There’s something about Monkey King: Hero is Back that I can’t quite put my finger on. Its mixture of fun combat and simple platforming is at times offset by some repetitive gameplay that it doesn’t seem to shake in its 8 hour or so lifespan, but it’s an enjoyable journey all the same.
Before the review copy dropping in my lap, I had never really heard of Monkey King: Hero is Back. Developed by THQ Nordic, the game takes inspiration from a Chinese animated film of the same name, and as such the game does a great job of matching the animation style of the film. Playing as the titular hero, Sun Wukong, you are freed from icy imprisonment during the games opening cinematic, before setting off with your young sidekick Liuer in tow.
This set up is something we have seen countless times before, with Liuer serving as the layman, filling you in as you make your way through the game. In that respect, Liuer is nothing new in a sidekick, and at times I found him a little more annoying than anything of any use. Even during the few sections when you can use him to access the odd hidden area, I found the cutscene of him shuffling off down a hole in the ground to be overly long, and the reward a little underwhelming for the most part.
Having no prior experience of the source material, I didn’t realise what was going on up until the games mid-point, when the big bad makes an appearance and pretty much tells you what the deal is. Being totally honest, I was playing quite happily up until that point, but I couldn’t help shake the feeling I had missed something crucial earlier on. Maybe it is my short attention span, or maybe it was something up with the narrative, but there is definitely something missing in the games opening beats to help you feel fully invested in the games story.
Luckily, what the game lacks in narrative it makes up for in gameplay. For the most part, I found Monkey King Hero Is Back to be an enjoyable, if simple, action game. Admittedly I might be a few years over the target demographic for Monkey Hero, and with that in mind, it does come as a surprise to find that the game is rated Teen due to its fantasy violence and mild language.
Combat is simple, with a light and heavy attack, and a few magic spells that you can unlock and upgrade at shrines found throughout the various areas of the game. Even though there is a decent variety of enemies in the game, the standard button bash various enemies are more comical than threatening, and the various animations that can be triggered during combat add to the whole cartoon aesthetic Monkey King has going for it. Saying that, countering an enemy attack (known in-game as a “Purge”) is a difficult feat to achieve, but the comical animation as the enemies eyes bulge and your fist drives into their stomach never gets old.
Exploring the world of Monkey King doesn’t take too much in the brain department either. Each area essentially has you wander around, collect the various items that can be found dotted around the place and clear each section of enemies before doing it all over again somewhere new. After the first few hours, this does start to feel a bit repetitive, and it does start to grate during the games final sections. Items that you find can be traded in for potions and amulets that offer various boosts during battle, such as making enemies drop more health when defeated, but this too gets a little boring during the later stages as you grind for higher tier potions.
Even after all this, I did largely enjoy the time I spent with Monkey King: Hero is back. Although it might not be to everyone’s tastes, and for all its faults, there is something likeable about Monkey King: Hero is Back. Its simple but fun gameplay is enjoyable enough to score it a pass, and younger audiences are sure to find something to like in its cartoon graphics and story, once it finally gets going.
Monkey King: Hero is Back PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6/10
Monkey King: Hero is Back is an enjoyable enough action-adventure game, that once it gets going makes the most of its simple systems and mechanics. Although no Dark Souls, there is something here for younger players to find and enjoy.
- Combat that feels rewarding, especially when pulling off “Purge” counter attacks
- Beautifully animated, capturing the feel of the film it is based on nicely
- Younger gamers will love the exploration and combat
- Repetitive game play starts to grate, especially towards the games end
- Annoying sidekick that serves no real use other than plot development
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 Pro.
Stuart has had a long and lengthy love affair with video games, since he first woke up to find Santa had left him a Sega Master System complete with Alex the Kidd built in no less. Since then, his thumbs have become calloused and he has missed many a nights sleep in the pursuit of those elusive “5 more minutes…” but his love has never wavered.