Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee is your standard one trick pony, driven completely by one concept stretched so thin that it eventually snaps. So, what?s the one trick? Puerile humor that revolves around monkeys (e.g. intentionally bad monkey jokes). If you have some bizarre love for this particular brand of humor that borders on fetishism, then Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee is easily worth your money. If not, then you should spend your money elsewhere.
So, what exactly is a sponge monkey? Well... I don?t know. The game doesn?t once attempt to answer this question. It talks about them being born in pools of water and then evolving into creatures that act like regular monkeys (i.e., monkeys as they exist on modern Earth), but it never once tells the reader what they are or where they come from. Given that the entire game revolves around them, this is a fairly serious pitfall, even for an intentionally humourous game. I?d really like to know something about the origin and nature of my character?s species other than the following:
?Sponge monkeys are born in pools of water. Please, don?t call them spawning pools as you?ll offend the monkeys. For the first month or two, the sponge monkey swims around in their underwater paradise and then -THEY EVOLVE!?
Unfortunately, this kind of shortsightedness in design plagues the rest of the game, as well. A good indicator that something is amiss comes early on in the document - the game?s disclaimer which proclaims that Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee was designed with the understanding that younger teens will likely play it - specifically followed by a warning that there is some humorous content in the game that some parents may not find appropriate for younger teens to read. The disclaimer, *exactly* as it appears in the game, is presented here for your benefit:
"Parents: While this game was written all in good fun with the understanding that younger teens may play it, there are some suggestive and mature themes found in this game that you may feel are not appropriate for your teen. Please peruse this book to ensure that this game is safe for your teen to play. Remember, you are the final judge on what is good for your child!"
It might as well say ?We designed this game for a certain age group and then loaded it with stuff that parents of younger teens probably don?t want their kids reading!? - because that is exactly the confused message that it relays. When I read "While this game was written all in good fun with the understanding that younger teens may play it..." I assumed that whoever wrote that had written the game with the understanding that younger teens would be playing it. After all, that's what the disclaimer actually says.
Well... what?s the premise of the game, then? What is it that characters (i.e., sponge monkeys) do? The 1-page introduction briefly mentions that some rare sponge monkeys are chosen to man (or rather, monkey) harvester units, space patrol untis, or scavanger units because... well, I guess because they can. There are three short (2-3 sentence) paragraphs in the introduction that explain each of which explains one of the three previously mentioned occupations, but that is the extent of it. As I mentioned before, the focus of the game is squarely placed on the humor and as a result, a lot of fairly important (or what I consider to be fairly important) questions go completely unanswered or gets glossed over with a sentence or two and then waved aside in favor of another joke.
Enough about conceptual short-comings, though... what about the mechanics? Well, surprisingly, there is a fairly serviceable system buried under the mountain of monkey jokes and flimsy premise of Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee (well, so long as you don?t mind making your own dice). A dice pool system somewhat reminiscent of WEG?s D6 System, the basic Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee system requires players to roll a number of six-sided dice, total the results, and compare them to a difficulty assigned by the Head Monkey (the GM). Oh... and I did mention making your own dice. Herein lies the rub...
In addition to regular six-sided dice in games of Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee, you use Monkey Dice. Monkey Dice don?t have numbers on the sides, but picturers (Note: I guess the designer wants you to cut them out and paste them to your own dice, as there is actually a template appended to the end of the document to assist you in doing just this) - one monkey (not two, despite what the text says), a skull, a kitty [sic], a coconut, a double coconut, and a banana. Monkey dice add a heavy meta-game element to Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee, allowing players to ?steal? dice from other players to improve their own rolls, robbing them of their own dice, or even inflicting random damage to the character ?just because?.
The designer himself jokingly (I think he?s joking anyhow - sometimes it?s hard to tell) says that he thinks the idea is stupid (Quote: ?I was told to add a Cheeky factor. If you ask me, I think it just adds a Stupid factor.?) - but I don?t agree. I think that the idea itself is sound, but that its implementation suffers from the same shortsightedness that many other elements of the game do. As it stands, the Moneky Dice system is pretty clunky (the pasting of pictures onto a normal six-sided die not being the least problematic issue), but I feel that with a wee bit of polish it could be something really fun.
In addition to the basic rules, Sponge Monkeys from outer space also sports a utilitarian, though not especially uniuqe, ship construction system (you buy ship components with credts); a ship combat system that works (for all intents and purposes) just like regular action resolution, but with some seriously pumped up damage and armor levels reminiscient of the Rifts Mega Damage system; a random roll world generator; a brief but detailed bestiary; and an introductory adventure wherein the protagonists must go kill a sentient salad (no, you did not read that wrong). Nothing here stands out as particularly good or bad, except for the adventure which tries awfully hard to be funny and generally just ends up being awful.
And that brings me to the final verdict.
Conceptually,. Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee is a nightmare. It lacks a detailed background or premise, but what?s worse, it overlooks these things in favor of slotting in yet some more monkey humor which was (by the author's own admission via the disclaimer) written with the understanding that a younger age group may read it, but is may be inappropriate for said age group. Finally - repetitive jokes tend to get old fast, and (again) unless you have a real love of monkey jokes, those in Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee are no exception. Sponge MOnkeys from Outer Spaaaacccee is a fine example of why other one-trick beer and pretzel games don?t get stretched out to 70 pages.
Mechanically, Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee isn?t anything special, but it is functional with the potential to be fun. Sadly, I think that due to the game?s other shortcomings, a lot of people might overlook this. The system works and works well, with the possible exception of the Monkey Dice rules (which, to be fair, aren?t an integral part of the game). I?ve seen a lot of other games that don?t boast a mechanically sound system, so Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee wins some points here. Here end the mechanics of note in Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee - while the rest of the game isn't mechanically redundant or broken, it just isn't particularly noteworthy.
All of that having been said, the decision of whether or not to purchase Sponge Monkeys from Outer Spaaaaccceee still comes down to the primary focus of the game. Puerile monkey jokes. If you like them, you?ll like the game. If you don?t, you won?t. And that?s the bottom line.
[NOTE: The author of the product being reviewed contacted me after this review was initially posted with a number of complaints. Without retracting any statements that I felt to be truthful, the contents of this review have been revised and expanded to address some of the author's valid complaints.]
LIKED: The basic resolution mechanic and the idea of a truly involved meta-game dice mechanic.
DISLIKED: The lack of thorough explanation where species origin and game premise are concerned. The extremely repetitive nature of the humor.
[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]