Willy Jetman: Astromonkey’s Revenge is not only a nominee for “best name for a video game” for 2020, it features retro inspired 2D action platforming with a monkey who travels by jetpack. Playing as a chimp in charge of waste management, his spaceship gets nailed by an asteroid because he was busy doing his bathroom monkey business and not watching the controls. Crash landing on an alien world, he gets put in charge of finding pieces of the ship by the ship’s AI which sounds and acts just like the voice from Portal.
The world in Willy Jetman is big but seems even bigger since the playable character is so tiny but this never hinders gameplay. It isn’t without personality though as dialog is purposely humorous and there is something about the sound of Willy’s footsteps and the way he zips around on his jetpack that is so satisfying. The jetpack is the star of the show, allowing the player to reach incredible heights, hover, and just navigate tricky passages with style and function. Most areas feature wide open spaces which might seem boring and uneventful but the jetpack always makes things entertaining even with minimal input. It is a monkey, in a space suit, with a jetpack strapped to his back, firing laser bullets at alien critters, recycling garbage – this is the game and winds up being a winning recipe thanks to thoughtful design.
Gameplay is much more than traveling from Point A to Point B. Defeating enemies often reward currency to upgrade weaponry and other abilities. Finding secret passages are also worthwhile as they might reveal a health upgrade, like energy tanks in any Metroid title, or golden tokens which unlock new features when the player makes it to the alien village. The map also fills in as terrain is covered, also like Metroid, and points of interested are highlighted accordingly. The only complaint with the mapping system comes from the inability to switch between levels at a glance; the player can only see the map for the current area. Unless you have a really good memory, this makes backtracking for items tedious once new abilities are gained even if teleporters eventually become unlocked.
The goal is to find garbage and carry it to the recycle center, ultimately leading to a way off the planet. While there are pieces scattered around each section of the map, boss battles usually reward players with a new ability and story progression. For the most part, bosses showcase easily predictable patterns and sometimes wind up being bullet spongey but are usually impressively big and initially intimidating. Mindless drones are littered throughout each stage and are basically just there for something to shoot/do while waiting for the jetpack to recharge, some of which are annoying and take too many hits. There are also environmental puzzles to overcome, like finding scuba gear to traverse water environments, or using mines to blow away rocks. The key, however, is finding balance between the moment to moment combat and puzzle solving. Since the player can only hold two weapons at a time, sacrifices need to be made. Do you double down on more powerful guns with limited range and ammo, or do you keep a balanced approach by stocking a machine gun with flame thrower at the cost not being able to cut through rock? Each weapon can also be enhanced by spending precious currency at save stations but most unlockable upgrades carry a steep cost so players will need to choose wisely.
Flying with a jetpack feels right as the weight of the monkey is solid but not too floaty. The worse parts about the stage design comes from the cheap one-hit deaths often found in environmental hazards like lava falls and spike pits. Willy doesn’t have much in terms of defense which is a stark contrast to his offensive capabilities. It can be pretty rough forcing a checkpoint restart after just a couple casual hits from common enemies. Even though the balance isn’t perfect, it is still manageable – it just requires some careful skill from time to time. Having the jetpack mapped to the right trigger is intuitive but feels a little weird that the “X” button is used to both enter doors and pick-up/throw items. It isn’t bad, just takes some practice despite being such a simple action. Having a controller map and configurable controls would have been a welcomed addition but gameplay and playablilty still fits the bill.
The 2D art style also works closely with the overall comedic tone of the gameplay. The soundtrack also is a highlight. Some tunes are composed with such a high amount of quality, it is a shock they are found in a $14.99 eShop downloadable game. The sound effects are also an important component to the overall presentation. As one notable negative in terms of the presentation, the game stutters horribly every time the game is saved and feels like the game or console is going to freeze.
Willy Jetman is a hidden gem on the Switch eShop. Although there are monkey poo jokes throughout, they never outstay their welcome or become eye-rolling, keeping the adventure humorously well written. There are some issues with balancing and difficulty spikes but zipping around in a jetpack is always entertaining. The Metroidvania mapping system and RPG leveling also keep the adventure addictive even though Willy is ultimately an environmental nerd trying to recycle. This is one indie game that is worth checking out especially for fans looking for a new, classic-style game.
Also available on PS4 and Steam.
Also Try: Cave Story (which is on pretty much every console at this point)
Makes Me Want To Play: Solar Jetman (NES)
Wait For It: a new 2D Metroid
Written by: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com