Unruly Heroes (PlayStation 4) Review

By Renan Fontes 01.06.2019

Review for Unruly Heroes on PlayStation 4

Journey to the West is one of the most important novels in Chinese literature. As a result, it's gotten quite a lot of play in media, being adapted, retold, and parodied countless times. Dragon Ball, one of the most influential manga series of the late 20th century - if not the most influential - even began life as a light parody of the novel. As a result, it's not too unusual to see Journey to the West's influences pop up every so often. Less of an adaption, and taking a more affectionate parody route that loosely uses the story's setting, Unruly Heroes is the latest in a long lived of Journey to the West love letters; and it may well be one of the best.

Make no mistake, while Unruly Heroes owes quite a lot to Journey to the West - its characters, setting, and general plot - it is very much its own beast, uninterested in tying its legacy entirely to homage. An action-platformer through and through, four unruly heroes run, jump, and punch their way westward, to restore balance to Heaven and Earth. All in all, it's a charming premise that does lend itself well to an action platformer.

With four playable characters comes four different playstyles. The Monkey King himself, Wukong, fights with a staff that gives him a fair bit of reach in battle, and has access to a double jump for platforming. Sandmonk, based off Sha Wujing, is the closest character to Wukong, also having his own double jumping, but fighting with his fists.

Screenshot for Unruly Heroes on PlayStation 4

Between the two, Sandmonk is faster, but needs to put himself in the line of fire where Wukong can hang back. Sanzang (Tang Sanzang) and Kihong (Zhu Baije) are parallels in the same way Wukong and Sandmonk are. Instead of sharing a double jump, however, both characters can glide to reach further distances. Along with this, Sanzang's attacks are faster but weaker while Zhu Baije's are slower but stronger. Interestingly enough, picking a single character and learning how to play them isn't all too important since all four characters will be organically used over the course of the journey.

Rather than taking a Super Mario Bros. 2 approach where a character is picked and locked in at the start of each level, the four heroes can be freely switched between at any point during gameplay. Often, they need to be as certain platforming challenges cannot be performed as, say, Wukong, because his double jump is too weighty to allow him to cross over large gaps. Instead, Sanzang or Zhu Baije have to be swapped in so they can glide over to a ledge.

Screenshot for Unruly Heroes on PlayStation 4

There's also a dodge mechanic at play which is used rather methodically for reflex based obstacles. Since the doge cannot be used mid-air, it ends up being a very controlled mechanic, one that requires a bit of focus and deliberation to pull off. As a result, it can come off a bit finicky at first, but it is genuinely quite well designed in regards to the platforming challenges it's used for. Perhaps more importantly, it also makes for a handy tool during battle.

When it comes down to it, Unruly Heroes places more emphasis on the 'action' half of the action-platformer moniker. At least in so far as mechanics go. While the platforming mechanics are well designed, the amount of effort and depth at play in the combat system is downright surprising. Combos can be legitimately chained together; there are directional inputs that change up attacks; each button on the controller has a very clear purpose when in battle; and the dodge mechanic feels more at home in combat than it does while platforming.

It certainly helps that the difficulty curve skews high, placing emphasis on strategic play in battle. Simply button mashing can result in losing heroes quickly, especially when playing on Hard. That said, characters that die can come back meaning that there isn't too much penalty for death in single player, but this changes completely when it comes time to play co-op.

Screenshot for Unruly Heroes on PlayStation 4

Since players control all four heroes solo, and can therefore better manage when to use who, it's not too difficult to keep the party alive. When playing co-op, however, said control is gone and losing a character can end up quite damaging in the long run. It's quite the spike in difficulty, but it's a fair trade off to be playing with another person. On that note, there's also a dedicated versus mode where the heroes are pit against each other. Player versus Player is the action-platformer PVP mode no one knew they wanted, but it makes fantastic use of the already well designed combat. More importantly, it even has online capabilities, giving the mode even more longevity and legitimacy.

At its heart, though, for as much thought and work is put into the combat, it is important to recognize that Unruly Heroes is a well designed platformer with plenty of secrets to uncover. It's quite a bit like Donkey Kong Country in that regard, hiding trinkets off the beaten path and only using the most minimal of clues to nudge audiences in the right direction. It makes for a very replayable experience that never loses its lustre.

Screenshot for Unruly Heroes on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Using Journey to the West more as a clever backdrop rather than outright adapting it, Unruly Heroes makes for a charming action-platformer that pokes fun at one of China's most important novels, while also crafting together a wildly fun experience. With four distinct characters to choose from across 29 visually stunning levels, and the journey to restore balance to Heaven and Earth results in rarely a dull moment. Toss in a surprisingly engaging combo system, on the fly character switching, and plenty of secrets to uncover to tie the package together, and Unruly Heroes winds up quite the formidable platformer.

Developer

Magic Design Studios

Publisher

Magic Design Studios

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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