Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 11.01.2019

Review for Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on PlayStation 4

It's truly a glorious time for gamers of every previous generation, with so many classic receiving remasters and rebirths. Spyro and Crash are back for the original PlayStation generation, Toki and Dizzy the Egg, and even ToeJam & Earl and Shenmue. Now, after four years, an abandoned Kickstarter, and many, many changes, the latest installment of SEGA's Wonder Boy series is here! Kind of. A game about a flying hamster turned into a brand new Wonder Boy game thanks to the collaboration of the series' original creator, Ryuichi Nishizawa.

The opening FMV hits hard with the nostalgia, feeling like the opening to an English 90s shonen anime series. Absolutely emanating charm, from the enchanting cartoony art, to the catchy, upbeat English belting out "Monster Boy! Fighting for a future made of love and joy!" It's absolutely wonderful. That opening movie shows the titular Monster Boy Jin switching between five monster forms, taking on enemies from the course of the game, including ghost pirates, soldier penguins, fire snakes, and more. But that's getting ahead of things.

Screenshot for Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on PlayStation 4

The adventure opens with Jin hanging out when his drunken uncle flying around on a barrel of booze, looking completely wasted and blasting anyone in range with a magic wand. That wand is transforming the poor populous into beasts, with Jin's little brother already being turned into a Dragon and Jin soon turned into a pudgy, one-eyed pig. What follows sees Jin trek across the kingdom in search of magical orbs to try and save his people, turning them back to their original forms, with each orb giving him a new magical form to transform into to progress.

Progressing through the game relies on each areas completion giving a new form, which comes with an ability to allow Jin to progress. The pig can use items, though in the beginning he just has access to a fireball, so the early stages have simple puzzles of lighting torches. These first stages are very simple and feel like the original games, but as the new forms begin to become unlocked, the gameplay slowly adds new layers. The snake can slide on mossy surfaces, allowing it to traverse walls and ceilings, along with ferreting out little holes to squeeze through. The frog can use its tongue to swing from conveniently places hoops in the environment and swim underwater. The lion can charge, destroying walls and obstructions in the process, along with sprinting along atop water. The dragon can breathe fire and fly.

Screenshot for Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on PlayStation 4

It's not just the new forms needed to be able to progress either. There's a huge map to explore, with many areas that are distinct both visually and in their very design - each with new challenges that are impossible to overcome without specialist equipment. A rumbling volcano is filled with the sort of platforming challenges that require a quick reaction and a keen eye. It houses huge waterfalls of lava pouring down that only a sword of ice can freeze. A city in the clouds seems impassable until magical boots that can walk on the clouds are found.

At times the platforming sections, and even some of the puzzles get genuinely, frustratingly tricky - but never to the point of something like Super Meat Boy. It's more the type that will result in a "one more go, one more go, one more go!" type mentality. For example, there's a race where the forms have to be quickly switched between, charging at speed as a lion through blocks, then quickly switching to a dragon to fly through a wind tunnel, before switching to a snake, then pig, then frog. The best platforming moments are like this, combining the forms, having to quickly switch on the fly between them to overcome the puzzle.

Screenshot for Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on PlayStation 4

There's also plenty to do outside of the core story. It's a Metroidvania, after all. There are tons of hidden chests squirrelled away across the world ripe for revisiting after unlocking each of the forms and specialist pieces of equipment. These contain special items to upgrade equipment or pieces of a special set of gold armour that is well worth tracking down.

Stylistically this looks as charming as the video it opens with, thanks to the gorgeous hand-drawn characters and animations. This caused a major delay to the game as the team totally overhauled the entire art, but it was so worth it. Crisp and cartoony, they move with a fluidity that would have otherwise been impossible. The soundtrack is marvellous too, filled with catchy themes that, much like Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom itself, feel like someone has taken something from the arcades of the eighties and brought it up to the present day.

Screenshot for Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom perfectly bridges the gap between old and new, delivering the same style and charm of games from the Master System and Mega Drive, but including the same style of platforming and puzzle solving that have made modern indie titles stand out from the crowd. Essentially, it has captured the heart and soul of the original, and given it a breath of fresh life.

Developer

Game Atelier

Publisher

FDG Entertainment

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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