Shortly before iOS took over my life, one of my favorite games was Boom Blox on the Wii. It was the brainchild of a little known game designer by the name of Steven Spielberg (who also dabbles in film, I’m told), and it was absurdly fun. There’s something about huge explosions and large structures toppling over that delights the eight year old boy in me, and Boom Blox (and especially it’s sequel, Bash Party) took over my free time for countless weeks. Ever since those days I’ve been yearning for something like that on mobile, and while there have been a couple physics-based games that provide a similar feeling (my favorite being Turbo Dismount [Free]), none have quite captured the floaty, block-on-block destruction I’ve craved since 2009. [Dramatic pause.] ...That is, until now.

monkey2Monkeyrama [Free] by Tuomas Erikoinen feels really, really close to Boom Blox. The physics are absolutely dead-on, and because of that it’s an utter joy to play. Each level presents you with a structure (or two or three) made of different types of blocks (wood, stone, ice, etc.) and your job is simply to destroy it. To do that, you need to throw monkeys at it. Yes, monkeys. (Well, their heads, anyway.) Like the blocks, there are different flavors of monkeys, including explosive monkeys, heavy monkeys, and--my favorite--sticky monkeys. To pass a level you just need to hit a certain score threshold, which is achieved by having as many blocks as possible fall off the foundation. It’s incredibly easy to grasp once you dive in, and part of what makes it work so well is how intuitive everything is.

Controlling the game is as simple as swiping and tapping. Swiping to swivel the level around or up and down to get a better view, and tapping to fire off a monkey. It’s super simple, and I’m glad the developer didn’t try to ape (heh) the Boom Blox series too closely by using some kind of crazy accelerometer controls for throwing, since I have vivid memories of my right arm being incredibly sore the day after playing those games. (Also, I rather like my iPhone not being stuck halfway into the wall.)

Just mimicking the physics of a beloved Wii game isn’t enough to make a great mobile experience, though. Thankfully, Monkeyrama absolutely nails the level design, with structures that range from pure explosive fun to surprisingly devious puzzles. For example, (spoilers?) there’s a pirate ship later on that has three explosive blocks on stilts and you only have two throws to knock it all down. I spent literally 20 minutes trying in vain to destroy the damn thing, when I accidentally scrolled the screen up and noticed the secret: larger explosives high above that could easily be knocked onto the other blocks to obliterate everything. I literally laughed out loud when I realized how simple it was.

monkey1monkey4

Everything in the game works so well, actually, that all of my complaints are things that aren’t there, rather than problems with the things that are. For example, despite the fact that there are almost 90 different levels to complete, I finished all of them almost in one sitting. I suppose it’s a good thing to leave your audience wanting more, but Monkeyrama accomplished that a little too well. (Of course, it’s only 99 cents, and there are more levels supposedly on the way.) Another thing that pains me is that there’s no level editor included, which was by far the best part of the Boom Blox series. I mean, I literally made a giant piano and a working Minesweeper board in Bash Party. And then blew them up over and over. More realistically, it’d be great if there were replay options in Monkeyrama, like the ability to rewind the action and play it back at different speeds (like Turbo Dismount). Finally, it really sucks that there are no leaderboards. What the heck, Tuomas?

On paper, Monkeyrama doesn’t seem particularly exciting. It’s kind of hard to give a high rating to something that’s basically a super stripped down version of a previous game about throwing balls at blocks. But you know what? It’s only a buck, and it provides an experience that's absolutely perfect for large interactive screens like the iPad. Plus, it got more smiles-per-minute out of me than almost any other game I’ve played this year. I’m not sure what that says about me, and I don’t care. I whole-hearted love this game. (Mic drop.)

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • Part Time Monkey

    Hooooly cow! Thanks for the awesome review, Nathan!

    • Mess

      Game looks good fun, will give it a whirl later 🙂

      • Tuomas Erikoinen

        Awesoooome! 🙂

  • Part Time Monkey

    Oh, and GameCenter is on it's way! I was maybe just too eager to release... :3

  • rich_952000

    Ha ha! I love it...it's so good to see a worthy game and developer get their due and be completely flattered by the praise. Congrats Part Time Monkey... Can't wait to see what's next with the winter levels.

    • rich_952000

      Oh, and thank you Nathan! Spot on review

      • Tuomas Erikoinen

        Thanks Rich!

        I dunno what happened now that I'm Tuomas instead of Monkey...

  • louisa

    Great review and motivates me to play it right away. Thanks for such a nice, fun and simple game that is so fun!

    • Tuomas Erikoinen

      You're most welcome!! 🙂

  • Howlingwolf

    Great review just downloaded can't wait to play

  • LarryWP

    I guess nobody is old enough to recognize the pun of the title "We're just trying to be friendly." The Monkees back in the 1960's were a mild rock group, and in their title song that line was in it. I believe the devs copied that.

    We're just trying to be friendly,
    In the best way we know how,
    But we're too busy singing,
    To put anybody down.

    Just thought I'd mention it.....

    • LarryWP

      I had the above formatted real nice so it made sense, but TA formatting screwed it all up? Sorry.

      • bilboad

        It looks fine in the desktop version. The iOS app ignores the extra blank lines and line breaks and makes it all run together though.

    • Tuomas Erikoinen

      I guess I AM too young. I was wondering what's with the title, and that explains it!

    • http://www.galleytech.com Galley

      This first generation Monkees fan recognized it instantly.

      • icepulse

        Don't like it, but I guess I'm learnin'.

  • icepulse

    What shocks my monkey is the fact that there's no multiplayer component, nor is the lack of one even mentioned in the review. Boom Blox strongest aspect was the choice multiplayer modes.

    I can see this being fantastic with some manner of limited-turn asynch mode, too.

    Huh.

    • Tuomas Erikoinen

      Multiplayer component might come some day! 🙂

  • meponder

    Absolutely loving this game...totally fixated. Agree completely with the review. But totally stuck on level 3.4. I can't get the curved wooden wall to budge! Anyone got through it? I'm totally cool with a nudge. I topple the center to he bombed island, blow the center bomb, then stare in hopeless frustration.

    • Tuomas Erikoinen

      You gotta shoot the ice blocks first so the bomb drops and explodes the curve into oblivion. Then topple the tall tower over! 🙂

Monkeyrama Reviewed by Nathan Reinauer on . Rating: 4.5