11th Nov2019

‘Monkey King: Hero is Back’ Review (PS4)

by Phil Wheat


Kung-Fu. Adventure. Chinese mythology. A boy named Liuer. A Monkey King. A 500-year old Chinese tale. All combined in a fun, frantic, funny action-adventure set in a bright, detailed and adorable fantasy world. Explore Monkey King’s hidden powers, engaging sense of humour, battling animal-like creatures and other-wordly bosses, all taken from the Chinese box office mega hit of the same name.

Having not seen the film upon which this game is based I can honestly say I was still SUPER-excited to play this latest adaptation of Journey to the West. After all, as a child of the 80s, growing up in the UK, we were weaned on the fantastical tale of Monkey – yes, it might have been repeats I saw but that show – my god that show – sticks with you years later and, probably unfortunately for anyone else, EVERYTHING Journey to the West related is always compared by to that dubbed kung-fu classic. So how does Monkey King: Hero is Back fare?

Frankly, terribly.

But that’s not the stories fault, it’s entirely down to the game. A game that frustrates, annoys and is downright painful to play. It’s like the worst of the PS2 era of gaming brought into the present. But where to start with this debacle? How about the camera… My god, the camera. Playing Monkey King: Hero is Back made me appreciate how far in-game cameras have come…In fact I’d go as far as saying the camera is probably the WORST part of this game. Clunky and terrible to control, the camera gets in the way of actually playing the game; stifling the progress of your character at every turn – especially early on, when you’re still getting used to the risible controls as well.

Speaking of controls. Whilst the game plays like any other 3D platformer, it seems – thanks to the controls – you’re constantly at war with your character. Jumping is the most frustrating aspect of the controls – between the camera and the angles at which you have to perform some jumps you’ll feel like you’re on the losing side of a battle. Oh, and then there’s the terrible collision detection, which also affects jumping across rooftops and platforms. Seriously, the amount of time I “landed” on a roof/ledge and actually fell of the very edge, even though I’d made the jump previously with no issues; or couldn’t make a jump at one point when I had at another; made me so frustrated I turned the game off in disgust. Which is why it’s taken so long to play through the game for this review!

But the problems don’t stop there. There’s the issue of no knowing where to go at times, a slightly glowing door being you only clue to your destination, even though there’s ANOTHER clear path to take and the game just won’t let you! And speaking of doors… What’s with all the “travelling” load screens? You walk through a doorway, the character doesn’t go through and instead you have to press a button to “travel” into the building/room. It even occurs at random times when walking through levels too! It’s reminiscent of the previous gaming eras, when games used fog to hide the fact they couldn’t load an entire level. Here they don’t even try to hide the fact this “open world” is actually anything but!

Now here’s the point in a review where you’d typically off-set the negatives with some positive aspects of the game. But honestly? I’m struggling to find anything positive to say about Monkey King: Hero is Back. The combat is fine – button bashing mainly, with the occasional use of tactics when fighting the bigger end of level bosses. The idea of collecting items and exchanging them for power-ups is a neat addition, and adds a small RPG-lite element to the gameplay. But those are the only aspects of this game I can recommend. Otherwise this is a total mess and feels like a huge step back in terms of gaming.

But then was I expecting too much from what is essentially a move tie-in? We all know how they usually turn out!

Monkey King: Hero is Back is out now on Playstation 4 and PC.


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