Kidnapping is, apparently, quite a rare crime in the UK but, apparently, it's all the rage in the jungle. However, it's not a kid who's been "napped" in Jamie Quero's Spectrum platformer; it's actually his mum. Baby monkey Alba is the hero of the hour. Somehow (no, don't ask how - details, details) he knows exactly what route to follow to catch up with mummy dear. His route takes him through the well-trodden trail of flick screens and patrolling nasties that has been blazed by hundreds of thousands of platformers.
OK, well I suppose that isn't one of the most convincing of introductions to a game so let's start with what's different about Baby Monkey Alba to see if you can be tempted to play it (or indeed, buy it). Well, firstly, it starts off with a nice loading screen and, if you're playing the 128K version, this is immediately followed by a title screen and a very accomplished, bouncy piece of interrupt-driven music. Control of the baby monkey himself is as you would expect - left, right, up, down and jump - and he's a responsive little critter, able to change direction mid-jump and fall from any height without dying.
The graphics are fairly rudimentary. According to the instructions, this is intentional because Javier Quero wanted to write a game that had the look of the early Nintendo Game & Watch gadgets. I'm not sure if I completely buy this explanation but there's no doubt that the simplistic graphics complement the playability quite well here. The number of games I've played where needlessly complicated backgrounds make it impossible to pick out characters mean that I don't see them as a negative.
The game owes something of a nod to Donkey Kong II also - the crocodile heads and birds are practically identical, as are the creepers which can only be scaled or descended by moving your monkey between them. Pushing up or down then takes one creeper in each hand to enable propulsion.
Baby Monkey Alba is tougher than it at first appears. This may be because the design leads you to believe the game will be easily completed. However, it's really not easy. Instead it's one of those games where you must study the patterns of the patrolling nasties and only make a move when you have calculated the optimum time you need to get past them. Collision detection is fair and there's a mix between obstacles that you can pass easily, and the more fiddly bits that you'll need to really puzzle over.
Personally, whilst there's nothing really exceptional here, I felt it all fitted together rather well. Perhaps the only real irk I found was, peculiarly enough, due to the instructions. That's because, from the very first screen, you'll start to find keys littered around. There look to be four keys in total that need to be collected. Now, outside of the Saw films, I've never heard of kidnappers leaving keys around to free their victims (and the keys in Baby Monkey Alba are actually easily collected, not sewn into people's eyes or stomachs, making even this a generous comparison). This makes me think the instructions given are not actually accurate.
Overall then, well, Baby Monkey Alba is a little bit better than all right and is the type of game you'd imagine you'd find on the early compilation tapes of the mid Eighties. Yet, although it plays for decidedly small stakes, and although it doesn't really bring anything original to the table, the gameplay and background music make it addictive enough that I can give it a cautious recommendation.