Bonkies answers one of the age-old questions about our evolutionary pal, the monkey. No, not the one about the whole infinite monkey theorem thing – no-one’s got time for that – but a more niche conundrum. Namely: what would it look like if four monkeys, equipped with robotic arms and banana fuelled jetpacks, were given construction tasks to complete in outer space? The answer would, if Bonkies is anything to go by, be sheer unadulterated chaos and a right good laugh.
Bonkies is a four player couch co-op party game. Each player has their very own cuddly primate to control and must work together with their banana loving pals to construct a wide range of objects and vehicles. From precariously stacked towers, to bridges barely balancing across pools of lava and rockets ships blasting through space, it seems there’s no limit to a monkey’s building skills. To manage this construction wonderment and clear a level though, there’s a number of tricky elements that the player must contend with.
First up: robotic arms. Every space monkey has a giant robotic arm attached to their jet pack – Think Dr. Octopus if he’d just had a particularly unpleasant encounter with a giant child who delighted in plucking the appendages from unwitting arachnids. Each arm is controlled by tapping the four face buttons of the controller to manoeuvre it into the correct position and then squeezing the trigger to pick up the desired block. Every construction project is outlined on the single screen levels, so all the monkey has to do is move the block to the correct position and keep it there for three seconds until it is locked in position.
Sounds, easy enough, right? Oh no, my friend. Your supposed family or friends sat on the couch playing the game with you? Get ready to hate them as everything goes horribly wrong.
Teamwork can quickly unravel in Bonkies. For example: a burst of jet pack juice might be needed to boost your monkey and their block into the correct position. However, the whole issue with doing this in zero gravity can lead to misjudging the velocity needed, resulting in said monkey and block crashing into the team’s structure and sending the whole lot tumbling to the ground in a physics-based nightmare. Cue family and friends hitting you with cushions and informing you that “you absolutely suck”. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Monkeys will also need to work together to lug around particularly heavy blocks, requiring good communication between teammates to ensure everyone is pulling their weight. Or rather, the weight of the block. It’s all too easy for a chunky block to remain steadfastly in place whilst the two monkey heave-ho in contrary directions – all while the level timer keeps on ticking down. Things don’t get any easier when the block is finally cajoled to where it needs to be. The aforementioned lack of gravity can cause a block to slide like a celebrity on Dancing on Ice, requiring quick reactions from team mates to work together and keep it in place.
Despite its party game aspirations and family friendly visuals, Bonkies is really anything but. Yes, building space ships with monkeys is as fun and hilarious and chaotic as you’d expect, but it’s also a demanding game that is fairly inaccessible to new gamers. Not the ideal characteristics of a party game, where being able to pick up and play is a must for accessibility. Take the controls, which require you to use pretty much every button, trigger and stick on the controller. Easy for someone whose controller skills have been forged through countless hours of bullet hells, insta-kills and souls-likes; utterly baffling to someone entirely new to video games. It’s also not an ideal fit for younger players, lacking the simplicity and accessibility of a Cake Bash or the modifications to the gameplay that Moving Out allows for.
That said, if you are lucky enough to have a group of experienced gamers to hand who are up for a laugh then there’s a lot to like here. It’s a genuinely refreshing take to have a game that tasks players with creating something together, rather than destroying individually. It is also a game that asks, no, demands genuine teamwork and plentiful communication to be able to complete a level – particularly the tricky later stages.
No one player can take the lead here and do all the heavy lifting alone, it requires a team effort to get anywhere. By the time explosive objects, wheels and laser blasting blocks have been added to the gameplay mix, prepare to have the bonds of your friendship stretched to the absolute limit. If all the players do work together though, then this is can be an enormously rewarding experience – one that will transform you and your pals into a crack squad of space simians.