Whenever anyone is referred to with the preposition The before their name, there’s usually trouble afoot. Okay, The Cheat is an obvious exception, but what about The Overseer? Or The Caretaker? The latter is the villain in Crazy Monkey Spin, and your quest as Momo the monkey is to save all of the animals in the zoo from this crazed robotic zookeeper.
What’s that monkey been eating?!
CMS has a set up familiar to any puzzle game–different stages, multiple levels in each stage. You play as Momo, a heroic monkey with a biplane (only in the intro cutscene though) and an entire zoo of animals who are somehow related to you, which brings up too many biological problems to count. Each level is based upon wooden pegs scattered around a course of obstacles and, of course, bananas. The main goal in each is to rescue an animal from a very tight-fitting cage, and return them into their… bigger, usual cage.
This goal is accomplished by jumping from one log to another, using Momo’s swinging tail to grasp and swing around each log. To jump, you swipe the screen in the direction you desire, and then swipe again to make him double-jump. After that, however, he loses energy and gives himself to gravity, bouncing off walls and the ground. Unfortunately, you have to swipe where Momo is on the screen, slightly blocking your view, and the double jumping is occasionally responsive at best. Trying to double jump and falling to the bottom doesn’t kill Momo, but it requires you to jump all the way back to where you were, and with even regular jumping being fidgety, this can get frustrating really quickly.
The story itself is a good one, and Digital Chocolate did well to offer a game with a personality. When we first had Momo saving baby pandas as he made his way across the screen, we thought the game couldn’t go wrong. However, we quickly noticed that there is no way to zoom out and see the entire level, as in many puzzlers. While this could work as part of the puzzle, the combination of complicated and blind levels with a flawed control system led us to actually consider gnawing on our iDevice in frustration.
Monkeys are agile. This game’s controls aren’t.
There is a little variety apart from just the obstacles, in the form of helmets you can buy with the bananas you earn. Each helmet has a function limited in either time or uses, and each requires bananas to use. Once triggered, they help Momo in different ways–for instance, the Space Helmet lets you fly. There are two other modes besides Story, Quick Mode and Balance Mode. Quick is self-explanatory, and Balance is based on the Space Helmet and the accelerometer (without calibration), which isn’t used much at all in the Story mode, though we wished it was. Both of those modes have high scores, but both are as technically flawed as the Story.
Crazy Monkey Spin is not a terrible puzzler, and we appreciated the beanie-wearing monkey and his unique effort to save his possibly inbred cousins and step-animals. What we didn’t appreciate was the execution. With the current controls, the game progresses slowly and frustratingly, and it doesn’t really provide either the addiction or relaxation that puzzlers should. For now, it might be best to leave Momo and his extended family to their own (broken) devices.