Unruly Heroes tells the story of the Monkey King with style and fun
Unconventional retelling of the tale that inspired Dragon Ball has a Zenyatta-like monk and a pig that floats like Harry Potter's Aunt Marge
A monk leads a god-slaying Monkey King, a lewd pig and a man-eating sand demon on a journey of redemption.
That is the story of China’s classic fantasy novel Journey to the West. It’s also the blueprint for Magic Design Studios’ new 2D platformer Unruly Heroes.
The game pulls off a refreshing, yet loyal, rendition of the classic. It’s an impressive feat since Journey to the West has inspired so many video games, anime and Netflix shows. (Did you know that Dragon Ball is also based on Journey to the West? There’s a reason Goku has a tail.)
But even if you don’t know the story, Unruly Heroes is still a very fun game to play, with plenty of things to find. It’s not particularly hard, and it has a little something for everybody.
It works as a co-op adventure, but it’s enjoyable if you just go solo. In the game, you get to play all four of the major characters from the book and you can switch between them at any time. Different characters also come with different skills, which help you get through various roadblocks.
For instance, while the Monkey King can jump higher, the monk can glide. Their abilities are triggered by statues of these characters scattered throughout the levels. For example, with the help of a statue, Ki Hong the pig can transform into a hot air balloon as if he’s Aunt Marge from Harry Potter.
Combat is simple but fun. There’s a melee attack, a long-range attack and a super move when a character’s mana bar is all charged up.
But obviously the game will mean a lot more if you are familiar with its source material. To me, Unruly Heroes is particularly impressive because it manages to tell a well-known story with just the right of amount of artistic liberty.
For instance, the game’s version of Sanzang the monk becomes more of a Zenyatta-esque, orb-floating spellcaster. Better yet, rather than looking like a wise, dispassionate monk, Sanzang constantly wears this crybaby look on his face. This is a nice little subversion to the canonical Sanzang, who is an astute leader of the group.
The level design is also impressive and the background art is beautiful. There’s only a few bits of the UI I’d nitpick, but they don’t affect the overall experience at all. The game just feels very polished.
In fact, the game already felt very polished half a year ago when I first tried the game at ChinaJoy. So when I finally got to play the final version, I wasn’t surprised that it matched my expectations.
Apart from the adventure mode, there’s also a player-vs-player battle mode. It's very much like Super Smash Bros, but with just four characters and six stages. You can play both online and offline -- although we weren’t able to match with anybody online during our stream.
Overall, Unruly Heroes is a fun game that is worth checking out. It was also clearly made with an international audience in mind, because all of the dialogue is in English instead of Chinese. (That might be because the developer, Magic Design Studios, is French -- although its parent company is Perfect World, which is from China.)
If you want to know more about Unruly Heroes, check out our full stream here!