Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nick's new 'Monkey Quest' offers fab online romp for kids

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Savvy online kids may be ditching their penguin waddle for a monkey jump.

  • Kids may want to swing over to

    Nickelodeon, Gannett

    Kids may want to swing over to "Monkey Quest," Nickelodeon's new massively multiplayer online game, MMO, for kids. It looks and plays like a console-quality game, no easy task in the world of MMOs.

Nickelodeon, Gannett

Kids may want to swing over to "Monkey Quest," Nickelodeon's new massively multiplayer online game, MMO, for kids. It looks and plays like a console-quality game, no easy task in the world of MMOs.

As kids tire of "Club Penguin," they may want to swing over to "Monkey Quest," Nickelodeon's new massively multiplayer online game (MMO) for kids, which launched on April 2.

"Monkey Quest" is an outstanding online game, in part because it looks and plays like a console-quality game — no easy task in the world of MMOs. Kids will experience "Mario"-type game play as they go on side-scrolling platform adventures.

For parents who are unfamiliar with MMOs, these are online games where a player enters as an avatar and interacts with other players' avatars which are visible on the screen along with yours. There are also other non-player characters (NPCs) that populate these worlds and provide guidance and help. Most MMOs are quest-based, and "Monkey Quest" is no exception. But what is so clever about MMOs is that the game can manage thousands of kids playing at the same time, each with their own avatar and set of goals.

Kids enter the free online world of "Monkey Quest" by creating a monkey avatar. Whether your primate is fuchsia, turquoise or brown, it is all up to you.

You'll discover that your monkey lives in the World of Ook, a magical place with many different habitats ranging from lush rainforests to floating islands in the sky to cold snowy mountains. This world was once ruled by the all-powerful Monkey King, but he disappeared after defeating the evil Shadow Master Ka and his invading minions of Shadow Creatures. Ook is now run by five Monkey Tribes.

The problem is that evil Shadow Creatures are starting to reappear in this world. You are tasked with eliminating this evil and making this world safe again.

As you run, jump and swing from vine to vine, you will encounter NPCs who offer you quests. Quests can vary greatly, but most can be classified into search and find, craft or create, or fight evil creatures. For example, you may be tasked with traveling to a specific destination to check out a rumor of a purple shard. Another quest might involve collecting enough bananas (the currency of this world) to buy a recipe to make a special hat to protect your head and then finding those ingredients.

You have some choice about which of the hundreds of quests you want to take on, and they vary in regard to what you'll earn once you have completed them. All offer you "experience points," which make you a stronger monkey. As you accumulate experience points, you gain rank in terms of a level designation. As you move up in levels, more equipment, protective clothing, special supplies (like healing potions) and weapons (slingshots, magical fire blasters, etc.) become available to you.

Cleverly, the quests tie into the ongoing story line about an evil growing in this world. When you encounter some evil creatures, you will need to become invisible. Luckily, you can earn an Invisibility Sphere on one of your quests that will do the trick. And depending on what route you take through the story and with which Monkey Tribes you align, you can grow your powers for stealth or your abilities to fight.

Some of the quests require that you team up with up to three others. It is easy to reach out to other monkey avatars around you to form a team. And the game builds in fun, silly things to do with others, including using another's head as a trampoline.

"Monkey Quest" is an exciting, funny and intriguing world to explore. Displayed in 3-D, the game gives you the ability to play in both the foreground and the background of this world. As you quest to the many cities, highways and trails, you will run, jump, swim, glide and slide through this vast world. Portals provide an easy way to transport your monkey over long distances.

This is a game made with children in mind. The chat between kids can limited to drop down messages or, if parents allow, live chat that is filtered and monitored. While the monkeys can be attacked by the shadow monsters or natural predators, combat is very cartoony and your monkey never dies. You may run out of juice and have to be revived, but if so, you simply return to a nearby checkpoint. Plus, the game provides you with lots of help, including arrows showing you the way, and a backpack full of useful things like your inventory, your quest log, a map and a friends' log.

While it is possible to play this game for free, some of the deeper content costs money. Families wanting to explore the premium game have two choices: pay a monthly fee of $9.95 per month or invest in Nick Cash and buy-as-you-go.

This is a great game for families to explore together. It gives them the ability to jointly enter a visually rich environment, solve puzzles as a team, become heroes and save the world together.

Score: 4 stars (out of 4)

Rating: E (mild cartoon violence)

Best for ages 8 and up

Publisher: Nickelodeon,

Platform: Win/Mac

Price: Free, with premium content costing $9.95 per month, $24.95 for 3 months, or $79.95 per year.

Gudmundsen is the editor of Computing With Kids magazine. Contact her at

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