Thanks to PR for the code!

Monkey Magic

"The Great Sage, equal of Heaven."

I love the Legend of the Monkey King, or as it's often known: Journey to the West. The Chinese story of fantastical adventure, terrible monsters, great deeds and a band of unlikely heroes including the previously mentioned: Monkey King.

Sun Wukong.

I used to watch the old TV show, I've seen the new one, and I've seen/played a lot of various things which tie into the mythos of Journey to the West. This brings me to the newest take on the Monkey King Legend that I've encountered.

Unruly Heroes!

Which is a beautiful game created by Magic Design Studios, who in turn have worked on lots of games we know and maybe love? MDS was founded in 2015 and the core team of Unruly Heroes worked on the likes of: Rayman, Raving Rabbids, Splinter Cell, Assassin's Creed, Valiant Hearts, and Ghost Recon: Wildlands to name but a few of their projects.

The Narrative

In a time of myth and legend, when older beings than us walked the Earth, there was peace and harmony in our world. The harmony was maintained by a Sacred Scroll, a powerful mystical contract which kept things in balance. Now that scroll has been torn asunder and scattered to the winds... in the wake of the scroll's destruction the land is beset by evil, chaos, and wicked creatures. It is the job then of the four Unruly Heroes of the tale to travel to the west, find the pieces of the scroll, restore the balance and try not to die horribly in the process.

Sun Wukong, the fearless Monkey King, Kihong (the greediest of pig demons), Sanzang (the wise and clever monk), and Sandmonk (the powerful but sensitive brute) have their job cut out for them and their task is only just getting started.

It's a wonderful take on the Journey to the West and it's told through sharp, crisp dialogue and beautiful animation in a gorgeous hand-drawn style.

What is Unruly Heroes?

It's an action-adventure game, a gorgeous side-scroller and 2d platformer with puzzles and twists/turns which I'll leave you to discover for yourselves. The controls are easy to pick up and the game'll take a bit to master over your average 8 hours of playthrough for the core story.

How about the game, how's it play?

You have a melee attack, a ranged attack, combos, and a few special abilities here and there.

For example, Wukong is great at jumping - so he's the best at it along with Sandmonk.

Sanzang and Kihong can't jump as well, but they can glide across larger gaps with apparent ease. You fight a fair few different kinds of enemies as you battle to the end of the stage, meeting each new challenge with skill and wits.

You can swap to any of the four heroes at any time as well, so if Monkey isn't cutting it, you could try the Sandmonk for example.

Each character can also affect the environment in different ways. Sandmonk is strong, so he can bash down certain obstructive pillars with a few hits.

There are also statues later on, like the one of the Monkey King. The statue allows Sun Wukong to use his bo-staff as a bridge as long as he doesn't attack at all. Once he makes an attack then it returns to normal size so he can use it in the coming fight.

You can find a statue that lets you inflate your pig-hero and allow the others, in co-op, to ride on him to get to new areas.

Open locked doors with the aid of Sanzang's bouncing blast of energy, a blast which can ricochet off surfaces and strike out of the way switches - sneaky!

Worlds Apart

There are 4 different diverse and interesting worlds to visit with your heroes on this journey, and beacons to light which allow you a save point on your level run. There are 29 levels packed with baddies, puzzles, acrobatic challenges and obstacles.

Controls and Input

The gameplay is tight, solid, slick, and you should pick it up pretty quickly and learn when to switch to each character. Also If one dies (they go into a KO state) they produce a spirit orb. If you can hit the orb of a hero with another, you can bring them back into the game at low health. It's a cool mechanic and I've made use of it a lot!

They also possess powers which can be activated in combat to even the odds. Monkey can summon more of himself and these little automated attackers do a lot of damage to multiple foes, or single enemies. Again, these powers are activated quickly and cleanly with the game's controls and it just lets you get on with the fun of enjoying the game rather than fighting with the control system.

Boss Battlin'

I can't say too much about this, but what I'll point out is that as you progress through the game and the story you'll encounter harder and harder bosses. The boss fights aren't just a case of: bash until you win either, many of the later boss encounters require a mix of acrobatics, battling, and thinking to defeat.

A Beautiful Painted World

You can't do any kind of write-up of this game without talking about just how gorgeous it is, whether it's in regard to the backgrounds and the locations that you visit over your Journey to the West. Or the sumptuously animated characters, packed with life, detail and beautiful design work. It's a proper feast for the senses in that regard, and even the idle animations are designed to be in-character - with Monkey perching on his stave to survey the world at large.

When it comes down to the actual animation, this is Samurai Jack levels of quality, fluid motions and incredibly swift attacks.

The Voice of the Journey

Along with the graphics and slick aesthetic, comes a simple and effective script which is spoken by the various characters you'll encounter. The voice work is tight and there are a few stand-out performances which bring the game's humour to life.

Musical Travel

The music to the game is lovely, it pitches to the action and it's just what I wanted/expected from a game based on the Journey to the West story.

I get by with a Little Help

If you have a bunch of buddies on the couch you're good, you can play the game with all four characters and have a co-op experience offline. There's no online co-op and that's a bit of a shame to be honest.

Fight!

There is a PvP online and offline mode, which I wasn't able to dive into for too long, its kind-of fun, but it's really not where I'm looking to play a game like this. Still, as I say for most PvP, a nice addition to those folks who love to play the mode.

Slick

The game is slick, the whole package harkens back to the glory days of side-scrolling puzzle based battlers and it's great. The secrets you can find, the coins you collect, all of it combines to make a superb trip to nostalgia only with a modern design and ultra-gorgeous graphics.

It runs as smooth as butter too.

The controls are punchy and tight.

There's not much more I can say, barring that I if you are a fan of the genre, love the story of Monkey and so on, then this is a game you really need to get.

Kapow!