Rasta Monkey
iPhone App
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Rasta Monkey

Our Review by Bonnie Eisenman on April 9th, 2009
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: RECOMMENDED
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Rasta Monkey is a Rastafarian-themed game of fast-paced swinging and tumbling, in which you have to collect fruits before your father's head goes CHAKA-CHAKA! It's definitely worth a look, but I couldn't completely fall in love with it.

Developer: Nitako
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound [rating:4/5]
Game Controls [rating:3.5/5]
Gameplay [rating:3/5]
User Interface [rating:3.5/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:2.5/5]

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

The dearth of platformers on the iPhone is quietly being remedied. We've seen a number of good platformers over the past few months, ranging from Rolando to Bounce On and beyond. But I don't think that I've seen a game with as much brightly colored personality as Rasta Monkey—the game exudes a cheerful aurora that will have you coming back time and time again to spin the manic little monkey. From the devs at Nitako:

You are Rasta Monkey, the extraordinarily happy Rastafarian Monkey who swings around and grab onto branches using your awesome physics based monkey-mon skills.
You snag some delicious fruit along the way to make tasty fruit shakes for your Dada, General RastaMonkey the 3rd. Him too old to collect dem fruits anymore so he needs your help:

"You need to collect dem fruits for mi special fruit-shake before mi head go CHAKA CHAKA! ... Now go lung, make yah madda proud!"

Yep, you heard him: CHAKA-CHAKA! Rasta Monkey might include somewhat-stereotypical dialogue, but it's hilarious, and all in good fun.

Anyway, in order to collect these fruits, you'll have to swing from branch to branch, spinning to launch yourself across gaps, tumbling through tunnels, swinging from vines, and dueling with the occasional enemy. Pressing a finger in one of the four corners will start you tumbling in the given direction, and pressing and holding with two fingers will make you begin to spin—let go, and you'll be launched through the air. It might sound simple, but doing those spinning-jumps is a lot harder than it looks. I ended up dying. A lot.

Thankfully, there are plenty of checkpoints in the form of Jamaican flags scattered throughout the levels. And there's no penalty for dying: you've got unlimited lives. Still, failing to properly master the spin-and-swing mechanic can lead to a lot of frustrating repetition. Tumbling and swinging rapidly from branch to branch feels great; repeatedly hurling yourself off into the air, however, completely throws off the speedy gameplay, and replaying the same portion over and over quickly wears on your nerves.

The level designs are easy initially, but they get progressively more challenging and unique. There are only ten levels, though the devs are promising more in later updates. It's unfortunate that the early levels are all so simple—while there are some extremely fun portions later in the game, a good first third of the game feels like an extended tutorial.

Actually, that's a problem throughout Rasta Monkey: simplicity. While there's no denying that it's fun to swing, roll, and leap from branch to branch, I honestly wasn't too compelled by the game itself. It's cute and upbeat, and as a casual game, it's great. But for some intangible reason, I just wasn't driven to come back to it over and over again. Maybe it was the feeling of not being in control—timing the monkey's jumps is hard. Or maybe the levels were just too simple for me. I don't know why, but...I just wasn't hooked, though I enjoyed myself. I also wish that there was a way to save your record from a previous level—Edge, for example, lets you die as often as you like, but it records the data for your high scores. I don't think that Rasta Monkey even keeps track of how many fruits you snag.

Presentation-wise, Rasta Monkey is good. The Rastafarian theme is so delightfully quirky, and the custom soundtrack fits it perfectly. Unfortunately, the graphics are compressed, resulting in some jagged edges, which honestly baffles me. Don't judge the screenshots too harshly; it looks better in motion. I love the artwork despite the image compression issues, and the devs have pledged that they're working on that anyway.

It's hard to be too critical of Rasta Monkey. The physics feel good, and it's priced insanely low. I love the theme, the feel, and the story. For whatever reason, I didn't fall head-over-heels for the game itself, but I think that it's got the sort of light-hearted gameplay that plenty of folks will like, even if it wasn't to my personal tastes. There's no denying that Rasta Monkey is a good game—I just didn't think it was the next blockbuster hit. Make sure to check out the newly released lite version!

Check out the dev's video below for a look at how the game plays:

iPhone Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Rasta Monkey! screenshot 1 Rasta Monkey! screenshot 2 Rasta Monkey! screenshot 3 Rasta Monkey! screenshot 4 Rasta Monkey! screenshot 5
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