Too rooted in tradition, Monster Boy proves that just being challenging isn't necessarily fun.

User Rating: 5 | Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom PS4

This is going to be tough. Getting through Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom took tremendous effort as I'm sure so will writing this review. See a little over a year ago I played Wonder Boy and the Dragon's Trap; a game I absolutely adored. It was a beautifully updated remake of a classic side-scroller. Naturally I was excited about getting my hands on the latest entry in the series. Although the art style is a little different there is no doubt the Monster Boy is as gorgeous as Dragon Boy was. However it is very clear once you start Monster just how far the series has come. This is a much bigger, and I'd even say much more challenging, game that will push you to your limits. Monster Boy may not have broken me but it sure came darn close.

As you start Monster boy you see your uncle flying around the kingdom causing all sorts of trouble in a drunken frenzy. The worst part of it is that he is transforming everyone on Monster Island into all sorts of different creatures. Unfortunately you get changed into a rather pudgy form while your brother lucks out turns into something much more practical. Once you work your way into the main town the people turn there hopes to you to undo this curse. The only way to fix the damage is to collect different orbs that grant you the ability to change into different creatures. Each new form has unique powers that are crucial to master if you wish to proceed to saving the island and finding out what caused you uncle to go berserk.

Monster Boy is a very much a traditional side-scroller with maybe a touch of metroidvania elements. I say just a touch because this is honestly a fairly linear story-driven game in which you only need to back track if you want find chests you missed your first time through a area. Chests often contain gems you'll need to upgrade an array of equipment you'll find or purchase along your journey. Instead of just simple stat upgrades often each item has unique properties supporting different needs or play styles. Keeping your equipment updated and finding heart containers is key to making progress as this game is incredibly challenging. This game may briefly lure you into a false sense of security with its colorful graphics buts it is brutally true to platformers of the past with absolutely no hand-holding.

See each screen in this game is like a puzzle of sorts forcing you to navigate your way through. Keeping track of the enemy layout, carefully maneuvering platforming sections, while also figuring out how to activate buttons and switches all have to juggled in order to progress. There are times where you may get through a screen or two without too much effort but constantly having to balance all this information in the heat of the moment can be utterly exhausting. There are a decent number of checkpoints scattered about but it is incredibly frustrating because when you respawn you'll only have as much health as when you first hit the checkpoint. This means unless you backtrack or very careful farm hearts you'll have to replay challenging sections over and over again with a pitiful amount of health.

This is easily one of the most difficult games I've ever played through. I'm not just talking about the obvious challenge of making it from one screen to the next but often it just plain isn't enjoyable. This game may be a platformer on paper but in reality its equal parts a puzzle game. It is plain exhausting trying to figure out every little gimmick or strategy for every single room. Also just a small change like making health refill at every checkpoint would have made a huge difference in making the game feel more fair and enjoyable. It took me a tremendous amount of patience and an abnormal amount to drive to see this game through to the end after 15 hours. That said I finished at only 70% complete so for a completionist I'm sure you'd be looking 20 hours of gameplay. But why play this crap when there are so many better side-scrollers out there like Hollow Knight, Shovel Knight, and Unravel to name a few.