From developer and publisher Monkey Stories comes Heroes of the Monkey Tavern, a game that seamlessly combines the elements of role-playing, action, and adventure games into a first person dungeon crawler that works incredibly well on the Nintendo Switch.
After countless days and nights celebrating within the infamous Monkey Tavern, your team of adventurers have spent every last penny. But suddenly a mysterious stranger appears and points you towards a high tower full of invaluable treasures. And so your dungeon exploration begins as you traverse dangerous enemies, vicious traps, and riddles around every corner as you traverse through every nook and cranny of this dungeon to earn back your keep!
Heroes of the Monkey Tavern is a standard dungeon crawler that takes heavy influence from the Atari ST game Dungeon Master. This game utilizes a first person perspective, real time battles, and a combination of 90-degree movement and multi-directional movement that sees you travelling across the map in a grid-like pattern. The unique (and rather hilarious) premise of your party-loving team turned daring adventurers was enough to get me hooked into a genre I’ve never really experienced from the first person perspective and, ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by what I experienced during my adventure through the tower.
Before tackling the eight floors of the tower you have to assemble a team of four. In the game there are 8 different ability types to pick from and over 20 different character avatars you can use. As is standard with team-based outings, some of the characters are able to perform spells and others are able to use a large variety of weapons including melee and ranged weapons. After selecting your team, you can further customize each character by spending a small number of points on increasing health, magic ability, strength, and dexterity. While playing through the game I tried a variety of different team combinations and ultimately I settled on a team with four different classes represented: an archer to attack enemies from a distance, a barbarian for when the enemies got close, a priest to heal my team and offer basic combat support, and a stronger mage to use spells as attacks to offer a greater deal of damage in some cases than my melee characters could. This balanced team approach allowed me great flexibility when I played and proved successful for me more often than not. What was your favorite or most effective character combination? Leave yours in the comments below!
Speaking to the gameplay, Heroes of the Monkey Tavern has a control scheme that makes full use of the available buttons on the Nintendo Switch. This takes a little getting used to but I really enjoyed being able to use the entirety of the Switch’s controller capabilities. The developers forgo the ability to move around using the left joystick, opting for a d-pad style of directional movement that has your team moving forward and backward and strafing to the left and right. Don’t fret though, the left joystick allows party members to use potions that they have in their inventory without stopping the game. Many times I forget this simple control change and mistakenly used a potion when I had full health or mana, so be careful! The right and left bumpers turn your team in different directions while the right joystick is used to look around without fully turning your view in a new direction. The secondary bumpers (z-buttons) cycle you through each of the team members. This mechanic is incredibly important during battle because you have to know which member of your party you have selected and how to effectively use each of them at different points in the game. Each of the four letter buttons has a purpose too; the A and B buttons are used for the weapons or spells of your party members (these can vary based on the class you’ve chosen and the different items or spells you have assigned to each ‘hand’), the Y button serves as your action button allowing you to pick up items, and the X button opens the inventory for each individual party member. The last button used is one of the most important and that is the minus (-) button, which houses the map for each different floor. One thing that I really liked about the map is that it fills in as you explore each floor and doesn’t come automatically filled in. This helped to create some very suspenseful moments throughout the game, but gave you a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when you finally filled in the entire map for a floor. Once you get all of these buttons down the controls make a ton of sense, it’s just the initial coordination of the entire scheme that takes a little bit of time to get used to.
One cool gameplay feature is the real-time battle mode that sees enemies engage you at any time throughout the levels. You can use this to your advantage however and lure multiple enemies down a narrow corridor so that you can take them down one at a time to make it more manageable. This isn’t always necessary though because the pacing of the game is generally very appropriate so by the time you get to bosses or large numbers of enemies you should be at a high enough level to take them on.
Health and mana regenerate over time, but there are ways to have them regenerate more quickly if necessary. If you stumble across a bed and you’re not in the middle of battle you can take a nap and regenerate, or there are fountains spread throughout the tower. The fountains have the added bonus of reviving fallen party members. This was something I was pleasantly surprised by when I first stumbled upon it and something I relied on heavily to complete the game. You can always go back to previous floors with no consequence, so if you happen to face a particularly tough boss or enemy, you can go find a fountain or bed on an earlier floor to revive your party and try again.
One of the only things I found to be a bit of a letdown with Heroes of the Monkey Tavern was the length of the game in general. There are only eight floors in the tower, and given that the pacing is so well done it ultimately feels very short. I did play through it a few times to try out different team combinations, but once I found my own dream team I didn’t feel any strong urge to replay the game, which is a bummer because of how great it felt to explore the full tower with my best team.
Graphically most of the environments are the same; with each floor taking on the similar stone corridor vibe. While there are things that are added to the environments to help differentiate them from one another (like spider webs, furniture, skeletons, etc.) there really isn’t much for design variety of the floors. The enemies and bosses, however, offer more visual variation and are really well designed while also being pleasant to look at and fight with.
One of the best aspects of this game is the sound and the game encourages you to play with headphones to enjoy the full experience. There are different sounds for each of the attack types, ambient noises and sounds that contribute heavily to the general creepy/suspenseful atmosphere of the game, and startling audio moments where an enemy has snuck up on you. There really is a great variety of music and sound effects that work so incredibly well with this game and one of the neat things about the music is that you can use the music player option to play specific tracks whenever you want throughout your gaming experience.
There really isn’t much to dislike with Heroes of the Monkey Tavern. The real-time battle system always keeps you on your toes, the uniquely designed floors offer a great sense of adventure, the four-member party system allows you to customize and craft a team that is all your own, and the sound effects and music pair very nicely to the game as a whole to create an environment full of suspense and wonder. The only thing I wish this game had was a few more floors to explore! For dungeon-crawler fans out there, this game is a must own and is definitely a NintenDeal.