STAFF REVIEW of Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom (Xbox One)

Monday, January 21, 2019.
by John Elliott

Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom Box art Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was my first foray into the Wonder Boy series, and I fell in love with the game mainly due to the art style and challenging gameplay. This leads ut to my latest review Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. Monster Boy has been dubbed the spiritual successor to Wonder Boy, so it was an easy decision to jump into Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom as my next review allowing me not only to just play the game, but to give you my thoughts on the title too. If you’re wondering why this 'successor' isn’t just called Wonder Boy, it all boils down to the fact that Sega has the rights to the name Wonder Boy, which has resulted in the development team creating a similar, but obviously different game in Monster Boy.

The hand drawn art style that most 2D platformers have been created with since their inception is used in this game. With this in mind, gamers should consider themselves lucky to have the artists who worked on Monster Boy create the games spectacular worlds. The lush, vibrant, and spectacularly drawn environments that you navigate through are simply known as the Monster World Kingdom.

You take on the role of Jin, a.k.a Monster Boy, and along with the aforementioned world itself, the character design of this character is amazing, allowing all the visuals to draw the you into the virtual world. Jin is the protagonist and hero of the story that you take control of. His look and style is a well-crafted addition to the environments in all of his forms, be it human, pig, lion, frog, snake or dragon.

How did Jin happen to be able to transform into all these other forms? Well, it all starts with his crazy Uncle Nabu who happens to be a magician, and who also appears to be on a bender (drinking alcohol for the young ones reading this). This all makes a bit of sense considering the original title was Monster Boy and the Wizard of Booze. While on his bender, Uncle Nabu happens to turn the bulk of the citizens of Monster World Kingdom into various humanoid animals. As his nephew, you set out with your brother Zeke to put a stop to his mayhem and get him to turn all your friends back into their human forms.

To do this you have to search the Monster Kingdom far and wide for five animal orbs that allow ,you, as Jin to choose one of the aforementioned animals forms. Taking on one of these animals will grant you an assortment of different abilities based on the form. As you progress through the game you acquire the ability to take on new forms, which in turn creates new and crafty puzzles to solve based on the abilities each animal form grants. The controls are your typical platform fare with attacks, jumps, unique abilities, and some magic to level the playing field. However, all the abilities are spread out through all of the different forms that you gain possession of.

The first form you can take on is your Pig form, which your Uncle turns you into when you first encounter him, and along with this form comes a powerful sense of smell; so powerful that you can sniff out hidden areas, doors and traps. The snake form allows you to enter small entrances, climb up mossy walls and float across water while the frog form allows you to swim and use your strong frog tongue to swing across, or launch to, hard to reach places using specific launch pads. The lion form allows you to charge full steam through walls and across water to open up areas normally not available to the other forms. And finally, there is the powerful dragon form, which gives you the ability to fly and shoot fire balls to take care of some pesky enemies.

We also can’t forget about the cool armour and weapons that you can purchase from the blacksmith, using gems that you find through Monster World Kingdom. Swords that freeze water, boots that allow you to walk on and grip ice, shields that reflect fire balls, bracelets that produce more drops, and many more variants on these items that assist you in solving the obstacles throughout Monster World Kingdom.

But wait, there is more. What’s an adventure that starts off with a magical twist and that doesn’t offer your own set of magical spells? BOOM, you get this addition as well. You better be ready to launch tornadoes and lightning bolts on the fly to get through this game, and your spells will help you do this.

Overall, I really enjoyed the challenge that the in-game puzzles offered, and the scope of thought put into creating them. There are usually multiple ways to solve the obstacle ahead of you, and as you access more of your arsenal, and more animal forms, you can go back and solve the puzzle again allowing you to unlock a new area or gain access to some precious loot you could not get before. It always amazes me, as a gamer, at the creativity of game developers and how they think about all of the little details that go into creating a single room puzzle, but having the foresight and intelligence to combine multiple rooms into huge intertwining puzzles.

Spread throughout the whole game is the beautiful music that connects everything altogether using music from the Wonder Boy series along with some original melodies. As I have said in many reviews, music can make or break a game in how emotionally invested you become. If music doesn’t match up well with what is happening in the game there is a huge disconnect. Luckily for us this isn’t the case in Monster Boy, where we are treated with over 40 different musical pieces.

Simply put, I love Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, so much so that is has made my list of games that I would recommend it to people as "must-play' for those that are fans of the platforming genre. The art, the music, the gameplay and the overall challenge found here are all top notch, and in my opinion it is a game that reaches perfection in this genre. I am personally hoping we will see a continuation in the series and how it could grow into even more.

Overall: 10.0 / 10
Gameplay: 10.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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