Bonkies Review: Making Stacks

As much as they didn’t appeal to me in my younger years, puzzle games have quickly become a go-to genre for when I only have a few minutes to get some gaming in. Games like Bug Academy, Roombo: First Blood, and even the more recent PHOGS! are great ways to get some game time in while at the same time, jump-starting my brain with a quick mental exercise. Not all puzzle games are created equally though. Lots of puzzle games have star-rating systems for each level, but many just aren’t worth revisiting to earn a perfect score for either not being very interesting or just not being a great game.

Bonkies – from developer Studio Gauntlet – avoids these pitfalls by featuring fun and challenging puzzles, weighted physics for moving puzzle pieces around its outer space setting, and a soundtrack that is out of this world (pun absolutely intended). Playing solo or with friends, Bonkies is a great addition to your couch co-op party game collection.

Although there is a pseudo-storyline – you’re a monkey astronaut making their way through the solar system – the foundation of Bonkies is in its gameplay. Your job is to fit pieces of space rubbish into predetermined outlined shapes by stacking them on top of each other to fit inside of the outline. You’ll do this by using your monkey’s giant mechanical arm and claw that’s capable of carrying the space junk, while using your jetpack to move around and drop pieces on top of one another. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast, space cadet.

Although the premise of Bonkies’ puzzles is pretty straightforward, executing on them is a bit more challenging. The standard boxes are easy enough to piece together to form the shape of the outline. It’s the other “special” pieces that start to make things a bit more difficult. Things like anti-gravity and exploding boxes, ice (which can break into smaller pieces if not handled with care), and magnets require a bit more forethought and strategy before blindly stacking pieces up. What’s most satisfying about building is just how weighted the pieces all feel. You need to be extra careful in your movement and your placement of each piece. Move too fast, and the forward momentum will keep your piece moving forward as well, causing your structure to topple. Carelessness is punished in Bonkies, which makes successfully completing a stage that much more rewarding.

You’ll often be balancing and counterbalancing in order to build the proper structures before time runs out, while also making sure it can stay stabilized long enough to exceed the three-second countdown that’s required to beat the level. I personally appreciate the fact that in some cases, simply holding a piece in place with my claw is good enough to pass the stage, since some puzzles are especially difficult as a solo player.

That is where Bonkies truly shines: its co-op mode. Playing by yourself can be a satisfying experience, but it can also be incredibly defeating when you’ve built up a massive structure, only to have an exploding box send the entire thing tumbling to the ground. More than once, I stopped playing in those defeating moments, thinking how much better it would have been had I had a full team to help rebuild.

Bonkies allows for up to four players to play together. Unfortunately, this can only be done locally, which is great for couch co-op, but significantly limits its playability compared to if an online multiplayer component was available. I was only able to test out co-op mode with one other player as well, given the importance of continued social distancing and not having any visitors over to my house. Even with only one other player, however, Bonkies was still just as fun. I can only imagine four players would add to the excitement, and likely chaos that comes with having too many cooks in the kitchen – or in this case, t0o many monkey astronauts in outer space. The PC version of the game works with Remote Play, which is a step up. I just wish that an online multiplayer mode existed on the PlayStation version so that I could play with my nephews. Given our previous experience in playing these types of games, I have no doubt that we’d have a blast playing Bonkies together.

Bonkies is a good enough solo experience that I’ll be more than happy to jump in from time to time whenever I only have a few moments to game, or perhaps as a way to warm up before a night of Warzone or GTA Online. However, you can bet that once I’m able to have people over to my house again, Bonkies will be the first party game of the night that we play. And given its fun factor, possibly the only party game we’ll need.

A PS4 copy of Bonkies was provided to TheGamer for this review. Bonkies is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Next: Twisted Metal Deserves To Make Another Appearance On PlayStation

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Sam has been writing for TheGamer since early 2018, earning the role as the Lead Features & Review Editor in 2019. The Denver, Colorado-native’s knack for writing has been a life-long endeavor. His time spent in corporate positions has helped shape the professional element of his creative writing passion and skills. Beyond writing, Sam is a lover of all things food and video games, which – especially on weekends – are generally mutually exclusive, as he streams his gameplay on Twitch (as well as TheGamer’s Facebook page) under the self-proclaimed, though well-deserved moniker of ChipotleSam. (Seriously…just ask him about his Chipotle burrito tattoo). You can find Sam on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @RealChipotleSam.

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