Do Not Feed The Monkeys
The only ‘voyeurism simulator’ I’ve ever played.
A game with impressive pixel-art about watching random strangers in their homes, at work or just…out. This is the only ‘voyeurism simulator’ I’ve ever heard of, and it’s an interesting concept. The name of the game refers to interacting with the people you observe; ‘feeding’ the ‘monkeys’.
Very early on it struck me as somewhere between Orwell for the privacy invasion and research elements, and Papers, Please for the money management, higher controlling power and the subtle moral choices. Well…they’re not very subtle. In fact they hit you in the face with it. A lot.
Aside from the overly mouse-based mechanics, the interface is simple enough to understand. What makes this game fascinating is, unsurprisingly, the voyeurism.
Monkeys At Play
You start by getting four random ‘cages’ (their term for the unmovable camera angles through which you observe), although I played through about six times and had the same combinations popping up a lot. I expect it’s partially random, partially set. You can buy more as the game progresses…by which I mean you must buy more or lose. That’s sort of one of my biggest issues, but we’ll come back to that.
Through your hidden cameras you can watch anything from an old man in a nursing home, to a happy family, to a wind turbine where literally nothing happens. I won’t spoil anything specific in the views, because they’re the entire point of the game. What I will say is that I was very disappointed by how much was in this. Granted, there are an impressive number of possible ‘cages’ (I think a total of 46), but this is an illusion. Only maybe half actually have anything interesting to see, and those always have the same one interesting thing.
See, the pixel-art is pretty and well done, but I don’t expect it’s easy to make. Because of this, there are only short loops in most views, and even the ones with dialogue use the same animations each time. Don’t expect this to be watching a family have dinner, watch TV, chat about their days, play a game of Monopoly, then do something censor-worthy… They’ll do one, maybe two of those things and disappear off-camera for long periods between. Each view is a contained story that either plays itself out or waits for you to intervene.
And that brings us back to that issue from before.
Trapped In A Cage
The game is quite short. Presumably to account for the relative brevity of the individual views’ stories, the game takes place over a couple of weeks and you have to move quickly to get stuff done in time. You have to keep buying more views, doing menial jobs to afford it, as well as paying for food and rent. It’s either inspired by Papers, Please, or…nah, it’s almost certainly inspired by Papers, Please.
There is also no infinite mode, or way to slow things down. You have the set ~15 days, then game over. No matter what. Restart and hope you get different (or the same) views next time. This can be disappointing when you want to see the end of a little story arc and run out of time. Also due to the short length of the individual stories, when the story is done, the view stays there…showing whatever is left…until the end of the game. A lot don’t give you any aftermath except through newspaper articles.
Speaking of which, the newspaper talks about this great political turmoil and intrigue going on in the world…but it has no effect. It’s set dressing. I guess the point is that you’re just some bored, lonely weirdo who wants to watch strangers, but not being able to affect anything gives the game a rather isolated…nihilism, almost, that makes it feel incomplete. At least in Papers, Please it served to justify the increasingly strict border rules.
I mentioned earlier that this game is very obvious with its moral choices. It’s…actually very obvious with almost everything.
Turning one last time to Papers, Please, the moral choice in that was unspoken; do you help some stranger at the border, or do you feed your family tonight? In this, you’re straight up given a plant that ‘feeds off love and good vibes’. The plant flowers if you’re nice and withers if you’re not. The plant has no effect except as a ‘karma monitor’ of sorts. You’re also bombarded with blatant moral choices that have no effect on gameplay:
Will you steal your neighbour’s package? Why not. They never come looking for it.
Will you lend your friend money? Why bother. He never helps or hinders you.
The moral choices in the individual stories (and whether or not to intervene) can be a lot more powerful, but they all feel so mechanical if that makes sense. Even your landlady is just immensely rude for no reason and with no way to respond. It all hits you over the head with your character being ‘some loner weirdo who no one likes’.
Scratch The Voyeurism Itch
As a ‘voyeurism simulator’, I’m not sure this works. The things you can see are too limited, short and predictable. I will state once more than the pixel-art is really quite beautiful at times, and impressive all the time, so maybe it’s worth playing just for that.
I’ve 100%ed it, as I am wont to do, but now I’m done with it and will probably not think about it again. Except two of the stories…those rather got to me.