EyeToy: Monkey Mania

Monkeys. Chirpy, squeaky monkeys in yellow pants and bobble hats. If this fills you with horror look away now, because EyeToy : Monkey Mania is full of the sort of cutesy characters and jangly music that make the Crazy Frog look sophisticated.

This game consists of 50 very short mini-games, many of them lasting 30 seconds or less. The main mode of play is the board game, which is essentially glorified snakes and ladders. It involves spinning a wheel to determine how many spaces you can move, and trying to reach the top of the board before your opponent(s). Along the way you gain and lose Pipos, which are small monkeys who can be used as currency. You need them in order to buy items and reach the higher levels.

Landing on some squares means playing mini-games in order to earn Pipos. So doing well is half a matter of skill, and half down to chance. To begin with only a few mini-games are unlocked. Playing the board game or getting the highest score in the mini-game mode will eventually unlock all of the mini-games. There are also three different boards to unlock, and these become harder to complete as some of the more challenging games get unlocked.

The two modes of play complement each other. Whilst playing the board game will unlock mini-games, playing in pure mini-game mode will unlock extra goodies to use in the board game.

Some of the best mini-games range from quirky to barmy, such as cleaning monkeys' dirty pants or fixing their messed-up wigs. These games are clearly meant to appeal to the tastes of children of primary school age and under. But some of the games are hopelessly badly thought out, considering the age of its audience. Many of the games that require precise movements are hard enough for an adult to do, and they don't take into account the problems that the EyeToy can have in tracking motion. The Great Ape Escape is hugely frustrating, as are both of the Buoyant Balloon games. All it takes is a little visual noise in the background to ruin a game.

Some children, particularly those who are not yet reading, will find the large number of games confusing. 50 games means 50 different sets of rules to learn. Another problem is the interface for choosing mini-games, which is over-sensitive and is controlled by movements as well as by the Playstation controller. The slightest wrong movement can mean playing the wrong game.

Unlike many other EyeToy games, EyeToy : Monkey Mania does not set out to exhaust players. The board game mode is well paced, balancing exercise with visual effects and other elements of play such as buying items. As a result this is not a tiring kind of game, and children could happily play this for long periods. However it doesn't have great longevity, since the three game boards are not very difficult to unlock with a little luck.

The graphics are colourful, but simple and unimpressive. But perhaps the greatest flaw of EyeToy : Monkey Mania is that the young people who will enjoy its cheeky themes and silliness will find it too difficult to use.