Chimps Ahoy! skillfully blends several major casual gaming and internet tropes–breakout, pirates, pong, monkeys, and ninjas, in rough order of precedence–into a sort of Greatest Hits album from the last several years of mass-market entertainment. The combination works, for the most part. The game’s cheerful primates-and-privateers theme is engaging, and its gameplay is fun, although it has some rough edges. It’s not quite an 800 lb gorilla, but you’ll get your money’s worth.
Chimps Ahoy! is best described as two parts breakout, one part pong. You play in landscape mode, holding your iPhone horizontally, with a thumb controlling a bumper shaped like a chimp’s head on either side of the screen. You deflect a coconut off these chimps into the middle of the level, where it bounces around wreaking havoc amongst a series of blocks, enemies, bonus coins and powerups; your job is to keep it in play until each level’s completely cleared of detritus. Naturally, this gets tougher as the nut ricochets off its targets and picks up velocity.
This game is less novel than it looks. For instance, the game’s two-bumper system seems like an interesting variation on classic breakout at first, but you’ll soon realize that you’ll only need to control one bumper at a time in most cases–in fact, it’s more like playing two separate games of breakout at once, except you’re playing one with your off hand. The main exception to this rule is when you get the multiball powerup, which only splits the ball into two, instead of the usual three.
The other powerups are very standard fare: there’s the ultraball, which lets your coconut blast through everything for a limited time; a powerup that makes your coconut bigger; and an extra life. Other common breakout powerups, such as the laser beam or the wide bumper, are conspicuously missing. Meanwhile, the enemies are a pretty tame bunch. The evil ninja ships move around and shoot cannonballs that will paralyze a stricken bumper for a second or two, but they seem more like a source for powerups than an actual hazard.
The real enemy in Chimps Ahoy! is its slightly dodgy hit detection. For instance, the coconut will sometimes appear to drift right through your chimp bumper, especially if it is coming in from the side. This is especially dangerous if you’re rapidly bouncing the nut against a nearby buoy, which can speed it up in a hurry and send it off on a strange trajectory. The ball’s interaction with the blocks and bumpers also feels a bit suspect; there seems to be a lot of very near misses. We also noticed a bug where the game seems to glitch back in time for a fraction of a second. This doesn’t happen frequently, but it should be fixed anyway.
Chimps Ahoy!’s best feature is easily its whimsical presentation. Nautical monkeys are automatically hilarious, and when you get to collect clothes and accessories for them, as in this game, the effect is doubled. We also appreciate the fierce-looking monkey pirate captain who gives you a big “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” at the end of every level. The sound effects are crisp and varied, and the surf rock soundtrack strikes an appropriate chord, too.
In summary, Chimps Ahoy is a cute breakout game with good, but not spectacular, gameplay. If you like breakout games, or if the theme appeals, you won’t go wrong dropping five dollars on this game.