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Monkey King: Hero Is Back

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 4 - 2019

Third-person brawling with a powerful monkey.

Movie tie-in games are often not highly regarded, and for good reason. They are often hastily cobbled together in order to cash in on the hype for whatever movie they are linked to. As a result, the gameplay often suffers. Beacause of this, the general gaming public have learned to avoid movie tie-in games, unless they are particular fans of the movie. But how can players avoid a movie tie-in game when the movie in question is a Chinese animated movie from a few years back that never had any coverage over here in the UK? How do you avoid a movie tie-in game when you don’t know it’s a movie tie-in game? Monkey King: Hero Is Back from THQ Nordic is the game, a 3D brawler based on a 2015 Chinese animation, which itself is based on the classic Journey to the West story. Potential players will likely be aware of Journey to the West as it has featured in many video games over the years, along with other popular media, and thus could attract interest. Sadly though, Monkey King: Hero is Back is much more interested in being a standard movie tie-in game than any exciting retelling of this classic story.


Players will take on the role of Dasheng, a monkey born with great power that, in his quest for even more power, took on the gods themselves, quite successfully. Eventually, Buddha stepped in and trapped Dasheng in crystal for 500 years. Jump forward and young Liuer, along with his baby sister An An, discover the Monkey King’s crystal tomb inside a cave and, while being threatened by monsters, releases Dasheng from his prison. Free from his tomb, Dasheng discovers that he still doesn’t have access to all of his powers and to get these back, he must go out and do good in the world. Fortunately Dasheng is still quite handy in a fight, and so begins by beating down the monsters that threaten Liuer. With Liuer and An An tagging along, along with another companion that will join in time, Dasheng heads out into the world to begrudgingly do good by dealing with monsters that have been attacking local villagers and taking young children.

I guess context would help, and anyone who has watched the movie will likely be quite happy with the characters, but they are not easy to like. For starters, Dasheng comes across as a miserable git most of the time. Sure, I can understand that being entombed for 500 years and subsequently not having access to all of his previous god-like powers would be a bit of a downer, but does he have to be so opposed to the idea of being good? Then there is Liuer, the owner of what is possibly the most annoying voice ever. Seriously, it is annoying all of the time, but repeating the same shouted lines over and over again is enough to remove any speakers and set fire to them. Turn the volume off, simple as that. Again context would be nice as I can’t imagine the original voice in the animated movie being this bad, but who knows?


So, yeah, the game aggravates from the get go. When it comes to the actual gameplay though, things are not that bad. The game plays as a 3D brawler in which Dasheng will fight his way through various environments, trying to get to the root of the evil. This will mostly involve just going head to head with the various monsters found in the game, but the occasional bit of stealth can mix the gameplay up. There are not that many different monsters to fight, with only a few different types in the core game, along with a selection of bosses that are then repeated toward the end of the game.

The combat is quite simple, with a light and heavy attack button, and combos to launch from them. The player can pick up weapons and use them along the way, for a limited time, and a parry option will give way to a QTE that can lead to big damage. There are also magical abilities that Dasheng will unlock along the way, adding a little more variety, but it doesn’t really get any more complex than that.

Outside of the fighting, players will also spend their time collecting various items as they work through the levels. Collecting different plants and materials will give access to a few consumables that can help with health or provide extra power during the fighting. Then there are the Earth Gods that are well hidden. These are used to improve Dasheng’s health, magic power and make combos more powerful. Finally, there are the red orbs dropped by fallen monsters that can be used to upgrade the magic abilities. This all adds another element to the game, giving the player a break from the constant battles.

Visually, Monkey King doesn’t look too bad. The opening sequence is very nicely put together and does set the player up for some disappointment once the game actually begins. It is colourful, but has a simplicity that feels slightly dated, with the lack of variety not helping matters. There is nothing really to complain about, but likewise there is nothing that stands out once the opening sequence has finished.


Running at less than ten hours, Monkey King: Hero is Back is a game that obviously targets younger fans of the associated movie. This obviously limits the appeal here in the UK. Most players would guess that the game is a movie tie-in without even knowing about the movie. There was a lot of potential here, but sadly the game does not capitalise on it. With all of that said, the combat is enjoyable, if very simple, and will provide some entertainment for those looking to spend a few hours mindlessly fighting evil.




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