Space Chimps (DS) Review
Space Chimps for the Nintendo DS mixes slightly above average side-scrolling 2.5D platforming with well below average behind-the-ship flying sections to produce another sub-par game based on a movie license. Based on the animated movie of the same name, Space Chimps follows the story of circus chimp, Ham III, and his simian companions, Luna and Titan, as they are launched into space by NASA to find a lost probe. The game features some decent graphics and sound, but is ultimately let down by its been there, done that gameplay that brings nothing new to the platforming genre. Its short length and lack of replay value also make Space Chimps just another quick movie license cash-in that only fans of the movie will find worthwhile.
After taking on the role of Ham, players will quickly find themselves flying a space ship through a scary looking asteroid field, with large chunks of rock flying at them from both screens. Why there are a bunch of gold coins suspended in mid air to collect is anyone’s guess, but they are there and, while they seem easy to obtain, they reveal the first of many faults with Space Chimps. While it should be simple to line up the space ship with the coins and collect them one-by-one, it’s just not that easy as it is really difficult to judge distances in this mode. That is fine for a bunch of next to useless coins, but when asteroids are flying directly towards the ship, it makes the flying sections something of a guessing game.
Things get a little better once the platforming starts. The game is technically excellent, with smooth scrolling and great jumping mechanics making for an experience that most players will get the hang of immediately. The problem is that the level design is so uninspired that it all gets a bit too boring, far too quickly. All the standard platforming staples are there, jumping on top of enemies, spin jumps, moving platforms, collectable coins and more, but there is just no soul to it all. The gameplay in Space Chimps is as close to paint-by-numbers as it gets and it is especially disheartening because underneath it all is a great platforming engine that could easily support an excellent game in the future.
The game is presented well with some nicely detailed 3D graphics and good cutscenes, but the audio leaves a little to be desired. The characters and environments are modelled well and there are some really nice backgrounds. Each of the levels not only looks good, but looks different enough from the others to be memorable. There are also plenty of nice little flourishes to keep things interesting as well. While the audio fails to impress, it isn’t so bad that it ruins the game. All of the expected bleeps and buzzes are there, and the music suits the setting, but none of it is especially good.
The game is very short (most players will be able to breeze through it in a few hours) and unfortunately there is very little reason to play through it again. There are a few things to unlock, but nothing that is really compelling enough to warrant another playthrough. There is a single-card multiplayer mode, but it isn’t very good and is certainly not something that players will want to share with others.
Space Chimps’ developer, WayForward Technologies, do have a strong handheld platforming pedigree, having developed the GameBoy Colour sleeper hit Shantae, and more recently the well received Nintendo DS shooter Contra 4. Some of their previous licensed handheld games have also far exceeded the typical quality of licensed games and this bodes well for any of their future productions. Sadly in this instance, the excellent engine is wasted on a game that has obviously been rushed out to meet the release date of the movie.
Space Chimps is a game that has a technically good engine, but unfortunately does not have the level design to take advantage of the mechanics. Fans of the movie may find it a quick way to delve back into the story, but as a stand-alone game it has little to make it stand out in the overcrowded Nintendo DS market. Short, uninspired and uncompelling, Space Chimps will go down as just another average licensed video game.