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Monkey King Hero Is Back Review :: Frustratingly Fun

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I have played my fair share of Monkey King games. From platformers to shooters, I have reveled in the Monkey King mythos for ages. I know a lot about it too, given its similarities to Hanuman and Dragonball, so when THQ Nordiq announced that they were doing a game based on the legend of the Monkey King my interest was piqued. So is the game destined to raise hell in heaven, or is it cursed to be frozen over in an icy tomb forever? Let’s find out?

Story & Narrative

The game is based on a super-popular anime adaption with the same name that was released in China back in 2015. The story follows the mythical Monkey King (Dasheng) who has been broken out of his icy tomb/prison to help a young boy called Lieur. What follows is a redemption story, which is not particularly engaging, but it holds up. It does involve an interesting cast though. Apart from Dasheng himself, the cast stars Zhu Bajie, Hundun, Shenlog. All popular and prominent figures in Buddhist and Chinese mythos. It’s a fun introduction to these characters, and if you are as curious as me, then you would find yourself looking at each of these names up in Wikipedia from time to time.

I also enjoyed this new interpretation of Dasheng as a spoiled laid back cocky teenager who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. His movements too, are a clever match between Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan (Legend Of The Drunken Master), and the game straddles the line between serious overarching tone and funny moment to moment gameplay.

Gameplay & Mechanics

Talking about gameplay. It’s exceedingly simple and yet frustrating. The game is marketed as an Action-adventure, but in all honesty, it’s a beat em up. As you fight a not so varied assortment of enemies across 10 mostly linear levels, you will get to use low and high light and heavy attacks, some magical skills which you can level up as you collect Chi (I think…) and some weapons that you can pick up during fights from time to time.

The game never gets too hard, and you are never really overwhelmed by too many enemies, and yet you will find yourself struggling, fighting the game more than the enemies inside it. The camera controls, and the lazy responsiveness of the controls is what causes the most heart-ache during the game. You have already finished the combo on your controller before Dasheng is even into his second move, and if you have pressed the attack button too quickly, chances are that the command would be straight up ignored.

Aiming too is a hassle, and I was never quite sure what the effective range of my projectile was. Further, the spell attacks have an area of effect which is smaller than your hitbox, and you have to be right on top of the enemies to effectively execute those skills. Then there is this weird decision to make Mind’s Eye (a skill that lets you see your enemy’s health, and shows indicators for reversal) an active skill when it really should have been passive. The same goes for the skill that increases your movement speed. Both of these skills would work amazingly as passive combos with other combat-oriented skills, but in isolation they rarely deserve activation.

At least, one thing that Monkey King Hero Is Back does do right, is that it lets you use the full extent of your powers on any enemy (bosses included). It also has an attack counter and one on one encounters mechanic which when triggered are fun to watch. But it can only keep you involved for so long, which is why its actually a blessing that the game is not too long. It clocks in just under 10 hours if you are comprehensive and collects all the collectibles, which are not too difficult to find.

Graphics Performance & Sound

There are a few beautiful vistas that you can experience throughout the game. But overall it feels like a game that you pulled out of your backlog from the last decade. That polyghon-ish cartoony feel that was popular with 3D platformers back in the day is the style that the team has decided to go with. I have to say that it does suit the overall theme of the game, and feels like I am watching a Sunday morning cartoon when I am not struggling with its controls.

The same feeling extends to the voice acting. The English voice actors are mostly British or Irish, and it feels weird to hear a Chinese icon speaking with such a strong accent. Thankfully, there are not a lot of spoken dialogues in the game and it mostly depends on grunts and monosyllabic sounds to get the message across.


Monkey King Hero Is Back, much like other offerings from THQ Nordiq feels like a video game 10 years too late. It’s satisfactory on some fronts, but irritating on the most important ones. It does not mean its not fun though. It’s simple, straightforward and easy to pick up. Monkey King Hero Is Back, has its art style and its short length going for it though, and it can definitely be enjoyed over the weekend. Don’t expect it to leave too deep a mark.

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