Publisher: Crunching Koalas
Developer: Studio Gauntlet
Release: January 29th, 2021
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, PC
Imagine playing a virtual version of Jenga, except instead of trying to remove blocks from the tower, you try to build a structure. And instead of wooden blocks, you use metal, glass, and exploding bricks. And it’s in space. And you play as a monkey. This is the premise of Bonkies, a new multiplayer party game available for Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and Playstation 4 and PC.
Bonkies looks cute but it’s deceivingly difficult. You traverse around the overworld of each world and select the challenge similar to games like Super Mario Galaxy or Katamari Damacy. Once you are in a challenge, you are given a few pieces of metal or other objects to build a structure.
Your character is a space monkey that is equipped with a robotic arm that you will use to pick up the different material pieces for the structure. Since you are in space, you’ll be flying around the screen, using your robotic arm to pick up material and placing the items to build the structure.
Controlling the arm takes a bit to master. You use the left stick to move your robotic arm around and the shoulder trigger buttons to grab the material. Sometimes you’ll need to flip the pieces around to get the right angle to place the item on the structure. Having only one hand is the tricky part as you’ll find yourself flipping the pieces of material in the air and grabbing hold when it’s in the position you want. Another function of the arm is the ability to move and straighten the robotic arm in a certain direction - you use the Y, X, B, and A buttons to do so. Of course every controller layout is a bit different across systems, but for the Xbox, hitting Y will move the arm up, X to the left, B to the right, and A down. You may find that grabbing the material and using one of the buttons to properly position it works best.
The structure displays as an outline and you have to determine which pieces fit to match that outline. Once you have the pieces in place, a timer will count down starting at the number three. If nothing moves out of place during the countdown, you pass that part of the challenge. Most structures have two or three stages, building upon what you previously built. The challenge is to keep the structure you already have in place intact whilst adding an often shaky new addition to the structure.
Some of the materials are heavier than others so you’ll need to use the boost functionality, triggered by the shoulder button, to move with the object. Using too much boost will overheat your rockets, which will cause the rocket to explode, sending your monkey flying out of control and losing the material you were holding. And if you are lucky, you won’t take down the structure in the process.
The material that you build with will also bring some challenge as well. Sometimes you are given glass pieces to place in the structure and if you are not careful, those pieces can fall and break into smaller pieces. You have to be extra careful placing these glass pieces as to make sure that they don’t crack and break. Other pieces may overheat and explode if you hold on to them too long. The pieces cool down once you let go of them. Many times you’ll be flinging these pieces up in the air, grabbing them last minute and placing them in the correct place before they explode.
Most worlds will have a couple of different challenges for you to complete before you can unlock the next world. Each world will present new challenges and add new elements to the building mechanic. The building mechanics feel good and will make you think about how you want to build the supports to complete the entire structure. You can play this game solo, but the real fun is having a party of four working together (or not working well together) to build the structure.
If there is one gripe with the game it would be that each challenge is timed. If you don’t complete the structure in the given time, you fail and can’t move on. Some challenges will really test your friendship as you work against the clock. I personally would have liked to have seen that you can try to beat your time for each level, instead of trying to beat the clock. Each level will have a “banana time”. If you beat the banana time, you earn an extra bonus for that level. This certainly adds to the challenge and replayability for each level.
Final Grade: B+
Bonkies is addicting and challenging, and it will test your patience and friendships as you and your friends work together to beat the clock when building the structure. There are some silly moments that certainly will provide some laughs...right before the yelling starts. The game is well done and the building mechanics are certainly a fun twist in the party game genre. Just don’t be fooled by the cute monkeys, this game is a lot tougher than it looks.
Review code provided by Crunching Koalas