Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099 review: A delightful potpourri of surveillance, puzzles, and narratives
When I did pick up Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099, I wasn't exactly sure what awaited me. Furthermore, I wasn't acquainted with the earlier title and its offerings. Fictiorama Studios, the developer behind the latest sequel, tagged it as a "digital voyeur simulator that combines narrative, investigation, surveillance, and resource management." And as it turns out, the title marries all of them together exquisitely well.
During the initial stages of my playthrough, Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099 reminded me of Papers, Please, but expanded in various ways and taken to a galactic level. The developer has cleverly utilized the retro-futuristic, dystopic background to deliver subtle social commentary and critique, while maintaining a fine balance between all the elements.
To be quite honest, the game's pace and the mechanics involved may not appeal to every gamer out there. Yet, there's no denying that Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099 is a unique experience that will be greatly enjoyed by those that love the works situated in the aforementioned genres.
Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099 - A digital voyeur simulator that delivers on its promises
As mentioned earlier, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I booted the game. A piece of funky music cued in, and the main screen loaded up. The frame was littered with a number of screens showing either static or various imageries. It already prepares you for what you will dive into as soon as you hit New Game.
Once I started my playthrough, I was quickly told that I had inherited a lifetime membership to “The Primate Observation Club” from my uncle. As the game progressed, it became clear that my character did not know much about this relative of his or the privileged membership that he had been awarded with.
The club requires the player to look at cages, or screens, that showcase various scenes. My first batch consisted of a psychologist in her room, a manufacturing line in a factory, a satellite out in space, and an office room. Apart from observing when actions take place in these cages, my other immediate goal was to spend credits and increase the number of screens that I had live.
The Primate Observation Club carries out regular checks, and not having the required number of cages will earn a swift banishment and a Game Over. I also had to keep a keen eye on the depleting bars representing my hunger, health, and sleep in a 24-hour day cycle.
The basic gameplay mechanics of Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099
The core mechanic is simple point-and-click, and there aren't many variations to the title beyond that. You shift between the screen containing all the cages and your living quarters.
The former contains all the cages, websites you can visit, a digital assistant to converse with, and a daily newspaper. The latter contains a fridge to keep your food in and an interface to order more from, a checklist with available jobs that you can do, a pod to sleep in, and the door to the establishment.
The basic premise is to notice the actions and words that are happening within a live screen. You can jot down some of the highlighted words to search later on the BeeScout web search engine and make necessary connections regarding the "monkeys" within that particular cage. Successful searches will allow you to find more relevant keywords that will help further your research.
My first brush with this mechanic was listening in on a therapy session of a celebrity, who mouthed off the therapist and was consequently hypnotized to make a fool of themselves. I could click on the yellow highlighted words in their conversation bubble and various objects around the room to jot them down on my Datapad.
I could then search these terms later on the website to learn more about them. Detective skills come into play when the Primate Observation Club sends you an Observation Study regarding a particular cage and its occupants.
My first question stated - "Who does the Strange Device on the Gamesat Satellite belong to?" Through a careful string of search words that I will not spoil here, I came across the correct answer. Sending in the same awarded me with 90 in-game credits and closed the cage from any more interaction.
While you will be told not to "feed the monkey," that is, not to interact with the occupants in these cages, doing so is often quite rewarding and opens up interesting interactions. For example, you could help a guy fix his errant smart home computer and turn it into a more aggressive or servile device.
That is only if you can search and find out the right keywords to get the guy's contact and all other necessary information. Do be aware that the Primate Observation Club will not take such transgressions lightly.
While Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099's non-handholding approach allows you to figure out stuff on your own (much the in-game protagonist), it does make it difficult the first time around, especially with the resource-management aspect.
I quickly realized I needed money, not only to buy food but also to buy more cages to satisfy the Primate Observation Club. While successfully completing Observational Studies does net you money, you need quite a bit more regularly to primarily pay for your food and tax.
For that, you can choose to complete tasks found in the earlier-mentioned checklists. The goal is to balance doing these odd jobs and keeping up the surveillance of the cages. You can also choose to earn money by using your digital assistant OMNIPAL to invest in stocks. Do keep in mind that such ventures are unpredictable and aren't be a sure shot.
In Conclusion - Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099 thrives on its replayability
The beauty of Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099 lies in its multiple narratives and options that you can choose from. This can especially be seen with the option to interact with those in the cages. In some cases, you can call them and share information with them; in others, you can courier them items too.
You will definitely need more than a couple of playthroughs to experience the game to its fullest. Furthermore, I also needed to quickly get a grip on the various tools that I had at my disposal, the schedules of the different cages, and how I could utilize these devices and information to progress the narrative.
It did take me a while to solve quite a few of the puzzles that I was faced with. There are plenty of factors to keep in mind in Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099, especially with hunger, health, and sleep bars to keep in mind. Paying the Council and buying new cages add to the difficulty as well.
Nevertheless, I was delighted with the game's writing, filled with subtlety, humor, and often-times ironic meta-commentary. While Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099 is not something that everyone will enjoy, it is a thoroughly enjoyable title that excels at what it strives to do. I can't wait to go and try out the first game once I have had a few more spins with this one.
Do Not Feed the Monkeys 2099
Reviewed on: PC (Code provided by Joystick Ventures)
Platform(s): Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, macOS
Developer(s): Fictiorama Studios
Publisher(s): Joystick Ventures
Release date: May 25, 2023