also incredible and worth watching just for the clay factor.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for ground-breaking gameplay, you might as well look elsewhere.   But if you like a good old school side scrolling adventure, you should be quite pleased. The beautiful graphics, offbeat humor and long levels will keep you exploring for hours. I would have liked to see more variety with the enemies but that was really the only major complaint I had. All in all, this game is a good time.

 
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