Developer: Game Atelier
Publisher: FDG Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 4 December 2018 (Consoles) / 25 July 2019 (PC)
Price: $29.99 US / $44.90 AUD – Available Here
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is the spiritual successor to the Wonder Boy franchise. Developed in collaboration with Wonder Boy creator Ryuichi Nishizawa, players take on the role of Jin, a young warrior transformed into an animal along with the rest of the kingdom. He must now stop his drunken uncle’s rampage by collecting the five animal orbs.
The game’s plot is lighthearted and a little silly. Players won’t find a deep or thoughtful story, but the plot is well suited for a retro inspired platformer. Dialogue tends to be very direct as conversations are short. The writing doesn’t wow the audience, but it does a good job keeping the plot and the game moving.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a platforming adventure. For those new the Wonder Boy franchise, the new game plays very much like a Legend of Zelda title mixed with Metroidvania gameplay. It is a solid mixture of high-speed platforming, puzzles, and combat.
Jin can switch between six forms, each with a special ability. Each form is varied enough to distinguish itself and find utility at some point in the game. In addition, Jin can equip a variety of upgradable items that will give him a variety of buffs and abilities like double jumps. The equipment system is very good. The item sets have some niche uses for specific areas, but the game usually allows players to pick a set that fits with their playstyle and run with it. The economy is a bit frustrating at times. Grabbing coins requires a bit of manual work without the right piece of equipment. Coins drop a bit too slow and are affected by physics, so they can be a bit of a chase at times. Consider the high price of equipment and the low drop rate for coins, I found consumable items were usually a waste of money, especially for lower skill players like myself.
The level design is very good for the most part. The areas have an enjoyable mix of activities. Each area tends to emphasize one creature form, then sprinkles some mechanics for the other forms to keep things lively. The bosses are well designed, often integrating some new mechanic introduced in the level with a traditional Metroidvania boss battle. There are some sections of the game that clearly pale in comparison. A few puzzles just aren’t very logical or obvious. There’s the odd jump that might be a few pixels off that makes landing very difficult. The worst is certain areas like the Lost Temple having long sections with few checkpoints that punish players with poor timing. I knew I was in for a bad time in the Lost Temple’s chameleon encounter when the developer essentially threw in a free second chance potion in the previous room.
The difficulty level in Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is well balanced. While I enjoy Metroidvania games, I’m admittedly terrible at them. Monster Boy always put up a good challenge. I really like how the game takes some mercy on the player during boss fights. After dying around ten times, extra health spawns throughout the fight.
The controls are solid. The game is best played with a controller. Thumb sticks work well enough, but there are a few puzzles that require a bit more finesse from a D-pad. For PC gamers refusing to give in and buy a controller, Monster Boy does support keyboard and mouse. It works well enough as the game allows players use almost every button on the keyboard for binds. The only issue is the Windows cursor will be a constant companion on the screen. Hopefully the developers will be able to hide the cursor in game in an upcoming patch.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a bright and vibrant game. The world is cartoony, stylistically inspired by Japanese anime. The hand drawn sprites look great, giving the game a slight retro feel while still looking very modern.
The PC port is good. The graphics aren’t particularly taxing, so the barebone graphic quality settings are to be expected. I applaud the fact the developers did spend the time to support uncapped framerates and ultrawide monitors.
The audio experience in Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is solid. While the game does not have any voice acting, the sound effects are enjoyable. The soundtrack is bright and a lot of fun. It mixes traditional video game scores with a few jazz-infused tracks. It’s upbeat and matches the game’s colourful presentation well.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a wonderful modern reimagination of the Wonder Boy franchise. The story and graphics are filled with nods to the franchise’s long history. The audio and visual presentation is warm and eye catching. While there are a few hiccups, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom offers a solid Metroidvania experience with excellent boss fights and varied gameplay that keeps players on their toes.
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