With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tearing up the sales charts for Switch games this month, it can be easy to forget there are a few other noteworthy games that came out at the same time as it did. One of these titles is Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, a spiritual successor to the Wonder Boy series. I received this game for review last month, but my addiction to Smash was too overpowering for me to put aside for other games. Now that I have taken the time to actually sit down and play it, I can assure that there is a quality game to be had here.
The premise is a simple one. The uncle of our protagonist, Jin, has been misusing magic to turn everybody into animals during a drunken rampage. As it is said that six mystical orbs are needed to restore everybody back to normal, Jin ventures off to find them across the vast kingdom. That’s about it, albeit there are certain things that occur later into the game that serve as spoiler material.
Oh my God, this game is so freaking beautiful! Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom took the developers several years to make, and the sheer lushness of the hand-drawn graphics show that much. It reminds me a lot of Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero except arguably more seamless. I think everything in the game really is 2D, as opposed to a combined usage of 2D images and 3D models. The game even boots up with an anime-esque intro, for crying out loud!
Featuring a large soundtrack spanning roughly sixty tracks, there’s a lot of love poured into getting the sound right for Monster Boy. I believe it payed off; I was bopping my head to at least some of the tracks that played throughout my time with the game. The songs were even composed by the same people that contributed to a few of the older Wonder Boy installments, which is really cool in its own right.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a pure 2D platformer with touches of oldschool and modern-day flair alike. Map exploration plays a major role in scouring the kingdom, but it isn’t confusing enough to get you lost easily. There’s a lot of NPCs to talk to and smaller locales to visit, but the game is mostly made up of good ol’ fashioned platforming obstacle courses. And when the game starts providing those, you really start to feel the momentum pick up.
Jin is a capable hero with a nice variety of moves on display. By default he can kill enemies in close-up combat or by slaying them from above. That, of course, is before the signature element of the Wonder Boy series kicks in: the ability to turn into different animal forms. Although you start off being stuck as a pig, the gradual pickup of other beasts is as rewarding as it is fun to take advantage of their abilities.
I know this would sound silly considering how long it took me to get to the game, but Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a game you should not sleep on. If there is any new non-Smash game for the Switch you should consider, it’s this one. Platforming aficionados are bound to get a kick out of it, especially those familiar with the Wonder Boy games in the first place. I may not be that familiar with them, but after playing Monster Boy, I want to go back and check them out.
Review copy provided by FDG Entertainment