Stop Or My Monkey Will Shoot

HIGH The art style and soundtrack are wonderful.

LOW The gunplay and platforming feel stiff.

WTF The ridiculous image of a monkey being given a gun.

Since joining GameCritics, I’ve carved a niche out among my fellow writers. I’d like to think I’m one of the multiplayer experts, but deep down I’m actually someone who loves old-school platformers — especially the 3D mascot variety. This was reinforced when I got an email from the editor in which he used the words “seems like your jam” when describing an indie called Tamarin

Tamarin is a 3D platformer in which players control the titular species of monkey in an attempt to save their home from evil insects. The protagonist can jump, climb walls and do backflips to get to hard-to-reach places around an interconnected world.

Thanks to the five minutes of research I did on Wikipedia, I learned that tamarins are squirrel-sized monkeys that live in the rainforest in parts of Central and South America. However, no research led me to believe that they use guns, make friends with talking hedgehogs or fight heavily-armed ants in burning forests. On the outside, Tamarin seems like a normal 3D platformer, but it becomes something else entirely — with mixed results.

Starting on the positive side, Tamarin‘s aesthetic is unique. Characters are highly stylized, and the main character has an adorably expressive face thanks to big eyes and nice fur effects. Enemy designs are also cool, with the enemy ants having an odd sci-fi look. I also love the noises Tamarin makes as he jumps and dives — I never got tired of the little squeaks, and coupled with a sleeping idle animation, I felt like I was constantly being served cuteness on a platter.

The music is also kick-ass. Coming straight from the N64 era, it has an interesting mix of synths and drums that ramps up as the action does.

Unfortunately, while Tamarin appears to be a 3D platforming adventure game ripped out of a bygone era, that’s only half the experience. The other half is a third-person shooter that has our monkey rescuing trapped animals, grabbing collectibles, blasting enemies and upgrading weapons.

I suspect that Tamarin might be paying homage to something from the N64 era, but I can’t say that I’ve played whatever that may be. However, I can safely say that it does feel like an N64 shooter in all the worst ways, primarily as the camera fights with walls and surfaces, and in the stiff shooting.

Instead of being able to move and shoot, players hold still and use a large crosshair that locks onto enemies. Also, whenever a weapon is equipped, the ability to dive, ground pound or roll is disabled, making the nonlinear levels a slog. Perhaps this setup would have made more sense in the N64 era but we’ve seen plenty of games in the same genre deliver better experiences since then.

Tamarin struggles tonally as well. It’s true that a lot of kid-friendly media uses dark and scary imagery to drive its point home, and Tamarin uses the same techniques effectively in the early sections when giving Tamarin motivation to save his family. Unfortunately, the effect is later lost thanks to some awkward poems detailing his sadness that feel hilariously out of place during the loading screens. It never felt natural, just incredibly jarring.

Overall, Tamarin is an admirable attempt to bring back a type of game not widely popular in modern times. However, despite my love of old-school experiences, this sticks too close to its roots in the worst possible ways — this adorable monkey can’t save shoddy, outdated game design.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is published and developed by Chameleon Games. It is available on PC, PS4 and XBO. This copy was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PS4. Approximately 8 hours were spent in single-player and was completed. There is no multiplayer.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10 for Fantasy Violence and Mild Blood. This is a mascot platformer where players control a monkey with a gun. It’s not too violent but there are a few frightening moments. The ants look menacing and the themes of losing a home and family could be a bit much for young kids.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes present.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is presented through text. Sound is not required for gameplay and there are no necessary audio cues. Subtitles cannot be resized. This game is fully accessible

Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. Players use the left stick to move, right stick to control the camera and the X button to jump. The triggers and bumpers are used for crouching or shooting, depending on whether or not a gun is equipped. The Y-axis cannot be inverted

Cj Salcedo
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