In Do Not Feed The Monkeys 2099, you are tasked with… not feeding the monkeys.
Developer Fictiorama Studios, founded in Madrid by three brothers, is readying its follow-up to Do Not Feed The Monkeys, for a May 25 release on PC and Switch. On the PAX East show floor this past weekend, I spoke with Luis Oliván, one-third of the co-founding family and the game's producer and PR manager. His brother, Mario, works as a programmer, and third brother, Alberto, is a game and narrative designer.
The Oliván brothers have been working on games together for ten years, beginning with the point-and-click adventure game Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today. Fictiorama has evolved in a similar way to the adventure genre as a whole, trading in the traditional point-and-click mechanics of Dead Synchronicity in favor of something more akin to Sam Barlow's Her Story or Telling Lies for the original DNFTM in 2018.
The sequel’s main difference is hinted at in the title. Unlike the first Do Not Feed The Monkeys — which is set in a heightened version of the modern world — the sequel jumps 76 years into the future. I didn't play the original, but judging from that game's trailer, 2099 doesn't seem to be reinventing the wheel. Instead, it's cultivating new growths in the formula's fertile ground.
You’re a member of the Primate Observation Club tasked with watching ‘monkeys’ in ‘cages’. Those are euphemisms, of course: monkeys is the codename for people going about their daily lives; cages are just their homes. Through hidden cameras, you can spy on these pixel art characters at all hours of the day, and yellow lights on the side of your computer monitor let you know when one of the cages is active. As they speak, certain words are highlighted in yellow and you can click on those words to jot them down in a digital notebook, then type them into the game’s search engine later to see if you can dig up some information on your subjects.
Your world is just as small as the cages. You have the computer screen where you lord over your primates unseen, and the cramped living quarters where your fridge, bed, and front door jockey for space. Each of those items has a use. Your fridge keeps your food cold, and there's a list of grocery store items you can purchase on the door. You can order fast food, too, but fast food is, well, fast. That option means you won't have to step away from the display and miss anything your subjects might do in the meantime. But, it isn't healthy so it won't grant as much health or energy — represented by a pair of green bars at the top of the screen that gradually tick down over time. The grocery store has healthy options, but making the trip means an hour away from your monitor.
Sometimes, that isn't a big deal. During my roughly 25 minutes playing the demo, there were plenty of times when there wasn't much going on in the cages. You can use that time for grocery trips, to scroll the web, to take jobs to earn money, or to sleep if you need to wait until a certain time to do something. Some jobs are only available at certain times, so you may nap just to pass a few hours. Though taking a job may take you away from your subjects, it is also key for expanding the scope of your project. Early on you're informed that you will get kicked out of the Primate Observation Club if you don't have nine monkeys by a certain day, and cages cost 50 cents each. A job's pay increases in relation to how long it takes to complete, so if you spend eight hours away from your monitor, you may make enough to buy two new cages. But, then again, you may miss something crucial.
The game's title indicates that you shouldn't interact with your subjects but, of course, you will. The game didn't take that turn during my demo, but I saw the ways that it might as you keep playing. I unlocked a phone number for a conspiracy theorist, and if the first game's trailer is any indication, you will also be able to find phone numbers for your subjects. I'm excited to check out what kind of futuristic shenanigans you can get up to when Do Not Feed The Monkeys 2099 launches in just two months.