I thought it was about time I took another look at the treasure I downloaded from Project EGG a while ago so I opened up the program, shut my eyes, wiggled the mouse around a bit and found myself picking out this wonderfully strange PC-98 non-game.
Non-game? The reason I say that is because there’s really nothing more to this than throwing the small assortment of random pieces of food that appear on the old lady’s table into the monkey enclosure and watching how the monkeys react to each other and the environment. This monkey-bothering is broken up every now and then by an unexpected Darius tribute, swiftly followed by your monkeys itching themselves silly during an insect swarm.
It sounds like nothing more than a bit of fluff, and that’s because it is – Saru Yama Tengoku was just one of the eclectic mix of titles bundled together for Discstation 98 #5, released in 1991.
The last thing you’d expect is a sequel isn’t it? Well you’d be wrong! Discstation #14 (Windows PC) saw the probably not much awaited Saru Yama Tengoku 2, with five monkeys instead of the original’s three, adorable schoolchildren, day/night and season cycles and massively expanded items and events. Strictly speaking it’s still not a game as your interaction is limited again to just throwing things in for them to play with, but with this now including Walkmans (the tape variety), hockey masks and hula-hoops you’re unlikely to find yourself caring about the lack of direct intervention.
I’d actually really like to see these expressive little chaps make a comeback – watching them fight over fruit, go for a swim and even make Back to the Future references (one event involves a monkey “time travelling” by building up speed and then leaving a fiery trail as he streaks across the enclosure) is a very enjoyable way to pass the time when your brain’s too fried for “real” games and it had both me and my son giggling away more often than people probably should at pixelled monkeys!