This is the first time I’ve played a game in the Wonder Boy series, and what better way to begin than on the Nintendo Switch. I recently purchased Wonder Boy: Dragon’s Trap but was given Monster Boy to review so it took precedence. The developer FDG Entertainment has been active on Twitter prior to the release and after, interacting with fans and reposting images/videos which is the absolute best. I love when developers/publishers respond, they even helped out with tips and tricks for those that were stuck. This game was in development for almost five years, Game Atelier and FDG are very proud of Monster Boy.
Monster Boy is about saving a kingdom that has been transformed into monsters by your crazy uncle. Transform into six different monsters to fight your way through enemies and puzzles to bring the Cursed Kingdom back to their normal human selves.
The cut scenes are absolutely insane, there should be an anime created for Monster Boy immediately. You get to see this prior to the start menu and it continues in-game luckily for us. The soundtrack is perfectly fitting to the colourful level design. Enemies have a health bar that is visible while fighting and I love that. It’s not a guessing game as to when your foe will be defeated. Press the – button to see the World Map that gives a percentage of your exploration.
Press the + button to see loads of information regarding your character and customisation options. Attack, Defense, and Speed are shown. Weapons, Shields, Armor, Bracelets, Boots, and Items are all of the things that can be customised, very cool. Pretty impressive for what could be called a simple platformer.
If all heart points are lost, Monster Boy will respawn at the previous save point, which looks like a shrine or fountain. Coins are the currency and can be collected from barrels or enemies defeated. They aren’t auto collected so be aware of your surroundings and gather them quickly. Truffles can be eaten to obtain spells or to upgrade spells to cast upon enemies. The starting weapon is a sword and in addition to the good ‘ol basic swing, you can ground pound like Shovel Knight (or Zelda 2 heh). It’s awesome.
Underwater exploration is great and being required to find air bubbles reminds me of Sonic. There is a meter for air that quickly depletes so keep an eye on that. The game may seem too easy and then BOSS FIGHT! Even smaller bosses will put up a good battle and require the player to utilise the infinite lives feature. In addition to infinite lives, if you fall off a cliff you will not die but reappear with less HP than before.
Level design is less of a feat compared to the foreground design. There are characters with small animations such as wagging their tail or moving their head from side to side. It looks great and takes my attention from the mid and background. That’s not to say the others aren’t impressive. If you carefully look at the main village background, there are many layers that create a depth and distance to the town. It’s really nice.
Puzzles make up the bulk of Monster Boy – traverse back and forth from room to room looking for a switch to activate that lever and so forth. The animations are amusing and look great. Killing every enemy in the room is something you should always do, that’s what this newbie to the series found out. I’m out here looking for a switch I missed or hidden area and all I need to do was kill ’em all. The game will require the player to use each unlocked character at any given time to progress. I initially thought it was cool switching to each character for a certain ability, but it grew to be a hassle since it stops game-play. Memorise all characters abilities and don’t forget them or you’ll get stuck.
I got bored of the left to right game-play pretty quick to be honest. I pressed on thinking I would get past it, but I didn’t. It took a bit to think of what could be done to improve this, then I thought of Tomba and Paper Mario. Those games were 2D-ish left to right games that added pivoting layers to the world, allowing the player to turn corners and see new aspects of the level. That would make this game much more interesting. Travelling underwater and underground were great touches to the game but I wanted something more.
There are six monster forms:
- Pig Man – weak physical combat, sniffs out secret doors, throw attacks (bomb, boomerang, fireball), not the best
- Snake Man – spit poison, stick to green walls, headbutt
- Frog Man – swim/breathe underwater, stands up with sword and shield, double jump
- Lion Man – charge run, stands up with sword and shield
- Dragon Man – can fly without cooldown, shoot fireballs, flamethrower
- Hu Man – my personal favourite. 4 part sword slash, quickness and warp ability
The volcano area is where the game becomes interesting and much more enjoyable. Right out the gate, I’m charging through bricks and quickly launching from swing ring to bow launch. I was getting tired of trudging through each area. Thanks to Scrabble Plays for helping me get past some annoyances in previous areas. Twice in the volcano area the game allowed me to progress without doing anything. Once was respawning me forward a room, another was moving a block to where it needed to be. Odd but I’ll take it?
The game plays great on handheld but also looks awesome played in docked mode. I suggest trying both. I wish the variety Monster Boy offers were available earlier on, many times I was bored and just wanted to beat the game. Later you get to enjoy a shoot’em up sequence that includes a boss fight, a sneaking sequence that involves not being seen, an escort mission (proper, not the cheeky kind) and more. If there were a better mix of all these missing throughout the game it would make playing much more fun. It seems the game starts fresh and plateaus for a bit, then the variety is introduced and brings the game uploads.
No true spoiler here but a certain later boss fight reminds me a LOT of the King Dice battle in Cuphead, loved it.
Metroid back and forth fans will love discovering the world of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. Swapping characters to exploit abilities for exploration and progression. The graphics are fantastic and I wish there were more anime cut-scenes throughout the game. Changing gear for different areas and uses is cool and being forced to go without for certain characters brings up the difficulty in a way that keeps the player on their toes. The game is much longer than I had expected but the FDG Twitter forewarned that would happen. Replayability is low for me as I did not enjoy the puzzles, and this game is puzzle heavy.
Review code provided
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Dec 04, 2018
No. of Players: 1
Category: Puzzle, Platformer
Publisher: FDG Entertainment
Developer: Game Atelier
Download link: eShop