Baboon! is a 2D platform adventure game that puts you in the shoes – er, paws – of Tumbili the monkey, tasked with stopping an evil pirate baboon from taking over your island and, more importantly, your bananas.
With help from your grandad and a stash of his old bombs, Baboon! sees you travel from your island village to a myriad of locations including volcanos and icy peaks to thwart the banana thief’s plans. To stop this mischievous plot, you must complete a series of levels. Each level starts Tumbili at the bottom of the map and, using bombs to propel yourself into the air, your job is to traverse a series of vertical platforms in order to reach the finish line at the top. Each bomb is placed at your feet and can be used to direct you to either side. The power is decided by a power gauge that fills and depletes repeatedly once the bomb is placed, only going off when you choose.
Obviously, it isn’t just platforms that you must navigate, but deadly obstacles and dangerous enemies that follow preset paths around each stage. Successfully moving Tumbili through each level is something of a learning process, as you need to effectively master hitting the right power and angles. However, as you progress through Baboon!, simply projecting Tumbili with a bomb isn’t enough to get through a level and you’ll need to manipulate various objects with the use of more equipment that you’ll unlock over time.
Visually speaking, Baboon is pretty charming to look at. Every level and the obstacles within have an appealing cartoonish style to them, and the supporting cast of animal characters alongside Tumbili are rather adorable, all with a pleasing Japanese anime style. There are also more realistic-looking anime women that you encounter on your journey; personally, I found them a bit creepy looking, but that could just be me. The soundtrack of the game suits its overall cartoony feel too, complementing the cast of characters perfectly. I really dug it, but it could probably use a few more tracks as it gets repetitive.
For the most part, Baboon can be fairly enjoyable, and it only gets better as you progress. Where the first few levels are a bit dry and boring, as you unlock more equipment – such as ice bombs to freeze a platform or a drill bomb to drill certain ledges – the levels become more dynamic. Personally though, I wasn’t a massive fan of the bomb mechanic; not being able to select the type of power your bomb has can make traversing through an already difficult level feel almost impossible. It felt too unfairly challenging at times, especially considering the light-hearted nature of the game.
There are also boss levels (of course!). Like the rest of Baboon‘s levels, these vary wildly in terms of enjoyability. The first boss, the Queen Bee, was pretty unoriginal and quickly became annoying. On the other hand, the Penguin Lord, who was just as difficult to beat, was not nearly as frustrating due to a much more interesting level design. The boss battles do highlight a certain problem in Tumbili’s mechanics, and that is how slow it is for him to move. To perform a jump of decent height requires placing a bomb and waiting crucial seconds before he’s lifted into the air. It’s frustrating enough in a normal level if you mis-time and end up crossing an enemy’s path, but it’s amplified massively when you’re up against a much more aggressive and random boss attack. When you die halfway through a boss level due to not being able to avoid a random piece of debris that is travelling at you slowly, it’s rather rage-inducing.
There is some redemption to be had for Baboon!, however. Its unique selling point is the fact that, despite being largely a platform game, there are some RPG elements thrown in to spice things up a little. Sometimes in order to progress you may need to find a new item, or help out another character. This requires you to go track back, talk to old friends and characters and revisit old levels. It’s a pretty cool idea in that it extends the life of the game in a way that’s not too forced, and adds an extremely silly narrative that is amusing to play through. There are also secret levels, which was a nice surprise. On the flip side, some of the item-finding quests feel very lazy, and resulted in me spending a lot of time going to and fro, talking to every character with no clue on who was to help me progress.
When all is said and done, Baboon! does have some interesting ideas. The mix of RPG elements in a platformer is a nice touch; when it’s done right, it really works wonders, but it’s let down by a number of tedious quests that don’t give you any hint as to where to go. The difficulty of some of the levels is also unforgivable – while I’m not averse to a challenge, it’s unfairly fiendish at times, making it hard to want to continue. Baboon! isn’t a bad game per se, but because of its flaws I can only really recommend it to the most die-hard of platform fans looking for a new quirky challenge.