MoBu – Adventure Begins ($0.99) is a swinging platformer where the player guides MoBu the ape through deadly jungle terrain by tapping and swiping the screen. MoBu is given the power of infinitely stretchy arms, which helps him swing through the trees, around rocky obstacles, and over water and swamps. Because of MoBu’s new “power", he gets hungry quite quickly and must collect bananas to keep himself mobile. Should his “banana gauge" run out, MoBu will fall and the level will restart.
The hypnotic swaying and dodging is a pleasurable mechanic, although the fast-paced and challenging level design means that there isn’t much time to enjoy the scenery. This atmospheric platformer will challenge even those intimately familiar with the genre. Like many platformers, MoBu requires a tricky balance between speed and precision (even more so than most). The swinging mechanic, controlled by swiping forward on the screen, will propel MoBu into cliff-faces, outcrops of stone, bushels of thorns, and other barriers, if you aren’t careful.
I find that the pattern of how and when the obstacles KO MoBu is frustratingly erratic. Sometimes he could safely land on a stone platform, sometimes even nicking them would kill me. Sometimes I could brush up against a cliff’s edge, sometimes the lightest touch ended my run. This makes coming up with level strategies challenging, and not in the fun, puzzle-solving way.
The levels require a lot of trial and error (what platformer doesn’t?) and the controls can be a bit tricky to get a handle on at first. “Lives" (aka number of bananas collected) diminish quickly and once you reach zero you must purchase more from the shop or watch an in-game ad to earn 20 for “free." It is disappointing that these are the only way to keep playing when lives run out (quite frequently, I’ll admit). This became a problem when my lives hit zero and the ads suddenly got stuck buffering about halfway through; when they don’t finish, your lives won’t replenish. So whether this was a bug with the game or a problem with my home wifi, the game became unplayable for me. I would have liked to see a real-time replenishment system as an alternative.
Coupled with the ad interruptions, the “story" didn’t compel me to keep playing. MoBu wanted bananas, so was given stretchy arms to reach them, and now has to collect bananas because his “power" seems to make him hungry faster. Maybe it is meant to be a “monkey’s paw" type wish, pointing to the irony as some sort of cautionary tale regarding instant gratification. However, it wasn’t wasn’t enough to motivate me to keep coming back to tricky levels and constant ad-watching.
Despite this, the game has a really great look and feel. The art direction is unique, fun, and quirky; the jungle atmosphere is eerie and beautiful; the “stretchy arm" mechanic is challenging and interesting. The dark backdrop, glowing with a sense of whimsy, is wonderfully contrasted with MoBu’s cartoony, bright design. It’s the kind of game that will appear like phantasms behind your eyes as you try to sleep.
I love platformers; they are what originally introduced me to gaming as a kid. There is some genuine fun to be had with MoBu. It’s a free game and so is definitely worth the download. I’m glad I got to spend time with MoBu but once my ads stopped buffering I wasn’t inclined to swing on back to it.