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Developer: Vetasoft
Price: Free
Version: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Monkeys are about as popular as zombies these days, huh? Heck there are even more than a few zombie monkey (monkey zombie?) games out there. Now all bets are off as giant monkeys (the player-controlled Mokoko) face off against vampire monkeys (the aptly named Dr. Apula) to retrieve stolen bananas in Vetasoft’s newest creation: Monkey Land.

The title and story are a bit misleading, I have to admit. going in to Monkey Land for the first time, I was expecting something more akin to an adventure game. What I found instead was a rather odd game of whack-a-mole with purchasable upgrades. It’s honestly a lot more entertaining that it sounds (or I expected), but the freemium model used here is a little unbalanced.

I am honestly surprised by how much fun I’ve had with Monkey Land. The classic mechanics feel almost refreshing (almost) thanks to great artwork and some unexpectedly well-animated simians. It’s also a nice change of pace to challenge players with bopping the right monkeys as opposed to just knocking everything that shows its face. What I mean is, before a monkey jumps up it peeks over the bushes a little. It gives players an early warning, but at the same time there’s no way of knowing if it’s a “good” monkey or a “bad” one. The former nets points that will complete the stage once enough have been gathered, and the latter will reduce the player’s health by a specified amount (i.e. a half heart, whole heart, etc…). It turns a simple game of reflexes into one of both speed and restraint.

I’m not a big fan of the inability to go back and replay past levels, but I suppose it makes sense because that would make it easier to farm coins. Conversely, I also think that the coin distribution is incredibly unfair. After playing for quite a bit during my initial run, I’d only amassed 20 of the silly things. To put it in perspective, the cheapest item in the shop that isn’t a health refill costs 50 coins. Even worse, it would require 750 coins to purchase all of the important items from the store. It almost seems like the free version is merely a taunt, dangling all of the real content just out of the frugal player’s reach. Having any coin purchases (100 for $0.99, 250 for $1.99 and 600 for $2.99) also remove ads is a good idea, though.

I’m somewhat conflicted about Monkey Land. It’s a fun, albeit simple distraction to be sure. I just think they’re a little too stingy with the coins. That and with no way to go back and replay completed stages I question the game’s overall replay value, mini-games notwithstanding. Still, it’s free and it’s pretty entertaining, so at the very least it’s worth a curious glance.

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