Platform-Hopping With Space Chimps

I often hear longtime platformer fans complain they don't make 'em like they used to, and bemoan the perceived "selling out" of their favorite mascot franchises, when all they want is the great gap-skipping of old that they remember from their younger days.

Most of us were kids during the 3D platformer heyday. So maybe, though, just maybe, if any of those games were to be released today, we'd say they looked like children's games. Brash Entertainment's upcoming Space Chimps film tie-in platformer is a kids' game, and giving it a whirl today was what made me think about days of yore.

It doesn't look too fancy, and it's aimed to be friendly to the younger set. But it sure took me back a bit, which was a surprisingly fun experience.

Space Chimps is hitting Xbox 360, Wii, DS and PS2 on July 15th, just a bit ahead of the film. I was only vaguely aware there was a film - it's summertime, after all, and between Kung-Fu Panda and Wall-E, I asked the rep if Brash was a little bit concerned about the release timing. Why not wait until there's a bit more of a lull in the mascot-led, kid-friendly animated flicks?

"I do think with school out, we'll be in good shape," she told me.

The game's based on the upcoming film, and features animated cutscenes from it, which looked adorable on the Xbox 360. The basic premise is that a pair of NASA chimps, descendants of the very first space monkeys, find themselves on an alien planet, tasked with rescuing its citizens from the rule of an evil overworld.

The Space Chimps game lets you play as either Ham the Third, the male monkey, or Luna, his female cohort, depending on what sequence you're playing through. Ham can brawl and do a sort of diving headbutt, while Luna soon picks up a little lizard buddy (exclusive to the game) who can ride on her sleeve and act as a first-person gun. There are also little exploding red dudes called Plodeys that you can pick up to hurl at walls to open new doors and solve puzzles.

After clearing an area with Ham, by beating up some spear-toting hostile aliens and opening my way forward with a Plodey, I got to navigate Luna through a cavern of rivers and floes. Leaping on chunks of stone as they fell down a waterfall (that was either hot, or poisonous, or just generally hazardous enough to induce death) reminded me of the simplicity of the early 3D platformers - and the frustration, too, which was not necessarily a bad thing.

With Luna, I knocked off the head of a statue and carried it to a button, which would keep the platform I needed from sinking. The whole works was old-school, and nothing real snazzy to look at, but the chimps look cute, the film looks like it could be lots of fun, to the extent that those character flicks always do, and I was surprised at how long I spent playing it.

Maybe I miss my roots? What do you guys think - do you miss the old 3D platformers? Think your current age has anything to do with it? Would you play a "kids' game" if it reminded you of what you used to enjoy?