Review by Russ Perry Jr.



Graphics: 4

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 7

In the scheme of things, the Odyssey^2 probably isn't destined to be remembered as one of the great systems. Graphically it only kept up to the Atari 2600 in the earliest days and did not have the open architecture that let the 2600 pull away with improved coding techniques and larger ROM sizes.

But no matter how under whelming a system is, there may very well be a few fun games to play on it. For instance, I found Dodge It on the Fairchild Channel F to be quite amusing as a two-player contest. Monkeyshines is also one of those games that is more run than it should be.

Now, right from the beginning, you wonder if perhaps Magnavox -- or at least their long-standing developer Ed Averett -- had their own equivalent to Atari's Grass Valley. I mean, "Monkeyshines"? What does that mean anyway? Well, if you've never been told to "stop those monkeyshines!", you could look it up and find that they are "capers or antics resembling that of a monkey's". Okay, so basically the game is trying to capture monkeys' playful antics.

Well, what's more playful than a game of tag? And where more appropriate for monkeys to hang out than a set of monkey bars? So, you and a friend venture into the monkeys' cage to play a little tag with the monkeys. You catch a monkey and then throw it (don't let the ASPCA know about this part), and now it is IT. At this point, you don't want to let it catch you, or your game is over.

No matter what else one thinks about this game, it has to be admitted that this is a reasonably original concept.

Graphically this is, essentially, the same as almost any other Odyssey^2 game. You'll recognize your character as the same generic man character in so many other games, and the screen is just a pastiche of bars to form the playfield. But the game, pun somewhat unavoidable, begins to shine if you look at the monkeys. As it has been occasionally posited, "there's nothing as funny as monkeys".

These are some of the most animated sprites you're likely to see on the Odyssey^2. There are only a few basic shapes as they stand on the bars, or jump, climb or fall, but beyond that they also occasionally give a little "oo! oo! oo!" dance, swing around a bar, or dangle upside-down from a bar. And they're always jumping around quite capriciously, like you might picture monkeys doing. It's actually quite charming, and quite chaotic.

Sound, on the other hand, is a tad bit annoying... Don't expect anything to sound particularly like monkeys here. So turn the volume down and put some jungle on the stereo. Either that or hire a younger brother or a neighborhood kid to make monkey noises while you play.

Game play is fairly simple... Run around, jump up into the bars if you'd like, catch a monkey, and throw it. Then avoid any that you've so tagged (they turn from orange to red for a while). You score a point for each monkey you tag, and the two players cooperate against the computer.

Well, at least that's what the instruction booklet says... My brothers and I always found it more fun to try to throw the monkeys at the other player, leading to at least SOME competitive play, no matter what the booklet says. I think that may be where the game actually changes from "eh, just another O2 game" to "ha ha, this is fun!". The pace is a bit frenetic enough without worrying about your supposed partner launching monkeys at you.

Even though there's really just one program in the cartridge, they've added enough options to it to claim there are five games included. "Monkey Tag!" is the basic game as I've described it. "Tailspin!" involves an option to scroll the playfield upward every few seconds as you play, with new bars appearing at the bottom to keep the screen filled. This feature can be turned on and off during the game as it is played. "Shuteye!" involves another option to turn all the bars invisible, or back to visible. They will also turn visible when a player falls too, but only briefly.

For "Monkey Chess!" they got really clever... You'll notice that the game has "MONKEY" spelled down the left side, and has numbers along the bottom. By entering a number/letter combination, you can add (ENTER) or remove (CLEAR) vertical bars, and by entering a letter/number combination you can add or remove horizontal bars. The idea here is that a third player try to help (according to the booklet; feel free instead to try to thwart) the normal two players. This is more "Grass Valley" thinking.

Finally, there's "Bananas!" which combines all of the "Tailspin!", "Shuteye!" and "Monkey Chess!" options. The booklet suggests that this is "for professionals only", but I suddenly have a picture of an infinite number of monkeys punching away at an infinite number of Odyssey^2 keyboards while an infinite number of players try to play an infinite number of games of Monkeyshines, and a recreation of Shakespeare's works be damned.

All in all, this may or may not be a game that you'll like, but I found it just charming enough, at least way back when I was playing it with my brothers. It's probably not one of the crown jewels for the system either, but I think it's one of those fun little contests that will be looked on fondly as a fun diversion.


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Last updated: Friday, December 26, 2003 10:19 PM