Some might remember that the Switch received a title called Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap in 2017, a remake of an older title that had all the hallmarks of a great 2D action side-scroller. Due to licensing issues, we don’t have the official sequel in the series, but instead, a game called Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, which ends up being a spiritual successor. When all is said and done, however, that doesn’t matter one bit, as the game we have ended up with is a pretty great game that in nearly every way, surpasses Wonder Boy.
You play as a blue-haired boy called Jin, who must stop Nabu, his uncle, from turning the world’s inhabitants into animals. Jin is then transformed into a variety of animals himself and each of these animals will have to be utilised in a number of different ways in order to progress through the game and stop Nabu’s evil plans. The story is one of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’s only real downsides, as it never really strays from its initial foundation. It certainly never dampened my enjoyment with the game though as, with many titles in the same genre, the story will always be low on my list of requirements.
The transformations then, as you would expect, play a huge role in Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom and each one of the six alterations you gain throughout your adventure feature different abilities that change up how the game is played. Therefore, you will find a bit more variety in gameplay here, more so than some other games of this type, simply because of the different characters and their unique abilities and playstyles, which, not only alters the combat but the exploration and how you interact with the environments too. One such example is Jin can transform into is a Snake, which feels a lot more agile and nimble than say, the Pig and allows you to spit venom and climb up mossy walls.
While I won’t divulge on all of the transformations, as it was exciting for me to discover each one for myself, each of them has their uses and as mentioned earlier, can change up how the game is played drastically. You are able to change at will and it allows Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom more freedom in terms of the sheer number of obstacles and puzzles it can throw at you. It makes you think a lot more than your traditional action side scroller too, as you are constantly thinking which alteration you should be using at any given time, given your current predicament.
The gameplay, in general, is easy to get to grips with and as you would hope, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom eases you into the basic mechanics and doesn’t throw anything too hard at you up until the first boss, but even then it’s nothing too difficult. Jumping and traversing through the world feels great and it always felt like if I missed a jump then it was my fault. Each character variant has different movement speeds and as such, requires you to get to grips with each character quickly.
The combat never felt overly difficult either. Sure, some of the hitboxes can be smaller than you would hope and some of the melee weapons you wield are a tad slight too, which does make it harder. In the early stages, I was finding that I was getting hit a lot more through not quite getting to grips with the hitboxes but all it required was a little bit more experience to get used to how each weapon handles and make sure that enemies were in range for me to unleash an attack. Once you get past this initial stage, you will find that you will have no problem taking down the majority of the foes that a thrown at you.
The gear you obtain adds another layer to the game in the shape of light RPG elements. Weapons, armour, bracelets, boots and shields can all be obtained through a variety of ways. Some will be required to progress and as such, you cannot really miss them, while others are purely optional so you will find them by exploring the world a bit more and finding secrets hidden within. The gear you find will grant you unique skills that mainly improve your abilities to fight or travel, such as boots that allow you to double jump or allow you to walk on lava. Not all characters can use the gear, however, as they’re reserved for the more human looking characters in the game, so Mr Snake can’t pop on a pair of boots, unfortunately.
As mentioned above, the world is full of secrets to find. You will constantly come across areas and sections that house secrets. Some will require abilities that you won’t obtain until much later in the game. So if you love to explore every nook and cranny, then rejoice as there are plenty knocking around in Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. It is because of this then, that the game requires a surprisingly long amount of time to beat, roughly 15 to 17 hours. It is refreshing to see this amount of content included and you will certainly get value for your money.
The overall look of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is fantastic, the art style is superb, it oozes charm and it’s so vibrant. The musical score backs up the visuals too and while certain tracks seem to be recycled faster than I would like, they are still very catchy. It is all helped by the fact that Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom runs at 60 frames per second and 1080p while playing on the TV, with that dropping to 720p when you pop the Switch out of its dock.
If you’re a fan of platformers, adventure games or Metroidvania style games, then this will be a great title for you. With a lengthy playtime, plenty of variety in its gameplay and has so much about it to enjoy, it is a title that does very little wrong and outdoes the game that it set out to emulate. It wasn’t on my radar in the build-up to release, but I love it now. It comes highly recommended.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by FDG Entertainment