04th Dec2018

‘Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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It was only a few months ago that I worked my way through Lizardcube’s re-make of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. I picked it up at a bargain price for the Switch (from Insane Games in Bridgwater, a haven of retro gold for those interested) and merrily made my way through the adventure. Its hand-drawn visuals and jaunty sound track completely sucked me in and I worked my way through the entirety of the game in a few days, loving every minute of it. After completing it, I was reading about the history of the series and characters when I came across a game in development with the unfortunate title – ‘Wonder Boy: The Wizard of Booze’. This also happened to be my father’s nickname when he was ‘sans job’ and so the re-titled Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is finally here (after quite a rollercoaster of a development cycle) and I’m pleased to say that it keeps that retro charm and vibe running whilst also using modern level and game design to its full potential feeling like a genuinely new and exciting adventure with robust platforming mechanics in play.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom begins with the protagonist, Jin, and indeed the entire kingdom being transformed into animal versions of themselves by Jin’s uncle, who seems to be acting very much out of character…and flying around on a barrel.. Jin, naturally gets transformed into a portly, eye-patch sporting pig that can sniff out secrets although his porcine form isn’t exactly the right fit for his sword and armour. The visuals, whilst different from the previous game are again gorgeous here with sharp sprite work and layered backgrounds filling the screen with vibrancy. The animation is silky smooth and the audio rolls along in the background. Occasional visual and audio moments hark back at the history of the beloved franchise as well as introducing new elements into the mix, all of which blend seamlessly.

As I made my way through Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, the difference in game play when compared to the previous remake was striking. Whilst you still need certain equipment, items or animal forms to progress through the areas, it feels much fuller of secrets and extended room for exploration. The controls are so tight and satisfying that it’s a pleasure to explore every nook and cranny that the game has to offer. Dialogue is gentle and amusing and the boss battles (and some puzzles) are challenging without ever feeling unfair. The anime-styled introduction sequence isn’t far off in it’s description of showing how often Jin will need to flip between forms, in some boss battles I was flipping between them every few seconds to seal my victory and it’s exhilarating and well-implemented. Walking into a room and spending some time working out how to proceed always feels rewarding, as does discovering a hidden door or corridor that holds extra goodies to help Jin through his quest.

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Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom contains a good 15-20 hours of game play and there are a LOT of things to discover and multiple side quests to complete for those players who like to 100% their collection. As well as feeling like a continuation of the long-running (and often dormant) franchise, this game also feels like a step forward, revitalising what could easily have become a bland imitation of previous incarnations of the series. It’s one of those games that really hooks you in and I’ve found myself drawn back to it again and again, wanting to get further into the story and see what forms and screen-filling boss battles await. There’s clearly a lot of life left in the franchise and I for one look forward to seeing what comes next, hopefully it will again involve pigs with flatulence issues.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is available on the Nintendo Switch now.

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