As someone who'd neither played nor heard of the original Bloons Supermonkey, this was totally not what I was expecting.
When I hear Bloons, I think of the sedate web game starring a monkey chucking darts at balloons. Or the tower defence series that followed.
Back then, the surreptitious popping of digital balloons was enough to keep an entire IT class occupied for the hour. Simpler times.
But of all the things for Bloons to have been reborn as, a vertically-scrolling shoot 'em up would have been at the bottom of my list for plausibility.Pop, pop, pop
But seeing as the Bloons series relies on only three common elements - monkeys, darts, and balloons - developer Ninja Kiwi has only had to apply a few tweaks to make it so.
And so in Bloons Supermonkey 2, you'll find yourself steering a flying, automatically firing simian through levels in an attempt to pop as many balloons as possible.
The balloons form patterns and coalesce into the shapes of creatures, as you'd expect from any traditional shmup. The major difference here, though, is an inescapable one: balloons can't hurt you.
And as such, the whole emphasis is altered. The shmup genre is about controlling something that's as offensively potent as it is fragile, forever teetering on the edge of a sudden death.
With Bloons Supermonkey 2 offering no such threat, success or failure is instead judged by how high a percentage of the balloons you're able to pop.Invincible
Unfortunately, this can mean that levels lack the tension of a traditional shmup, to some extent allowing the player to coast through.
However, as a one-thumb phone game, this gives Bloons Supermonkey 2 a casual, pick-up-and-play, commute-friendly feel that some more hardcore shooters lack.
And there's more to it, too. Indeed, the game's main thrust is character customisation.
Using currency earned through playing levels, you can switch and upgrade the core, right arm, and left arm attacks to make your Supermonkey truly your own.
And perhaps surprisingly, there's a genuine depth and balance to be considered when making these choices, with selections ranging from magic and energy pulse whips to missiles and boomerangs, each offering their own strengths and weaknesses.Getting a boost
Perhaps most satisfying, though, are the powerups.
You can equip these before playing a level, providing modifiers such as super charging your regular fire or making all your projectiles ricochet off their targets for a second hit.
But like everything else in Bloons Supermonkey 2, the real strength here is the wealth of options.
You can also pick up some great short-term boosts while in the thick of it, the highlight of which is Sun God. This radiant helper will vomit forth solar rays, gloriously popping all balloons in sight.
All in all, then, Bloons Supermonkey 2 is an odd one. Getting accustomed to a shmup where the enemies are so helpless takes a little time.
However, given time, it's clear that it's a game with plenty for the player to unlock and a great potential for individual customisation.
And crucially, popping balloons is still fun.
Want more? Check out our growing collection of Bloons Supermonkey 2 articles!