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The Monkey King Box Art

The Monkey King

The Monkey King seeks to rally hardcore shooter fans of the 16-bit age with the promise of large, colorful sprites, sweet power-ups, and a nostalgic hook in this all-new 2008 game. Despite an excellent effort by UFO Interactive Games to excite the R-Type and Dragon Spirit crowd, this monkey king falls more than a little short of the crown.


This may be the best part of The Monkey King. All of the sprites pop with vibrant colors -- and cute and cuddly designs. At the outset, the enemy sprites seemed they would repeat incessantly, but there is a surprising variety of enemy designs as the game progresses. Animations are fluid, considering the conscious design choice to limit the number of frames as a throwback to Ď80s hardware. The backdrops in The Monkey King are particularly lovely, but lack the more intricate parallax scrolling and depth prevalent in more progressive entries in the genre... from twenty years ago, natch. Granted, the game has an appealing visual design, and The Monkey Kingís target audience will likely enjoy the sprites, even though they lack the charm of old favorites that will be touched on later in this review. On the technical side of things, The Monkey King stays true to its roots with a 4:3 aspect ratio.


The Monkey King is based on a centuries old Chinese legend, so all the music has a distinctly Eastern tone, which is perfectly appropriate. Still, nothing here is particularly creative or adventurous, just pleasant melodies that sync well with the onscreen action and theme of the game. One notable exception is the theme music heard upon entering Lei-Leiís power up shop; this dulcet melody offers an excellent break from the action and is -Ė notably -- relaxing. All of the audio is CD quality and nothing sounds disjointed or out of place in The Monkey Kingís soundtrack; overall, itís a competent aural package.


Up to this point, The Monkey King has been well behaved and agreeable, but it is in the area of gameplay that things get out of control. The Monkey King is a game built on old-school premises, and in this regard, the gameplay is what you would expect. After choosing between two characters (who are functionally the same, save gender) the game is played holding the Wii remote like an old NES controller. The d-pad moves the main character up, down, left, and right. The 2 button represents the primary shot, and the 1 button fires a power shot thatís not available until after a trip to Lei-Leiís shop. You can hold two different types of power shots and switch between them during gameplay by pressing the A button.

So far, this is all standard and works as expected. Where the game first falters is in the Wii-centric development trend of tacking on motion controls where they simply do not fit and, furthermore, are not welcome. Tilting the Wii-remote to the right will cause everything to scroll across the screen at an accelerated rate, making it impossible to get a proper bead on enemy trajectory and ultimately thrusting the player into head-on collisions with everything on screen. Tilting the Wii-remote to the left slows everything down to a pace that simply makes the game way too easy to play. A player with a fully powered-up Monkey King can literally breeze through an entire level with his or her eyes closed. And while said power-ups are colorful and screen-filling, they are not particularly hard to come by and, once attained, completely throw the game out of balance, effectively setting the difficulty level to zero and disengaging the player completely. Some might have fun raining down terror on hapless sprites, but weíd like to think gamers are a bit more cerebral.

Finally, enemy and boss patterns are near non-existent. There is some semblance of an enemy pattern at the beginning of a stage, but ultimately the game unravels into a mess of sprites with no clear organization. This necessitates the need for the previously mentioned, ridiculous, screen-filling power ups that tilt the game back in the playerís favor. Itís a lazy design choice and is unforgivable. Boss battles are no different, offering up a brightly colored sprite that nearly engulfs the entire screen but offers no recognizable pattern, culminating in the most unrewarding experience to ever be called a 2-D shooter. The nail in the coffin (spoiler alert) happens after defeating the final boss, at which point the player is s turned around and forced to play the entire game in reverse. Worse still, after finally finishing the game, the only rewards are the words ďThe EndĒ. The end, indeed...


This game can be played locally with a friend, which proves twice as inane as the single-player component.


UFO should be applauded for offering a full retail release of The Monkey King, but we canít recommend a purchase in good conscience, even if it were a five dollar download. The Monkey King is monkey crap.

final score 3.0/10

Staff Avatar John Figueroa
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"You want how much for that copy of Twin Snakes?"

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