Monkeys have a long history in space - albeit mostly as test subjects. But what would happen if the monkeys were building the spaceships too? That's (kind of) the question Bonkies asks - a game where hairy simian creatures that look like monkeys, but which definitely aren't monkeys, set about constructing a variety of increasingly complex structures by piling blocks on top of each other.
Each level gives you a silhouette you'll need to fill in, and a number of oddly shaped blocks you'll need to use to do it, before playing out kind of like a game of inverse Jenga, as you gingerly create bridges, pray overhanging structures don't collapse, and try to figure out which bit goes where without anything by way of a manual. To make things more interesting, in what's basically becoming its own genre of games, like Octodad and to a lesser extent Moving Out, you'll be competing against the game's take on real world physics, and some slightly deliberately awkward controls.
Rather than using their real arms, the Bonkies instead use a giant mechanized lifting arm attached to their space suit (naturally) - but they only have the one. Moved by using the face buttons on the controller (essentially meaning you can only have it up, down, left or right), you'll need to swoop round the levels, move your arm into as good a position as you possibly can, and then grab the right blocks (by squeezing the trigger), before lifting them up and doing your best to slot them into place.
While the game does have a full single player mode for you to blast through, Bonkies has clearly been designed for multiplayer, with a separate (and equally numerous) set of co-op missions to take on that's arguably the game's real main event. With heavier objects, more unusual shapes, and far more rickety and elaborate structures you'll need to try and create, it's a game that doesn't just have an emphasis on teamwork - it outright relies on it, so much so that levels actually have a minimum number of players they take to complete. Though most only need two people, there are a few in here that say they need 3+ or 4 - although they are only optional.
However, in our experience, it's fair to say Bonkies' player estimates are a little bit… hopeful. Though the levels may all theoretically be completable with just two players, you'd need either the luck, or skill of a God to pull it off. Balancing a rickety space ship perfectly on a hover block, then making it take off, fly straight, and all stay together, before holding it in place in mid air for the required three seconds is nigh on impossible with just two players- and it's not the only example. Once you reach Mars, you keep finding levels that say they can be completed with two people, but which really seem to need more.
Oddly, there's no adjustment in difficulty for the number of players, either. Weighty pieces are just as weighty with four of you playing versus two, and the time limits you'll need to meet in order to earn the illusive banana from each level remain the same - despite the fact four hands will almost undoubtedly work better than two. In fact, the more players you add, the easier each levels gets as a rule. With three players, you can have that extra arm to hold things straight, stop things falling, or keep things together until you can fit a "locking" piece on top - with two, you're left struggling.
However, while you can rope in online buddies to help on PC, on console the only support you'll be able to count on is that within your own house, as on PS4, Switch and Xbox One there's only local multiplayer support. To say this is an oversight seems an understatement - even without the current situation, it seems odd the PC game has support the console players miss out on, especially as the game gets so much more playable the more players you add.
Despite the cutesy graphics, then, Bonkies serves up a deceptive challenge, and how much fun you get out of it will depend largely on the amount of players you can rustle up. If you've got the full compliment of four, then go for it - you'll likely split your time 50:50 between laughing, and crying as your elaborately constructed ship comes crashing down for the 15th time. But if there's just the two of you - or worse, one - you'll need to think twice before taking the plunge.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4