There’s something darkly alluring about playing the role of a voyeur and spying on the lives of the world’s inhabitants. I mean, no one would want to admit it, but seeing all of the strange crap people get up to behind closed doors and scrutinising it? Count me in. Do Not Feed the Monkeys offers a gameplay experience based entirely around that concept and, following a successful release on PCs back in 2018, has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch.
Did you know that there’s an organisation known as The Primate Observation Club that spy on the world through hidden cameras? Yep, they exist, and in Do Not Feed the Monkeys you take on the role of one of its newest members. It’s up to you to spy on all kinds of different folk, find out as much as you can about them, and then use that information to progress through the club. Your only rule? ‘Do NOT feed the monkeys’, which means to make sure you leave them alone and ensure your existence remains a secret. Believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds…
Do Not Feed the Monkey’s basic gameplay cycle revolves around monitoring footage that is live-streamed from an assortment of hidden cameras, with the player having to carefully observe the everyday antics of a range of intriguing and eccentric characters. By listening to what they say and examining the objects in their surroundings, players are able to put together clues in their notebook – they then play detective and put key words together, research them online, and see what exactly they can find out about the folk they’re spying on.
Spying makes up the bulk of the experience and it’s a simple enough process, but it never feels repetitive thanks to just how zany and depraved some of the camera feeds you watch actually are. You’ll find yourself genuinely invested in each of these character’s lives and into finding out the mysteries that are interweaved into their daily tasks, with each clue you piece together proving mighty satisfying to unravel.
Given that you’re essentially taking on the role of a voyeur who uses spy cameras, most of the game takes place from the comfort of your own apartment (and typically your PC screen). Using your PC isn’t only essential to monitor the different cameras at your disposal when spying though, but is also used to receive e-mails that progress the story, use a search engine to tie together clues, or partake in conversations with other characters. It’s accessible in design and it’s easy to navigate all of the options on your PC, whilst some light-up nodes notify you of any action on a camera feed to ensure that you won’t miss anything that’s going on.
It’s not ALL spying in Do Not Feed the Monkeys though, with the player also having to look after their wellbeing – your tiredness, hunger, and cashflow are all important if you want to progress to the upper echelons of The Primate Observation Club. Not got enough cash to pay your rent? You’ll have to take on a job that’ll eat up your valuable spying time in order to make cash. You better not show up tired though, otherwise you might not actually get paid…
It shows how important time management is in Do Not Feed the Monkeys, which even ties into keeping yourself well-fed. Do you pay more money to get fast food delivered? Or do you pay less by getting groceries in but at the expense of some of your time? It’s just another thing to consider when balancing everything out in-game, with some genuine planning and careful consideration required if you want to actually progress. Admittedly, it wasn’t always something that I appreciated – I just wanted to spend my time spying for the most part, especially since you get kicked out of the club if you don’t pull your weight.
Besides taking on jobs in-game, you’re also occasionally e-mailed tasks from The Primate Observation Club that give you a few extra bucks. These normally consist of finding out specific information about some of the subjects that you’re spying on, so simply playing through the game as normal is usually enough to keep on top of these. They’re still fun to complete though and give you an extra goal to work towards, with Do Not Feed the Monkeys feeling more open in structure for the most part.
Whilst a lot of your cash is spent on things like rent and food, you’re also able to purchase more ‘cages’ (camera feeds to observe) that open up new spying opportunities, whilst things such as night vision and the ability to record footage come as you work your way up through the club. There’s a decent sense of progress to the game with plenty for players to unlock along the way, so the concept remains fresh as you play. You even get to metaphorically ‘feed the monkeys’ too, with interactions with the folk you’re spying on allowing you to help them out with their lives or even expose their depravity. These actions are discouraged by the club and can have some unforeseen consequences, but it’s always satisfying to see how events in the game can play out – even if it can prove to be a risky venture.
I enjoyed my time playing Do Not Feed the Monkeys and there’s no denying it’s uniquely fun in design, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its share of flaws. For one, the game doesn’t always explain all of its mechanics in depth, leaving the player in the deep end as they try to figure out what exactly they need to do. The same applies to your interactions with the different characters you spy on, with the consequences of your actions not always clear when you try to ‘help’ out. Then there are the slightly finicky controls, which were clearly designed for a mouse and keyboard. None of these issues are game-breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but they can make your opening hour with the game a little difficult to keep on top of.
Do Not Feed the Monkeys is an enjoyable ‘voyeur simulator’ that’ll certainly hook players in with the unique and zany scenarios it puts you in. It does have some flaws with a lack of tutorials and some finicky controls the most obvious offenders, but they don’t stop the game from offering a genuinely intriguing and clever experience for Nintendo Switch gamers to sink their teeth into.
Just remember one thing: do NOT feed the monkeys…
Developer: Fictiorama Studios
Publisher: Alawar Premium
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC