mon­ster boy

the clas­sic Won­der Boy se­ries re­turns

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - war­ren brown

Game Ate­lier has come a long way since its 2010 game Fly­ing Ham­ster, a fren­zied hor­i­zon­tal shooter for mo­bile which saw play­ers take con­trol of, you guessed it, a fly­ing ham­ster! Since then the stu­dio has de­vel­oped nu­mer­ous ti­tles em­brac­ing a love of creative car­toon-ish art cen­tred around joy­ous game­play.

Take a cur­sory glance at Mon­ster Boy And The Cursed King­dom and you’d be for­given for as­sum­ing it’s just an­other cutesy game ported over from mo­bile, but at its core this is an ac­tion plat­former that cel­e­brates a beloved her­itage while main­tain­ing a con­tem­po­rary pre­sen­ta­tion. Start­ing off with an arcade re­lease in 1986, it didn’t take long be­fore a slew of home con­sole vari­ants saw a mass plat­form re­lease, so it’s fit­ting that the cur­rent team worked in co­op­er­a­tion with orig­i­nal cre­ator Ryuichi Nishizawa.

Mon­ster Boy is still a tra­di­tional side-scrolling plat­former with a heavy fo­cus on ex­plo­ration, but it adds a tra­di­tional RPG-style in­ven­tory. The colour­ful but dated pixel art has been re­placed by a rich car­toon pre­sen­ta­tion and, in a nice touch, an­i­ma­tions skip frames in an in­ten­tional and au­then­tic Ja­panese style. While the pre­sen­ta­tion won’t reach the heights of Ray­man Leg­ends’ stun­ning art style, the vi­su­als on show do hold their own charm as be­fits the se­ries’ East­ern ori­gins.

Play­ers con­trol hero Jin, as­sisted at times by his brother Zeke, in a quest to col­lect the leg­endary five orbs to de­feat their manic Un­cle Nabu who has cursed the king­dom. The jour­ney the duo must face is lit­tered with as many puz­zles as there are en­vi­ron­ments to tra­verse. Some puz­zles re­quire a fair bit of trial and er­ror but the game does a suit­able job of tu­tor­ing play­ers along the way. It’s a clever mix that re­wards the in­quis­i­tive as game­play is fun and fluid. Jumps never re­quire se­ri­ous pre­ci­sion, but reach­ing se­cret ar­eas will re­quire think­ing out­side the box.

Mon­ster bunch

Jin’s progress re­lies on ac­quir­ing sa­cred orbs that grant the abil­ity to change form. You can change into Pig-man, Frog-man, Snake-man, Lion­man and the all-pow­er­ful Dragon-man. Each pos­sesses unique abil­i­ties that bol­ster Jin’s stan­dard walk, crouch and jump reper­toire.

On top of the form abil­i­ties, spells can be found along the way and are usu­ally para­mount to un­lock­ing ar­eas as well as de­feat­ing spe­cific en­emy types. Elixirs and po­tions are avail­able for pur­chase in ex­change for col­lected coins, as well as re­cov­ery hearts and spell re­fills. Shops ap­pear fre­quently through­out, mean­ing play­ers will never be short on sup­plies. Added to this, black­smith up­grades can be sought and of­fer the abil­ity to strengthen an ar­mour set, but gold parts re­quire gath­er­ing in or­der to forge key pieces.

Back­track­ing is a big part of this in­ter­con­nected world and it’s easy to feel stuck, but pay care­ful at­ten­tion to the sur­round­ings and re­mem­ber this is more Metroid than Mario, as the de­vel­op­ers have de­signed a game that de­mands a type of ‘smart play’. Mu­sic is as fun and en­er­getic as the graph­ics, and com­poser Takeshi Yana­gawa pro­vides a sound­track that per­fectly com­ple­ments the play­ful na­ture of the vi­su­als.

It all adds up to a beau­ti­ful mix of cute char­ac­ters and charm­ing en­coun­ters which will sing to the soul.

Mon­ster Boy is a game that ex­udes fun through ex­plo­ration and will ap­peal to the boy/girl/child in all of us.

“A mix of cute char­ac­ters and charm­ing en­coun­ters”

left Reach­ing item chests can re­quire play­ers to re­turn to a lo­ca­tion via a less than ob­vi­ous path.

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