Bonkies review: Monkey business

by VR Lars
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As the old saying goes, pay peanuts, get monkeys. Bonkies missed that memo, sending an entire zoo of cute animals into the stars to loosely assemble a bunch of space-age IKEA furniture. This is an interesting twist on the couch co-op movement championed by games like Overcooked and Moving Out, employing the same combination of colourful graphics and simple but potentially frustrating gameplay because nobody can listen to my basic instructions.

The premise is simple. Players float around a small area in 2D, latching onto various types of blocks with mechanical arms. At first you’re basically stacking building blocks, with some too large or dense to move alone. The goal is basically to make a shape that stays within the designated zone for long enough to complete the level as quickly as possible, and the solutions are fairly obvious at first. The complexity ramps up with a surprisingly diverse array of blocks and some light physics-based mechanics, and it gets intense.

You can play Bonkies with two players, but in a way the co-operation needs to be much tighter and time-oriented than it would with more. Adding more players into the mix certainly increases the potential for chaos but as they say, many hands make light work. Maneuvring blocks and manipulating some of the more complicated elements is much more palatable with a minimum of three players. The game’s just outright funnier with three people zooming around, knocking carefully placed structures over and accidentally triggering rocket blocks.

The levels get surprisingly challenging, but the gameplay places such a firm emphasis on fun with friends that it never really becomes frustrating. The physics system means that knowing which order the blocks need to go in to win is only really half the battle.

What impresses me the most about Bonkies is how consistently fun it stays. Even revisiting older levels you’ve already beaten is fun, simply because the human element of co-operation shines so brightly with it. Getting the builds done quickly enough for the best possible score demands hasty precision and the ability to cobble together something that works just long enough to count as a win. Half of the things we built beyond the tutorial stages immediately collapsed when we let go, and the other half was intentionally sabotaged by a bonkie with a jetpack fuelled grudge.

Does Bonkies blast off or crash out?

If you have three or four people looking for a great time together, look no further than Bonkies. It’s absolutely built for some casual fun that demands co-operation in a way not many games achieve – you’ll need to co-ordinate, you’ll need to talk. You may also need to hold yourself back from loudly swearing at a small child, but that’s a valuable life skill anyway. If you only have a couple of players, it might not be quite as enjoyable. I think I had a similar criticism for Tools Up – these games shouldn’t be promoting themselves as 1-4 players when it’s either impossible or incredibly difficult to beat them with lower player counts.

Nevertheless, Bonkies is a fantastic couch co-op game. It feels like a Mario Party minigame that’s been expanded and deepened into a standalone experience, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. A lot of recent party games have simply tried imitating what Overcooked achieved, but Bonkies is blazing its own trail, creating a unique blend of innocent comedic chaos and snappy puzzle solving. A brilliant new entry into the genre that offers families and friends hours of fun.

Bonkies was developed by Studio Gauntlet and is available now on Switch and Steam. Check out more of our game reviews here.

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