In the late 1980s, a simian named Jiro was one of the most popular monkeys in Japan, becoming famous for his ‘reflection’ pose. He also became the star of this early SNES action game from Natsume, which was renamed Spanky’s Quest elsewhere around the globe, much to the delight of snickering middle-schoolers.
The game is similar to titles like Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros., with each stage being fairly small, and filled with platforms you can jump through. Each area is filled with fruit-themed baddies, many of them juggling the keys you’ll need to grab in order to reach the next stage. Spanky attacks by tossing a bubble upward at a short arc, which will only stun enemies on its own. At any point, you can pop the bubble, which will turn it into a sports ball that will actually damage enemies. You can also bounce the bubble on Spanky’s head, which will not only cause it to become larger, but will also change the type of projectile that pops out when you burst it. If you pop it without juggling, it only reveals a single measly baseball — which isn’t all that powerful — but upon further bouncing, it can turn into a stream of soccer balls, a group of volleyballs that spiral outward when they hit an enemy, or a group of basketballs that have incredible spread. All of these attacks can be used to take multiple enemies, if utilized correctly.
It’s an unusual system since there’s no direct way to attack enemies, as even hitting them with a bubble requires some distance between Spanky and his foe, and it’s very easy to get trapped. Since the bubbles float downwards, the best strategy is to get the high ground and then rain attacks down from above, but not all of the levels have the space that allow you to juggle safely.
The boss battles that occur every ten stages also complicate things a bit since you need to study their attack patterns and counterattack appropriately. It’s more challenging than it initially seems, and there are occasionally some cheap deaths and questionable hit detection, but that hidden depth makes it all the more rewarding. It’s easy to run through your allotment of lives (assuming you’re swearing off the Nintendo Switch Online Rewind feature), though there are checkpoints after even ten stages. It’s not a very long game though, with fifty stages total (plus boss battles) and a password system. Alas, while most of these types of games have two player co-op, this game is single player only.
Spanky’s Quest is the ideal Nintendo Switch Online game. At first glance, it’s a pretty average title, and it’s hard to imagine that many people would pay much money for it. But as a game bundled with a subscription, it’s fun to mess around with, and there’s a bit of unexpected charm beneath its eccentricities, especially thanks to the jazzy soundtrack by former Konami composer Kiyohiro Sada. Some players may not find more than some temporary amusement, but anyone who’s clamoring for Switch releases of games like Diet Go Go or Rainbow Islands may find themselves with a new favorite.
This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Reviews