Stop monkeying around over there!
Whenever people try to combine education and gaming it usually goes horribly wrong. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover Monkey Academy for the ColecoVision, a game that gets the balance between the two just right. Even more interestingly, it was developed by the legendary Konami, a company that’s best known for producing arcade style games. It’s also unusual to find educational titles for consoles. They are usually more at home on a computer, so it will come as no shock to find out that Monkey Academy originates from the MSX, a Japanese micro that Konami supported quite heavily. It’s even less surprising when you know that the ColecoVision uses the MSX standard, so features near identical hardware.
Monkey Academy is based all around everyone’s favourite school subject, maths, (I have to confess that although I hated maths I was actually very good at it!) and you start the game by choosing just what type of sums you want; adding, subtracting or dividing. Then you get to decide the level of difficulty, which determines how many enemies will be trying to stop you “do the math”. Once you get into Monkey Academy itself the game looks very much like a typical arcade platformer. Multi-coloured balloons float up the screen before they are gathered up and a sum is revealed that must be solved in order to complete the level. Sitting above the sum on the very top platform is your primate friend, eagerly awaiting your moment of genius. Enemy crabs start making their way down the platforms, making it quite reminiscent of the original Mario Bros. Arcade game, serving as an enemy to get in your way. You need to avoid these or jump over them to complete your task. Hanging from the various platforms are hooks that your monkey can grab hold of. When pulled, these reveal a banner with a number on it and once you find the number that solves the sum you press the button to grab it and take it up to your buddy. Also dotted around the screen are fruit, and these foods can be chucked at the enemy to kill them.
Graphically Monkey Academy is pretty good, the sprites are nicely defined and well animated. As well as some decent sound effects the game also features some suitably cheery music that will have you bopping along. Controls are simple and easy to get the hand of, even on the often unwieldy ColecoVision controller. Thankfully, as well as the different types of sums, there is also four different difficulty levels available, so you can work your way up from dunce to maths grand master. You can also compete against a friend to find out who’s top of the class too. Simply put, Monkey Academy shows all the signs of class that Konami have been known for over the years, even if it lacks the prestige of titles like Castlevania, Metal Gear and Nemesis. All in all Monkey Academy is a great edutainment title with the emphasis very much on the fun and for that reason you should dismiss it at your peril.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: ColecoVision (reviewed), MSX ; Publisher: Coleco ; Developer: Konami ; Players: 1-2 ; Released: 1984 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: N/A