Henchmen Studios bring their own concoction of seafaring escapades to Wii U in Monkey Pirates, a frantic top-down local multiplayer experience that will see you hounding enemy ships to seize their banana stash.
We’ve all dreamed of ruling the seven seas ever since The Secret of Monkey Island taught us that all we needed to do to become a pirate was learn insult sword fighting, dig up a t-shirt, and steal a worthless Idol. Monkey Pirates simplifies that even further by immediately placing you behind a wheel of a ship, and tasking you with succeeding in any challenges that it throws in your direction.
How to Play slides and Tutorial levels will allow newcomers to learn the ropes, but it won’t be long before your thrust into the open waters and looking to make a name for your mischievous monkey self. In commanding your ship, coloured segments of a radial compass that surrounds your vessel are your first port of call as they help to indicate the wind direction. The traffic light coding will be easy for youngsters to pick up, recognising that green will allow them to traverse the waves faster whereas red will see them come to a sudden standstill.
Each level takes place within a bordered sea area, with players needing to be careful not to collide with any land that falls within this whilst they are gleefully sailing around. Collisions will cause damage to your vessel, and while you will respawn if sunk it will take up precious seconds on the countdown clock. Players can also cast their anchor to drift their ship, blast their three-way cannons to sink foes, and collect red, green and blue bonuses that will either help or hinder their efforts.
It is within the Versus modes that Monkey Pirates‘ creative spark starts to shine, with the Classic setup seeing up to four players seize a Wii Remote to compete across three game types: ‘Stand by the board!’ which is your typical deathmatch; ‘Jolly Roger’ where the first player to sink a ship becomes the titular vessel and scores points while they retain the iconic black flag until sunk; and ‘Banana Race,’ that tasks you with collecting as many banana barrels as you can within the time limit.
The Wii U GamePad is largely put to use in the separate Sea King versus mode, in which the player wielding the controller becomes the game master. This sees you choose between three score-orientated deeds that you feel that the other players can achieve to boost your own score. ‘The Dauphin’ deed marking whichever player you believe will have the highest score throughout the round, ‘The Golden Fleet’ looking to help a player reach a specific score, and ‘The Slap Feast’ where all players must achieve a minimum score. The game master can also throw out random bonuses, banana barrels and hoist the Jolly Roger flag on any player’s ship that they choose.
The game type variety is welcomed, even if it lacks depth and the number of maps is fairly insubstantial – fortresses, icebergs, volcanos and whirlpools looking to differentiate each. Four different Monkey Captain characters, each with their own strengths and abilities, switch things up, although not noticeably enough in the grand scheme of things.
While undeniably a party game, Monkey Pirates inevitably falls down in that there is far too little to enjoy solo. This comes in the form of a Challenge mode, presenting a meagre four levels that even themselves are nigh on impossible to score highly on without the aid of other players.
A repetitive soundtrack and some rather wayward English text localisation grate, be that grammatical or spelling errors, and it comes as a surprise that Nintendo wasn’t more vigilant in ensuring that the French indie corrected these prior to release. It’s a shame, especially when the overall presentation is relatively strong.
There’s fun to be had here with friends, but Monkey Pirates threatens to kick you off the plank before it ever becomes addictive enough.