Back in 1992, id Software proved that it can be a lot of fun to shoot virtual Nazis on your computer with Wolfenstein 3D. Back in 2001, Amusement Vision proved it can be a lot of fun to roll around in a sphere collecting bananas with Super Monkey Ball.
This week, Itch.io game maker Nickireda proved that both of these concepts somehow fit perfectly together with Return to Castle Monkey Ball, a free fangame that you can play in an HTML5-compatible Web browser.
Yes, famed one-man-army B.J. Blazkowicz has somehow found himself trapped in a translucent sphere and without his usual arsenal of weaponry. Thus, you have to help BJ by tilting the entire world to guide his ball through Nazi-infested corridors, picking up bananas and looted treasures along the way for a high score.
Sure, Return to Castle Monkey Ball loses a little something by eschewing the analog controls of the Monkey Ball series for digital keyboard directions. And yes, the game’s procedurally generated levels can end up a bit unbalanced and/or simplistic, depending on the random seed you fall upon.
Still, there’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a Nazi guard at the end of a corridor, building up a good head of steam, and just ramming him to death with a colorful sphere at full speed (and hearing an excited voice yell “Time Bonus!” as a reward). Frankly, it’s the kind of light distraction that’s more welcome than ever given the state of the news these days.
As with any fangame that uses original art and sounds from copyrighted titles, this one exists in a state of legal precarity. Nickireda makes clear on the game’s Itch.io page that it “exists as a free fan project,” that they consider the game “fair use under an educational license,” and that they will “not accept donation or compensation of any kind” for the game.
Hopefully that will help prevent the usual legal threats that threaten this kind of game. Sega has shown a surprising openness to fangames in the past, and id Software has publicly released the source code for Wolfenstein 3D, which suggests a cease-and-desist notice might be a bit less likely here.
In any case, probably best not to delay and head on over to Itch.io now to get your fill of Nazi-flattening fun. My high score is just over 1.9 million on “Death Incarnate” difficulty, and I’d just love to see anybody try to beat that. (Seriously, I would. I need a challenge to judge my skills against).
Listing image by Nickireda