Ok, so enough with the educational games for a while. Instead, let’s let the inner 12 year old out and explore the game Spanky’s Quest. I’ll be honest, I have never heard of Spanky’s Quest, and I only ever stumbled upon it while browsing for games to fill my still tiny Gameboy collection. But the second I saw it my inner 12 year old just had to have it. Just look at it! It’s a game about Spanky the monkey who must save the world with his magic balls. If you’re not snickering inside at that description then you clearly didn’t have a childhood.
On a more serious note, the game is made by Natsume, the same company that made Harvest Moon. So I have high hopes that this is a good game. As far as gameplay goes, I’m not sure what to expect. The description on the box makes it sound very action oriented. But the pictures kind of remind me of Bubble Bobble, making me lean more towards action puzzle. There’s only one way to find out for sure. Let’s jump right in and see how magical Spanky’s balls really are.
The gameplay is like nothing I’ve ever played before, and it has a bit of a learning curve to it. Spanky does indeed have a magic ball, which is his main method of attack. But it’s not as simple as just throwing it and killing your enemies. First, Spanky will throw the ball into the air in a small arc. If you want to do anything with it, you’ll have to position Spanky under the ball and bounce it on his head as it grows larger and larger.
When you’re happy with the ball’s size, you can convert it into an attack to kill the enemies. However, the power and style of the resulting attack changes depending on how big you made the ball before attacking. It could be as simple as the tiny ball you start with, which is all you really need to kill the enemies. Or you can grow it until it explodes on contact, taking out small groups of enemies at once. Of course, whenever you can manage it, you’d probably want to grow it to the largest size for a huge splash of damage which takes out a wide reach of enemies as it falls.
As for the actual gameplay, I was mostly correct with my Bubble Bobble analogy earlier. The game is broken up into stages, each with unique layouts and a handful of enemies. The only goal is to kill all the enemies before they kill you. A simple enough goal which can be much easier said than done thanks to the unique attack mechanics. Thankfully, the enemies don’t have any kind of hunting AI and instead move in simple, predictable patterns.
The stage designs themselves were also quite varied. Many of the early stages where small, self contained areas to get you used to the mechanics. But they soon became larger and more stylized. Some were meant to be cute by looking identical to the enemies you were fighting. Others were more challenging with their confined spaces, giving you little room for error. My favorites however were the vertically looping levels where enemies would disappear off the bottom only to reappear on the top.
Upon reaching the 16th stage, the change in soundtrack was my first warning of an impending boss fight. But I can’t say I was fully prepared for that boss to be a giant pineapple. Dwarfing Spanky in comparison, this massive fruit will do everything he can to crush you. And unlike the previous enemies, he actually does appear to have some tracking AI, so he will follow you around the stage. He’ll also take several hits to kill, and it’s difficult to grow the ball to a decent attack size with him chasing you. Get your hits in when you can, and before you know it you’ll have beaten the first boss, and cleared the first tower.
Price – $10.50
It’s not a bad price for such a fun game. There’s also an SNES version that will only cost about $20.00. I’m actually considering tracking a copy down after having played the Gameboy version.
Play Again? – Most likely
It has its learning curve, ever game does. But once you get past the unusual attack style, it’s actually a very enjoyable game. Plus how many games have you fight a giant pineapple?! I’d love to see what else happens to Spanky.
Total Deaths – 13 Deaths
I like the way this game handles lives and continues. Dying in a stage will respawn you at your starting position, but the stage never stops. Enemies will still be in the same positions they were when you died, and dead enemies will remain dead. If you lose all your lives however, you’ll get a game over and have to use a continue, which seem to be infinite. This again is rather lenient, starting you at the same stage, but all the enemies have now respawned.
Fun Rating – 8.5 / 10
My inner 12 year old might have picked the game, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was. The graphics and sound were great for the system. And the gameplay was fun, and quite addicting. I felt I had to remove half a point because of the attack system though. While it is very original, it can also be rather annoying by tacking on unnecessary hassle to the usually simple mechanic of attacking. With some practice, it becomes manageable, so I didn’t want to be too hard on it. Plus the silliness of the whole concept helps offset that annoyance. Honestly, after that boss fight with the giant pineapple I’m already thinking of when I can find the time to finish this game for a full review. I love games with a good sense of humor like this, and I can’t wait to see what else might be in store for Spanky!
Someday I’ll play through all those towers… Someday…
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