Review

Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom Review - Fit For A King

  • First Released Dec 4, 2018
    released
  • PC
  • XONE
  • PS4
  • NS

A royal tour de force.

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It's difficult to talk about Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom without discussing Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap and its 2017 remake, because despite being produced by an entirely different development team, this game is, in fact, an official successor in the Wonder Boy series. But even though its history might be confusing, Monster Boy is a fantastic adventure in its own right, one that distinctly builds upon the best parts of Wonder Boy and adds some welcome modern conveniences for good measure.

You play as Jin, a blue-haired young man who must stop his drunk uncle Nabu from inflicting curses upon the kingdom's inhabitants and transforming them into animals. Unfortunately, the plot doesn't really expand beyond that initial premise. With the exception of some moments of levity provided by the cast of interesting supporting characters, the story is uninspired and concludes on a final act that feels shoehorned. But where Monster Boy's narrative lacks in imagination, it more than makes up for it with its well-honed character transformation mechanic.

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Over the course of the game, Jin unlocks an arsenal of equipment and gains five animal transformations--pig, snake, frog, lion, and dragon--each of whom has their own unique abilities. Jin's human, frog, lion, and dragon forms are also able to equip a variety of weapons, shields, and armor, all of which can be upgraded. Equipping items unlocks new abilities--one type of boots allow you to walk on clouds, while another allows you to double jump, for instance. Quickly swapping between all these different forms to take advantage of their strengths adds a continually enjoyable layer of thought to the platforming experience, and its strengths are regularly showcased by Monster Boy's excellent puzzle design.

You're eased into each new animal form and piece of equipment with some basic obstacles and enemies before being set loose to explore the titular Cursed Kingdom. Puzzles scattered throughout require some thought; on several occasions, you'll be forced to combine the use of several different powers and abilities in creative ways in order to progress forward or reach a treasure. It might be juggling two different animal forms, using particular equipment abilities, or taking advantage of environmental items, and when you eventually figure out how to get there, it always feels rewarding. Puzzles become increasingly complex, the variety of enemies becomes tougher, and the platforming sections feature additional obstacles that require more precise timing as you progress, but the growing challenges are balanced out well by a forgiving number of checkpoints, which help you keep motivated to give things another try.

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While the game is primarily linear, the Cursed Kingdom itself is enormous and features several different secret-filled areas (discovering everything will likely blow out your playtime to roughly 15-20 hours), and the variety of puzzles and charming locations that you find in far corners of the world are themselves an attractive incentive to reach. The experience is doubly rewarding when you unearth new paths while revisiting a previously-discovered area armed with a bigger arsenal of animal forms and skills, and Monster Boy even implements a teleportation mechanic to alleviate frustrations of excessive backtracking.

Monster Boy also boasts a brilliant visual and audio presentation that makes the Wonder Boy aesthetic shine, featuring a meticulously detailed hand-drawn art style. Each character is beautifully realized with their own delightful animation--little details, like the pig's sheepish look as he farts after eating a power-up plant or the frog eyeballing some flies as part of his idle animation, adds volumes to Jin's characterization and the game's charm. Every area of the Cursed Kingdom is also visually distinct and beautifully animated, and a couple of superb anime-style sequences that bookend the game help give it a slick, cohesive feel. The game's strong soundtrack helps round out the package and features both original pieces influenced by Wonder Boy's soundtrack, combined with new, rock-influenced arrangements of Wonder Boy's most memorable tunes, making it a great collection of music both new and old.

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Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom not only pays faithful homage to Wonder Boy, particularly The Dragon's Trap, but by refining the solid foundations of its spiritual predecessors with modern affordances, it becomes a rich platforming adventure in its own right. With a well-realized world filled to the brim with secrets and excellent platforming mechanics that always keeps things interesting, the Cursed Kingdom is a place you will want to discover every corner of.

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The Good
Outstanding presentation with a beautifully detailed hand-drawn art style
A fantastic soundtrack that pays homage to Wonder Boy's most memorable tunes
The enormous world is well-realized, diverse, and filled to the brim with secrets
Character transformation is a consistently entertaining mechanic
Vibrant anime-style cutscenes help create an exciting flavor
The Bad
The sparse plot adds little to the overall experience
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Alexander spent nearly 20 hours exploring every nook and cranny of the Cursed Kingdom while masquerading as either a pig, lion, or dragon. A Switch version of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom was provided for the purposes of this review.
11 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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christhunder34

when is this being released on Steam, just says release in Q1. I want to pick this up :)

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vasilas43

I wish we soon see a remake of the next chapter as well: Monster World IV. That one was only released for the Mega Drive in Japan. Amazing game

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naasum

looks good but extremely overpriced

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Abdulrahman1981

@naasum: it’s a wonderful game, got bored during first mission, after that, you will be amazed how good it is

Avatar image for Itzsfo0
Itzsfo0

@naasum: Yea I have to say - it may be a bit over-priced (by about $10 or so) ...its more like a $30 title. But honestly who am I to say. I'm not being defensive or anything - but If you are even remotely into platformers or action/adventure games - I would recommend picking this up. Even if it hurts the wallet a bit. You could easily sink, 20 - 30 + hours...and still have more content...its fun too, easy & smooth controls...its fun, challenging without being overly difficult - not much hand-holding either, so it strikes that "right" balance, and the hand-drawn artwork & animation may not be everyones cup of tea but FOR those who like that style - really like this game. I've already put about 12-13 hours into the game and I'm really enjoying it - having said that...I agree I wish it would be more along the lines of $19.99 or $24.99 - I mean I put 120 hours into Hollow Knight and that was $15 + free DLC packs from Team Cherry. So honestly...I think this game should be a bit cheaper, that is just me griping a bit...I still really enjoy it though.

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blablazer

@Itzsfo0: Is it monster boy only this time? I know its a silly question. ?

Avatar image for Dezuria
Dezuria

@naasum: Why, because it's a 2D game?

Been playing it for a good few hours now, it's a great game with beautiful hand drawn artwork and animation, fun and challenging gameplay, and a large world with great level design and lots of content and secrets.

Avatar image for naasum
naasum

@Dezuria: compared to other decent indies 40$ for this doesnt remotely make sense. i'll consider buying when it has a wiser price tag.

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snugglebear

Its so cool seeing this series pop up again, because this was my jam as a kid.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom More Info

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  • First Released Dec 4, 2018
    released
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    8.1
    Average Rating9 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    FDG Entertainment
    Published by:
    FDG Entertainment
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol