The MAGS August 2016 competition is not monkeying around

MAGS August 2016 gd roundup post

I really need to check in more at Adventure Game Studio and its forums, as there is always something interesting-looking to play or at the very least read about, despite that fact that I barely have time to dig into my videogames folder of, currently, 137 items. Many of those probably originated from these forums and have been patiently waiting for my attention ever since. Well, keep waiting, I say. Anyways, this week, there’s the finalists for its MAGS August 2016 competition, which are as follows and in no particular order:

  • Banana Racer
  • Rango
  • Dr. Muttonchop
  • No Monkey’s Banana
  • Monkeys to the Moon

Oh, and for those that don’t know, MAGS is a competition for amateur adventure game-makers that started all the way back in 2001. The idea is to create a game in under a month, following the rules set by the previous winner. It aims to help you work to a deadline, improve your skills, and provide a kick-start into making adventure games. The theme for August 2016’s jam was “Distance No Object”–whatever that means–and there were some additional rules tossed in for good measure, such as the games must include monkeys, a poor means of transport, a giant banana, and so on. Initially, that might all sound restricting, but one has to remember that the power of imagination has no barriers.

And now, some thoughts on each of the final five, which are in the same no particular order as before.

Banana Racer

Unfortunately, there’s just not much to Banana Racer. It’s a simple endless runner where three monkeys ride a giant banana boat and try not to run into other ships/debris. It plays like a side-scrolling bullet-hell game like R-Type, only a bajillion times less intense. You move up and down via the arrow keys to avoid hitting things in your way, and every now and then a helicopter swoops in to drop bananas in the water for…points? Health? Actually, I couldn’t tell how much health I had left after running into a few boats and once you got good enough at it the whole thing seemingly went on for forever. Eventually, I crashed the banana boat on purpose and was treated to a nice animation of a shark eating them up.

Rango

When I think of the types of games commonly found over at Adventure Game Studio, I think of things like Rango. It’s a traditional point-and-click adventure title, with an inventory, dialogue options, and colorful graphics, all at low resolution. Story-wise, Rango’s father is ill, and all he wants to do is help the old geezer. His mother sends him out to bring back the biggest banana in the jungle. Along the way, he runs into a paranoid bear and learns the true perils of his environment. The puzzles are simple, but logical, and there’s even a neat mini-game for when you are balancing or trying to do a powerful toss. More surprising is the moral choice you have to deal with at the end involving the “friendly” bear. Rango has a shockingly dark tone, but the cute graphics and music–and overdramatic voicework–help this from being a bummer to play.

Dr. Muttonchop

Dr. Muttonchop turned out to be another mini traditional point and click game, but more old-school than Rango. It features the “look/use/speak” icon interface, and thankfully that’s the total number of verbs in it. Any more than that usually scares me aware. The artwork and writing was crude, with the story revolving around a James Bond-esque plot of being kidnapped by the titular Dr. Muttonchop and left in a room to meet your ultimate demise. Naturally, you will have to use your wits and ability to gather a number of items up to escape. To be honest, I almost quit the game after immediately leaving the first room, seeing that three more rooms existed, but the puzzles weren’t too tough to figure out save for the part where every item’s “hit box” is smaller than an ant’s pinky finger.

No Monkey’s Banana

It’s stretching to call No Money’s Banana a game, as all I saw was a random story generator. One that you don’t even provide any input on. It’s like a bunch of finished Mad Libs, with a unique monkey’s life story and adventures being randomly generated by a series of different words and phrases. Unfortunately, by the third example, I had already spotted two spots of repetition, such as the rocket being powered by children’s tears and contracting an alien STD. I clicked through a few more before losing interest and exiting. Obviously from the title, this product is meant to ape–pun intended!–the promise of an uncountable amount of stories and planets in No Man’s Sky, but I think this could at least allow for some player interactivity.

Monkeys to the Moon

This is a resource simulator, sort of like A World of Keflings, except you are ordering a group of monkeys around instead of wee people to do your bidding, such as harvest wood or build an archery range. These monkeys are ambitious and want to build a rocket-ship to reach the moon, which, in their primate eyes, is really one large banana. It’s a fun idea, and the introduction scene is neat and nicely done, but then you get into the real game and the graphics just immediately push you away. I struggled to tell the difference between the tiles and see exactly where the monkeys were as they just don’t pop against where they are standing. I stayed with Monkeys to the Moon for a good long while, eventually building the platform base for the rocket-ship, but the hungry snakes proved too ferocious for my resources. One can only hope they all made it to the moon without me.

If you are a forum member for Adventure Game Studio, you can add your two cents, with voting ending on September 15. I’m looking forward to seeing what takes the cake and then what zany rules are put forth for the new MAGS.

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