Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: FDG Entertainment
Developer: The Game Atelier
When it comes to games that appeared from nowhere I think it would be fair to say a new entry in the Monster Boy series counts as a solid choice. Well unless you’re laser focused on the Wonder Boy/Monster Boy series then you might have known a little more than me. Still when Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom appeared on the scene we just had to check it out because it’s the age of long-dormant franchises making a comeback and maybe this is another success.
And duh! It’s a crazy success, so here’s our review on what hopefully doesn’t become an overlooked classic platformer.
The game starts you out as Jin, a humble adventurer just enjoying his afternoon catching some fish. Well he is until Jin’s uncle swoops in on a bender and changes the entire kingdom into a bunch of monsters! To me they look like animals but if this is what the game considers monsters then I guess I could see that. Anyway it’s your job to stop your uncle and reverse the damage done, except for the problem that you too have been transformed! Into a pig of all things!
So this is where Monster Boy gets things right by giving you several animal forms to turn into and each with a different set of powers which slowly open up access to each area of the game as you need it. Now this is following a formula but its execution is done so well that you always feel like you’re making progress. Only rarely will it present a challenge which you aren’t yet equipped to gain access to but the ability to teleport around the map makes it easy to return later in a classic Metroidvania style.
So each form controls differently, such as being more physically limited as the pig but being able to use items. Later you can squeeze through holes as a snake and so on. Each form also has the ability to upgrade its specific abilities which again is up to you but paced very well. The game can last around 15 hours or more but it’s a blast the entire time with more to do beyond the main quest.
I was happily surprised to find much more platforming puzzles in here than expected. Many of these turn out to be skill-based but they’re just the right amount of difficulty. Some other puzzles did leave me puzzled but I found myself thinking about them away from the game and inevitably the solution would hit me when coming back later. And it’s been a long time since I left a game but still had it in my mind which to me is a really special quality.
In terms of gameplay everything handles very tight and responsive. This is good because the game requires precision in many instances and if there’s one way to screw up a classic platformer game it’s to have poor controls. Luckily here it’s all gravy. Like butter!
Speaking of things that are buttery smooth have you seen this game in action?! Okay so all we can show you are gorgeous and colorful screenshots but the game looks very pretty in motion. I would like to report a steady performance on Switch and for the most part this is the case except for a couple hitches and one specific instance on the final boss fight where the game just wants to die. Now you might think this is a dealbreaker and normally I would agree but the framedrops didn’t hinder my enjoyment. Even on the big dip in the last boss battle the game is slow on a screen which luckily doesn’t ask you to be very reflexive and while I died a few times in this fight it was never on that intensive screen.
The other piece of the puzzle is a really great soundtrack which is composed by industry legends like Yuzo Koshiro and it shows. Every area features music that is very fitting and if you’re like me will be something you find yourself listening to outside of the game. The overall audio is just what you want in a game like this but the soundtrack really does deserve a special mention.
So overall Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a retro inspired platformer and shows the genre at its finest. Not to mention it feels right at home on the Switch despite being a multiplatform release. If you’ve never played a Monster Boy game but have been looking for anything to scratch that Metroid or Castlevania itch then this is for you. And if you’re a Monster Boy fan wondering if this installment is any good then you should probably already own it. But if you don’t then take it from me you won’t regret your time with Cursed Kingdom.