[lostmonk.zip] - The Lost Monkeys

Author
Chris Jong
Released
April 21, 1993
Genre
Adventure
Company
Digital Reality
Size
58.3 KB
Boards
68 / 68
Rating
No rating

Closer Look: The Lost Monkeys

By: Dr. Dos
Date: Oct. 23, 2016
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I had to look in the editor and do a lot of looking around to figure out the sequence of events I missed. Firstly, is this frustratingly hidden board with a yellow jewel in the middle of the ocean.

To get to this board, you have to go _south_ from the boat you begin the game on. It's completely unintuitive and the game offers nothing at all to guide the player here.

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With the jewel, that red building with the locked door in Africa I had completely forgotten about by this point can be opened.

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Fortunately the building is only a single board. There are bats moving around inside that will attack the player, and a golden sword to be taken as treasure for the next in this sequence of events.

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Returning to Africa meant going through the quicksand and landmine screens again which was not particularly fun.

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With the sword, you can break the boulder, and proceed to the rest of the caves. On entering this screen you get this strange message that I can't figure out what it's supposed to mean. The board is a winding, but linear path and I had to cheat for a few more torches in it since the game gives you so few.

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Up ahead is a fight against a giant snake! The snake attacks by shooting stars at the player, but can be defeated with just a few shots of your own to their eye which causes the snake to disappear from the screen, allowing the player to progress.

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After the fight with the snake is another puzzle, but this one really isn't a puzzle at all. Simply shoot the breakables. The worst mistake that can be made is just wasting ammo. There's also an option to skip the puzzle for 30 gems, which isn't really an option if the player's spent any money on non-mandatory purchases.

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Shooting everything causes the pushers to move and push the key through the transporter where the player can then collect it.

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The caves end with yet another spaceship to take. The door won't let you through because "you infected with 35% of radiation". Conveniently the blue machine will run you through a spin cycle and remove the excess radiation from yourself.

Worth noting is that the caves section is the only one with two exits. Every other island commits you to finishing it before returning to the map screen.

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The same takeoff animation the previous rocket in Woof Town used is recycled here.

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And with that, the player is taken back to the map screen. Unfortunately, the caves didn't have any dynamite, meaning the whole gem and sword thing was in fact completely optional.

This was the point I had to go back to the editor again, and how I learned that the white passage here takes you to a special shop, and isn't just supposed to be an exit passage shared by all the vehicles.

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And so, 99% of the way through the game, I discover that there's been a mine detector available. I'm not even sure if there's enough gems in the game to be able to afford the explosives and mine detector. I had to cheat to be able to buy them.

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Back at Banana Island, I have to keep cheating as there are more programming errors that prevent some of the barriers from disappearing even when you have the item they require to proceed.

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And with that, the final fight begins. There's not really much here in terms of character motivation. This girl just doesn't want you to rescue the monkeys for no apparent reason.

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There's some last minute ammo available which is greatly needed.

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She takes a good twenty hits to defeat, and every time she's hit she throws two stars at you.

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The best strategy is to hide behind the forest tiles so you can safely wait for the stars to disappear since they can't move over forest.

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When you defeat her, she doesn't say a word. You're just then free to rescue the monkeys and take your exit and see the game's ending.

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Alright, who here was expecting randomly blowing up a watch tower in the ending? I love it, there's zero reason to believe you're in any danger after you get the monkeys back. Jong just wanted to draw another explosion.

It's a straightforward and happy ending.

Overall, The Lost Monkeys was a fun experience. For a game without proper STK colors, the game looks gorgeous, and the little animations add quite a bit. There's a lot in this game that makes it seems as if a young Chris Jong was just having a blast coming up with these areas. Tropical jungles, dangerous river crossings, and monster filled caves all feel like unique locations to explore in your search for Adam and Daisy.

Where the game does stumble, is in its issues with providing the player with hints on what they need to be doing exactly. It's very easy to miss things like the ocean gem or store with a detonator due to the lack of guidance that those areas can be accessed. Towards the end of this article I found out I missed two boards entirely, a secret north of the professor's cabin by shooting away the breakable walls of the mountain, and your own cabin on the cruise ship, as I assumed the passage would take you back to the dock. It's easy to interpret these areas as something that has no need to be interacted with.

There's also the issue of a lack of gems. For the most part the enemies are are simple enough, but arbitrary landmines causing you to lose health or load a save make it easy to need healing, and while the game provides several locations where you can purchase health and other supplies, it's possible to overspend and find yourself unable to get on the cruise ship.

My last issue with the game are the various bugs in the code. There aren't a ton of these, but some like the checks to access Banana Island make it seem likely the game had no proper playtesting before its release. The timer breaking when searching for gold to get on the cruise ship was arguably a blessing in disguise.

There are other amateurish decisions, like the mines and the weird set of arbitrary items required to progress that never actually get used. The Lost Monkeys really feels like the sort of game a young child would made, and maybe the excuse of youth is why I was able to brush these flaws aside.

Or maybe I'm just enamored by the love put into the creation of the game's art and story boards. The vehicles have a lot of charm, and I found myself wondering what vehicle I'd find at the end of each island to take me to the next one. The Lost Monkeys has a lot of heart, and feels a bit like a Saturday morning cartoon at times.

The Lost Monkeys to me is a solid example of a ZZT game that I'm certain would not have ever existed if ZZT wasn't around. It's a grand adventure full of explosions and spaceships, created by somebody likely too young to try their hand at making such a game with a more typical programming language. It's a game that let its author tap into creativity and share it with the world that would have otherwise been squandered and forgotten about.

I had fun with playing The Lost Monkeys, and I bet you will too if you give it a try.

The Closer Looks series is a part of the Worlds of ZZT project, committed to the preservation of ZZT and its history.
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