Review: Bonito Days

15 Oct 2021

Everyone likes a good simple party game, you know? Something where explaining the mechanics are super easy to break down and get right to the fun part can really do wonders to liven up a gathering. I’ve probably lost count of how many times I’ve proposed firing up a session of some Jackbox game during some sort of hangout, or found myself getting my ‘Merica on with a few other friends in Broforce or something similar. Those are all fun multiplayer experiences and all, but some people have found enjoyment and pull nostalgia from the party games from Super Monkey Ball. While the GameCube games and Deluxe have been given modern re-releases very recently, it’s not uncommon for me to hear some people bring up the party game Monkey Target.

Well, apparently the folks over at Studio Somewhere latched onto that a little more than some and decided to turn the party game into its own thing. Admittedly, the timing for release is a little weird given that their influence basically released alongside it. I don’t know if I could consider that unfortunate or not, but I guess that’s just how things shook out for this indie team.

Developed and published by Studio Somewhere, Bonito Days released as a Nintendo Switch exclusive on October 14th, 2021 and is the version played for this review.

Good Vibes Only

Since we’re dealing with what’s basically an homage to Monkey Target stretched out into its own game, it’s not surprising that the mechanics from that minigame make their way over to here. Supporting up to four players locally, the aim here is to outscore your opponents through the expected target stages and stages that exclusively involve grabbing collectibles.

Design-wise, it seems like the developers were trying to mix in ball rolling segments on top of the fly-and-drop-on-the-target ones they were also focusing on as well. Usually these are tightly spaced ordeals that involve trying to gain enough momentum to take off to the target area. It’s not usually complicated, but more often than not I found myself wrestling with the camera to have it pointing where I needed it to be. This only came up in more tightly spaced areas, but was still annoying.

Once you have enough momentum to take off, you’ll uncurl your arms and legs (the player character is a fish person, but it blends with the aesthetic), spread out, and the flight segment takes over. Controlling mid-flight isn’t complicated, but there will be times where you’ll run out of momentum and just drop like a rock. This was a mechanic present in its influence, so this sort of thing tracks for the experiences. Since we’re dealing with a score competition, grabbing collectibles and the various drop-related power-ups will be important to gain the best score against your friends. There aren’t any moving targets, but they can be hidden in weird places or shaped in a way that doesn’t always gel with the physics. That may cause some frustration, but sometimes the powerups will help ease that.

I feel like this was more tailored to be a primarily multiplayer affair, though nothing is stopping you from playing through each of the five cups in single player. If you choose to go that route, it’s not going to be a very long playthrough for you. Each stage, even with multiple attempts, is not particularly long or complicated. Because of that, progressing through each cup is not a long ordeal either. You’re going to blow through this in maybe an hour or two depending on how you approach things. The gameplay is low stakes and meant to be a chill experience, so this isn’t exactly a surprise. Unfortunately, there are times where things do get a bit on the repetitive side regardless of whether or not you’re going for targets or collecting sweets. It’s not much of a problem, but it does highlight the focus on multiplayer a little.

Given that this is meant to be more of a couch-centric multiplayer experience, everything that usually comes along with that is what will help up the enjoyment of the experience. You know the kind. Goofy insults, general shenanigans, close calls, and so on is what generally makes games like this a little bit more fun to take part in. When you look at it from an easy pick-up-and-play angle, this makes a little more sense. Playing it in single player? It can be a little flat, even with playing through every cup or going through specific stages in Free Play. Slightly unfortunate, but by no means something that ruins the experience overall.

Remember Summer Days

I’m a sucker for a visual aesthetic that’s simple, but also colorful. In service to the chill vibes that Studio Somewhere are going for here, it’s not surprising that they went for a more pastel-shaded aesthetic that’s super simplistic. It’s absolutely cute and silly, but not something that’s unique to this game. Somewhere made it abundantly clear with the visual presentation that they’re fans of the colors commonly associated with the Japanese city pop resurgence that briefly emerged online a couple years ago.

It’s simultaneously visually pleasing and works out performance-wise, as I generally maintained a consistently smooth framerate while playing in single player. Unsurprisingly with the Switch’s hardware, things will get a little dicer in multiplayer. But it’s still playable. Regardless of performance, this game is still very pretty to lay eyes upon. I don’t always find myself getting lost in pastels like this, but here is just feels soft and comfortable.

The same can be said for the soundtrack pulled down for this game, which is just almost wall to wall Japanese city pop. Trust me when I say that despite the lyrics of some of the songs overall, the vibes associated with this genre of music is usually super positive and happy sounding. Given that you’re gonna be rolling and flying around in a similarly designed environment, this is a nice compliment to the visuals here. I couldn’t help but crack a smile while playing sometimes because the music was overflowing with happy feelings, as is expected with city pop.

Really, I can’t go so far as to say that they might have ignored gameplay in service to the presentation. But I can’t sit here and ignore how well-executed the chill vibes are here either. In between it being mostly beachy environments, colors that are in no way aggressive, and music that lends itself to remind others of warm memories of cold drinks and summer love is undeniably happy. The same could be said for its influence in very specific circumstances, but here the aesthetic and presentation is the game’s strong suit for sure.

Sweet and Relaxing

Taking a concept from a game and stretching it out into its own full experience can be a mixed bag. Sometimes you’ll get a great experience that knows what it is and acknowledges its influence, and others may not stick the landing. I like what Studio Somewhere put out here; it’s a fine game. Unfortunately I can’t say that it’s an especially lasting experience. You’re definitely going to get some enjoyment out of it with the multiplayer, that’s for certain. But the single player experience can leave you a little let down, even with the immaculate vibes.

Regardless, the amount of content for the price point feels relatively appropriate for the content you get. Bonito Days bears its influence proudly, can draw people in with the cute aesthetic and simple gameplay, and is largely concerned with being a chill time overall. It succeeded on that front, but those looking for some more content for their money might ironically find a better value proposition in recently released Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania.

If you’re looking for a quick and simple multiplayer game on the cheap, you can definitely get by on what you get here. Tip back a cool drink and hang out with some friends for this one, because that’s where you’re gonna have the most fun.

~ Final Score: 7/10 ~

Review copy provided by Studio Somewhere for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of Studio Somewhere.