Monkey King takes me back to an old-time, neither good nor bad, just old. Everything about the game screams old, from the dated graphics to the dated combat and dated core game mechanics and yet, somehow, it is still charming.
Do you want to know how old this game feels like? It doesn’t stream the entire level at once, but it breaks it along with the game’s pace with tons of loading screens. It goes as far as it requires a loading/fade to black for the most menial of the tasks, going up or down a ladder. It’s really weird to have to wait just to move between sections of a level when you have other games that manage to stream massive worlds without a loading screen in sight.
The same can be said about the game’s combat, traversal and the rest of the mechanics. Combat is simple, light or heavy attacks with some magic/special abilities you can execute down the line. You see everything in the first hour of the game and since the entire game can be beaten in around 5 hours, you will be doing a lot of the same things for the next four hours. Even though the game has an upgrade mechanic, where you can use points or other things to level up your abilities, you don’t really feel anything change. You can still beat everyone with the same amount of kicks and punches. So what’s really the point of this system in the first place?
Traversal also feels stiff, weird and dated. You play as the titular Monkey King, but you don’t really move as a monkey should. You move slowly, the jump isn’t satisfying and you can really vault or mantle anything. This is also a 3D action platformer where you can’t double jump. I mean came on!
The game starts with a gorgeous animated video where the Monkey King kicks some serious ass, like sucker punches gods left and right. You also see him using his magical staff and flying around his cloud but in the game you don’t get to do anything like that. The staff is reduced to a weapon pickup you might find in the levels and it breaks just after a couple of hits. Later you can conjure the staff via magic but why would you want to do that when you can just spam a vortex area of effect magic ability which decimates everything around you including the game bosses.
Speaking of bosses, mechanically 3 out of 5 of them will frustrate you. I mean the idea behind these annoying ones is cool and the bosses’ designs are cool but their execution is extremely choppy. There’s a boss that looks like a dementor from Harry Potter and the first time that I beat it I had no idea what I was doing but I managed to defeat it. The second time when I had to fight it again in the Boss Rush/Gauntlet (old much?) I spent like 30 minutes just punching and throwing stuff at it doing nothing. I had no idea what to do to beat it. So I just spammed the vortex thing until it died… not good.
So the gameplay can get annoying, but still, it’s nothing when compared to the annoying companions, which basically do nothing to help you. They just stand there and shout every 15 seconds “Aaa”, “Uuu” & “An enemy” over and over and over again!
And with all of these problems, somehow and I don’t know why I still found the game to be charming. Maybe it’s nostalgia for this type of game, maybe it’s the subtle animations of the titular hero with all of his grumpiness or maybe it’s the simplicity. Maybe a 6-7-year-old me would have loved this game and maybe that’s who this game was designed for. Thanks for reading!