I remember my first video game console. It was 1989, I was 4 years old and my parents got me a NES with Super Mario Bros. Since then, I’ve been a fairly avid video game player — though admittedly not as often lately as I’d like to. I’ve had Nintendos, PlayStations, Xboxes, PC Games, mobile games, and more. Right now, we are on the cusp of a new popular platform for gaming: the browser. They are getting more powerful, they are everywhere, and thanks to Brass Monkey, they feel like consoles.
Brass Monkey is a duo of apps for your Android device and the browser that connect to each other, making the phone the controller and the browser the console.
The Website, pre-controller connection
There are a few things you need in place before Brass Monkey works on both ends. First of all, you need to have Wifi enabled on your phone — connecting over data will not work. This is to ensure that you’ll have fast connections as well as verify that you’re controlling a nearby browser. Second, you need to download the Flash plugin on the browser side; Flash 9+ on a PC or Mac to be exact.
They are working on a pure HTML5 version in the “very near” future.
When you go to the website, Brass Monkey will check your Wifi network to see if you have downloaded and launched the app, then try to make the connection using it. You will know you’re connecting to the right browser because the app will list all available Brass Monkey sessions on your Wifi network, as well as a color next to them. The color matches the color of the Wifi icon in your browser. In the above screenshot, you can see the red icon in the top right corner. You can sign up for an account or choose to do it later.
Brass Monkey connections and non-game controller
Once the two are connected, Brass Monkey will allow you to navigate through the games with your phone. Select a game, and play it in your browser, controlling it with your phone.
Game Selection on playbrassmonkey.com
How crazy is that?
The game play is pretty great. Each game has its own controller optimized for the type of game it is. So side scrollers or shooters may have a controller like this:
The Controller for side-scroller Samurai Autumn.
And games that rely on vertical movement may have controllers like this:
A custom made controller for a unique game
The app is also designed well enough that you can control the game using common phone actions, like tilting and swiping, which is incredibly cool.
The controller for Breakeroids. Simply Swipe or Tilt.
At first, getting used to a new controller for each game you play can be a little confusing, but I think the custom controller makes playing a bit more intuitive; you no longer have to remap the same buttons from one game to another.
How many of you have tried to throw a grenade in Call of Duty but end up aiming because you were just playing Halo?
After a quick controls tutorial before starting each game, you’re off and playing video games right in your browser. A really nice touch is if you “Disconnect” from the game without quitting, you can jump right back into it. The game by itself will show up as one of your connections. If you reference the first screenshot I included above, you will see I have two: one for the Brass Monkey game market, and one for the game Contamination, a freaky game that…well you’ll see later.
There are a wide range of games that you can choose from, so the graphics range from classic arcade:
…to classic 8-bit:
Chrono and Cash
…to first person 3d:
Contamination. Freaky, right? I told you.
This actually might be my favorite part of Brass Monkey because it feels like you’re getting all of the consoles, from classic to modern, right on your computer. If I’m looking for simple, I can play Breakeroid, but if I want to play something more modern and complex, there are games like Contamination.
But that’s not all! Like any good video gaming system, Brass Monkey allows you to do multiplayer gaming.
When you connect to a browser session, Brass Monkey has a number: 0/96. This means that up to 96 people can connect to the same session. As you browse games, each one will tell you how many people can play at the same time. There is even a Multiplayer game section.
Both devices will connect to the same browser (since all Brass Monkey sessions are listed separately), and both can control the session (which can be a bit annoying, but it’s not unlike a lot of traditional console games). One thing I noticed is that it seems both players need to own a game in order to play it together. While I don’t generally think paying for a game is a bad idea, the fact that all players have to pay for the game to play is a bit annoying, and breaks from traditional console games. Speaking of…
Brass Monkey is free to download on both the browser and your phone, and a lot of the games are free, but some cost money in the form of coins.
This is akin to Xbox Live points or other console-specific currency.
You can purchase anywhere from 10,000 “Brass Coins” for $0.99 to 270,000 Brass Coins for $19.99, then use those coins to purchase certain games. Purchasing is done via an in-app purchase, and you must have a Brass Monkey account.
Market and Game Purchasing
Account Creation and Payment Issues
Creating an account is easy enough. You’re asked for a username, full name, email, and password. You then choose one of their pre-selected avatars and you’re good to go. My only complaint is that they didn’t spend anytime on designing those screens. It took me back to the days of rushed Gingerbread apps. If there is one section that needs improvement, it’s definitely those screens.
When a game costs money, the controller on your phone turns into a purchase page (shown above) where you can choose to pay for one session or to own the game. It seems a sessions is half the price of owning the game, and allows you to play for 30 minutes. You can also buy coins right from that screen. This might seem like a lot, however 5,000 coins is ~$0.50. For 30 minutes that’s not too bad, considering in a real arcade, you’d probably pay $0.50 for 10 minutes (if you’re really good). Once you make the purchase, your phone becomes the controller and you can play once again as usual.
There is one pretty big bug here: I tried to play a paid game 3-4 times, choosing to “own” the game. A couple of times it failed to make a purchase, and the other times, even though I paid to own, it charged me for a session and continues to prompt me every time I try to play it. What’s worse is the session is 30 minutes, but every time I backed out of the game and back in (which was within the span of 10 minutes), I was prompted to pay again.
As this service matures I think it really has the potential to change how we play video games. It’s doing a great job of merging two technologies that a lot of people already have into something that many of them love to do. And with new technologies like Chromecast where you can send whatever is in your browser to your TV, you can play video games online, using your phone as a controller, without having to pay the $400-500 entry price for a dedicated console.
While I have some requests below, it’s of the utmost importance that Brass Monkey work out whatever payment bugs they are having, as those bugs are costing the users money. I’m still giving it a 7/10 because of the concept, execution, and availability of free games, but this is an issue that will prevent them from making it really big.
In the near future I’d like to see a non-Flash version, which is in the works, and possibly a version that doesn’t require Wifi and being on the same Wifi network. My initial thought is this could be accomplished using QR codes or verification codes. Finally, some of the screens can be designed a little better.
Payment bug aside, I feel Brass Monkey is an incredibly cool platform that has great potential.