For the majority of people that grew up in the 16-bit era of gaming, beat ‘em up games were stable in any cartridge collection. I lost many hours of my life as a youngster sitting on my beanbag playing games like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. But, nowadays the iconic side-scrolling beat ‘em ups we once knew have pretty much fallen into obscurity. 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a throwback to the traditional beat ‘em ups with a kung-fu style twist. But will this game get everybody kung fu fighting?
You play as Wei Cheng, a noble fisherman whose village is brutally attacked by a crew of pirates. His Grandfather is killed during the raid and Wei is severely wounded. Fortunately, Wei is saved by a group of Buddhist monks and begins his quest of searching for answers and seeking revenge. The whole plot feels very reminiscent of watching a chop-socky film.
Even though the story unfolds through mini cutscenes, which is coupled with great voice acting, I found myself not really caring about our protagonist or his motivations. Wei was not very relatable as the main character and the supporting cast weren’t too much better either. As a result, it led to me not paying too much attention to the plot. This is a shame, as the story is gritty, but if the characters fall flat it’s hard to get emotionally invested.
Gameplay-wise, it is reasonably decent. You fight foes in a side-scrolling manner with your trusty battle staff. You will often be confronted with hordes of enemies that will require a good old fashion beat down to progress onward. Some foes will give more of a fight than others. For example, certain opponents may lurk in the environments, so you’ll have to parry their attacks to defeat them or others may wear a layer of armour that will involve a few extra hits to knock them out.
If anyone gives you too much trouble, you can collect a variety of teas by breaking barrels or boxes that will help improve your stats. For instance, green teas will regain some of your health that you have lost during combat. The only problem is, obtaining these teas can sometimes be annoying. I often found my attacks would not always hit the boxes, that would hurt the flow of gameplay. No one wants to be trying to kick a box three times in a row, for one measly cup of tea.
At the beginning of the game, the combat can feel a bit more on the slow side, as you only start with three attacks which are part of the base stance. Luckily, later down the line, you’ll learn an additional two fighting styles, acrobatic and magic stance. This substantially helped the pace of the combat moving forward and the more I progressed through the game, the more enjoyable the experience became.
Upon completing a level, you may gain rewards such as new weapons or items that can then be equipped onto your character that will give different perks. You also gain points after completing a level, that can then be used on a skill-tree to upgrade the three fighting stances. This gives a nice sense of progression to the experience, and if you are ever struggling to complete the next level in the storyline, prior levels can be replayed to gain rewards.
In total, there are twenty-five levels within the game that have some excellent backdrops as environments. These range from Chinese villages, grassy terrains, and pirate ships. Twenty-five levels may sound like a lot, but to complete 9 Monkeys of Shaolin it took me under four hours. Admittedly, I played the game on an easier difficulty, so depending on what setting you choose could impact the time spent on the game. You may also want to pick a more challenging gameplay difficulty if you decide to play with a friend as it was an easy experience playing as a lone wolf. You can tackle the game either with a local co-op or online with a buddy.
Overall, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a relatively brief experience, it ironically felt like I had watched a Kung-Fu movie by the end. I enjoyed my time with 9 Monkeys of Shaolin but if the game had spanned any longer it may have overstayed it’s welcome. The combat was up to scratch, my only complaint is I wish the flow of the gameplay was just a tad faster in the beginning sections – considering it’s a very short game. If you are looking for a short but sweet beat ‘em up to play for the day, then 9 Monkeys of Shaolin will certainly fit the bill.
9 Monkeys of Shoalin PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6.5/10
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a throwback to the traditional side-scrolling beat ‘em ups with enjoyable combat. If you have a few hours to spare, it will certainly keep you occupied for rest of the day.
- Enjoyable combat
- Cutscenes with great voice acting
- Nice backdrop environments
- Characters feel bland
- Objects such as boxes are awkward to hit
- Combat can be slow in the beginning segments
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.