For most of our readers, your first handheld gaming system was probably a Game Boy, Game Gear, or even a Turbografx-16. But a few of our older readers will recall Game & Watch devices, which kids today probably only know about because of the tiny stickmen who appear in Super Smash Brothers. Dawn of Play remembers those early handheld games, and pays proper homage with Monkey Labour.
Monkey Labour is a 99-cent app that perfectly recreates an old Game & Watch device, right down to the dinky graphics and animation, limited gameplay, and even the hard-to-replace watch batteries that power the thing.
You play as a robot named Mobot whose job is to stoke the fires in a factory. You have to transport coal from a pile on the right to the furnace on the left. This would be dull work, if it weren’t for the angry monkey raining bricks down on your head.
We really hope it’s bricks that monkey’s flinging at us.
If you correctly time your journeys across the screen, you can not only avoid being clocked by a falling brick, but you can get the furnace to burn its hottest when the monkey is standing under a spout, burning him and earning you 50 points. That’s the entire game– it’s just as simple as any 1980s handheld game.
What really sells the charm of Monkey Labour is the presentation. The game is played on a perfect recreation of the original Game & Watch devices, but you can flip it over to view your Game Center high score and a handful of achievements. The instruction manual that comes with the game is purposely cryptic, though.
Does anyone smell burning fur?
Monkey Labour succeeds admirably as a novelty download. Show it to your gamer friends over 30 and they’ll flip their lid. But for long-term value, we thought the simple gameplay got old pretty fast, especially with so many other App Store options available. A good example of a retro game with lasting appeal is Pix’n Love Rush, which has the same retro style but with more variety and challenge.
If just looking at these screenshots transports you to another time, Monkey Labour won’t disappoint. Our thanks to Dawn of Play for the trip down memory lane, since Monkey Labour is clearly a labor of love.