If I hear ‘MONSTEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERS’ One. More. Time.
Making a movie into a video game is a ballsy move. You can get the occasional gem such as: Toy Story 2 and Small Soldiers but ultimately, the movie to video game genre kinda… stinks. So, when I saw Monkey King: Hero is Back, which is based on a box office hit in China, I went into it completely open minded. However, I did have a bad taste in my mouth, largely left from 2007’s Transformers: The Game.
So, let’s talk looks…
The game’s aesthetics impressed me although they tended to nod to our last generation of consoles. The environments, characters and enemies are simplistic, obviously being drawn from the box office movie itself, but they have a perfect juvenile aura around them. They’re cute. In terms of environment, the water design particularly caught my eye and I did find myself stopping to get a specific screenshot. The various levels gave me the appropriate amount of detail but never too much that I was distracted from the task at hand.
Although a lot of the enemies were the same, albeit their colour may differ slightly to indicate difficulty, I liked their design. As you progress the villains become more and more interesting to observe and can vary. I understand the boundaries that the developers would have been working with, adapting the film into a game, so I wasn’t expecting all new wacky and wonderful enemies. I was impressed with what we were given.
Care was quite obviously taken into the animations surrounding the acquisition of your powers and how they are used against your foe. This is where the game, in my opinion, is at its best. The combat is fun! The finishing moves are comedic and interesting and add a flourish to your experience. I enjoyed fighting foes in various ways in order to see them perish differently.
What about the characters!?
I must admit… monkeys are my least favourite animal. They are much too… human… like. So, I did have a certain amount of bias towards Dasheng, the main character, but his appearance matched his attitude completely. He reminded me of a moody teen who finds inconvenience consistently in the world around him. I could relate to him in many ways.
You get the stereotypical annoying child and a generic side kick who has strengths and weaknesses however, they really don’t add anything to your experience except progressing the story. The characters do not help in combat, merely cheering you on from the side lines like a “dance mom”. Furthermore, the repetition of the same voice lines more than 100 times means by the end of your experience you hate everyone you encounter during your playthrough.
I can forgive the lack of assistance. I can forgive the noisy and useless child. I can forgive Madame Hare for robbing me in broad daylight. I can even forget the repetition. What I can’t forgive is their voices. You get Danny Dyer, slightly meeker Danny Dyer and Danny Dyer if his balls hadn’t dropped yet. The cockney accent threw me WAY off. If there was an ounce of immersion it was gone as soon as any of the characters opened their mouths. The juxtaposition between the oriental surroundings and the harsh accent of a born and bred Londoner had me pulling out my Barnet Fair.
Tell me the gameplay wasn’t pony and trap gov’ner…
I really enjoyed the overall gameplay. The quick time events during combat were an exceptional touch and kept you on your toes for sure. The camera could be clunky at times but nothing that can’t be handled. Using Dasheng’s abilities was so much fun and you can quickly learn which ones will do the most damage and which ones to steer clear of. The combat was altogether extremely satisfying and engaging and my favourite part of the whole experience.
The story seemed quite decent… Dasheng being awakened by little Lieur who encourages him to redeem himself in order to gain back all his god-slaying abilities once more… it was a noble cause. However, you move from area to area, you find a key, you open a gate and then you rinse and repeat. After a while this became a bit boring and although you have collectibles to find, in the form of Earth Gods, and notes to give some backstory, it just didn’t spice anything up for me.
The boss battles were always very interesting and a lot of the bigger enemies you came up against required you to really use your coconut to find the best possible way to defeat them. The controls made it difficult to create the outcome you wanted Dasheng to do and this could get frustrating quick. I hate to keep flogging a dead horse but at times it did feel Dark Souls-ish. You need to roll like your life depends on it during boss battles and the game has a very similar use of souls. They drop from enemies after you defeat them and you can even buy items from Madame Hare which you use to create even MORE souls. Now… I know, this isn’t ‘in your face’ Dark Souls but there were subtle nods.
I did really enjoy the method of buying items from Madame Hare. Rather than having to grind for a currency, you merely traded materials you picked up in the world. This was effective as materials are in abundance and takes the stress out of obtaining items. I always had more than what I needed but there was still a challenge there… for example – certain scrolls drop off of certain enemies.
I spent a solid 9ish hours playing Monkey King and that is important to note because I’m not one to put myself through complete hell. It was enjoyable to a point. If you are a child, have a child, are a Monkey King mega fan or only like to play games about 15 minutes at a time you’ll LOVE this.
However, if you want something more complex and less annoying then you can play literally anything else.