Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

released on Dec 04, 2018

A legendary game series returns with an all-new adventure! Monster Boy is a colourful side-scrolling action adventure created in cooperation with Ryuichi Nishizawa, the creator of the Wonder Boy Monster World series (Trademark of SEGA Corporation Japan).

Monster Boy is being created to bring back the enjoyment of classic games that shine by simplicity. Pure, exciting gameplay; upbeat music and smooth graphics. You'll need to overcome huge bosses, find hidden passages, discover powerful equipment and use all your wits and skills to remove a powerful curse. Monster Boy can transform into 5 different creatures, each with their own skills and abilities. Take advantage of all the unique powers to open new paths and advance in an epic story. Monster Boy is a love letter to gaming from the 80's and 90's - will you join us and celebrate together with us?

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Uma aula em nostalgia.
Como um sucessor espiritual da série Wonder Boy, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom entende o que torna a série tão encantadora e entrega um jogo de plataforma divertido e interessante, com seus próprios toques de modernidade e personalidade.

gorgeous aesthetics, wonderful music, and a very fun platformer! the exploratory stuff is very well implemented and it’s super fun playing around with the new animal forms as you’re given them
The last leg of this starts throwing out all these weird obtuse gimmicks that definitely soured my experience near the end, but the game overall was still a really fun time.

Old school with a new school radial menu clunk.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is great old school stuff. A spiritual successor to Wonder Boy, it delivers in full. But it isn't just a homage to a previous time, it's full blown well designed. There is a ton to do and find. It opens up smoothly with new wrinkles all the time. It's a great balance of tight platforming and puzzles and challenges. There's a ton of difficulty here that is all fair. You actually earn everything you get while you explore. Everything from the platforming to the bosses are inventive and diverse. You can easily break the 20 hour mark in a playthrough. It is a complete game experience. That experience is just lacking some quality of life.
And when I say quality of life I mean it just isn't a fun interface. I'm not complaining about the challenges. Again, they're all fair and fun. It's just those fun experiences are not a fun experience to play with a lot of the time. The radial menus, menus, and radial menus within menus are just unforgivably awful. You change monster types, magic spells, weapons, armor, shields, bracelets, and boots "on the fly" VERY regularly in this game. They all are implemented on radial menus or radial menus within the pause menu. And none of them are conducive to a d-pad. Remember, we're talking old school here. This game feels better on a d-pad. But. The radial menus do not play nice with the d-pad since most of the time they contain more than 4 but less than 8 items. So you switch to thumbstick. And a lot of the gameplay charm is lost. These radial menus feel like a very late addition to the game to avoid an inventory menu (that is sitting there unused on the last page of the pause menu). This one design failure made the entire experience clunky. To further compound the issue, only monster type and spells are hotkey (R2/L2 for the former, R1/L1 for the latter) accessible. The rest are in the pause menu. This is wasting buttons and time. At the very least weapons should've had a hotkey too. And then monster or spell change isn't available in the pause menu. It's all very clunky and you will be hitting the wrong menus a lot.
I also am personally not a huge fan of the art direction. The cutscenes and charater/enemy sprites are great. But I found the background and environments lacking the same detail and care. It felt like two different art styles. But I still appreciate the approach over just making it look retro or something. So that's a nitpick at best.
Ultimately I had enough fun and appreciated the old school challenge. Whether it was spite or desire, I 100%'d the game. Though I did have to resort to the internet to find a few of the switches for the whole "corked well" puzzle. Then check again for the switch directions even though I noticed the correct clue and swear I tried it both ways. And finally I did miss "buy something from Zeke" and had to look that up because 20+ plus hours later I forgot there was a shop in the very first door of the game. But I still think I earned that fake digital "platinum trophy". I just wish the game had a better menu solution than the split radial menus and pause menu radial menus. It was so painfully obtuse and ruined the flow. Felt very out of place.
As annoyed with it as I got, I think over time as I get further away from my frustrations, I'll appreciate this game more with rose-tinted glasses. It was a well made classic-feel game with classic challenges and tight controls. Made me feel young again! ...And also so very very old. Radial menus man...

The first real Wonderboy sequel in a quarter century is up there with the best metroidvanias, despite some small quirks, and really plays like the version of Wonderboy 3 that lives in our rose-tinted memory.
It positions itself as a proper reimagining of Wonderboy 3: The Dragon's Trap, presenting a good modernized version of the same gameplay elements, only far more accessible. Unlike the 2017 makeover of the same game by specialists DotEmu, which was weighed down by the fact of being an audiovisually refreshed 1:1 port of the 1989 Master System game, with all the connected issues tied to ancient game design, Monster Boy is a brand new game and knows what to keep and what to change.
What it keeps are the multiple animal forms, now visually remixed and greatly expanded: while the lion remains, with the added ability to dash in all directions, the ceiling-walking mouseman is now a venom-spitting snake that can cling to mossy surfaces and squeeze through narrow gaps; the pirana man is now a frog, whose tongue can be used to swing like a rope, interact with valves and switches and, hilariously, become confused if trying to use it on a toad; the flying birdman is now a fire-spewing dragon which also includes the dragon form from WB3, freeing up one slot for the pig, able to use magic and tools, as well as sniffing out invisible secrets.
What the game chooses to change are the many annoyances that made WB3 a bit of a mess to play: gone is the frustrating grind for random coin and health drops, gone are the endless treks back to the shapeshifting room (replaced with a glorious on-the-fly system which massively increases the depth of the level design), gone is the confusing world layout, now conveniently managed via an easily readable map with fast travel points. About 2/3 through you will also unlock the ability to warp from almost anywhere, which greatly facilitates the copious amount of backtracking.
Combat is fairly simple as per series tradition, though there is a surprising amount of depth to it thanks to the requirement to swap forms, especially during boss fights. Sometimes this ends up feeling finicky, especially when you are required to switch to snake form in midair to stick to a mossy wall, which might require a few tries too many before succeeding. Not all bosses are created equal either, with some being much more inspired than others.
The developers wisely decided to retain the look and feel of the absolutely gorgeous 2017 game, and they succeed for the most part, though something is lost in translation here: there is something about the hand-painted look of that game that these sprites and backgrounds can't quite replicate, beautifully drawn and animated though they are.
Similarly the soundtrack, which is also based beat by beat on the outstanding remixes from the 2017 game, comes off as a bit less inspired, sometimes even a bit tone deaf, like in the case of the boss fight theme, which is anything but threatening. It does feature a great electric organ theme for the haunted mansion that could easy pass for something out of Michiru Yamane's Castlevania music portfolio.
At 20+ hours of play time it's also a huge game, definitely a step up in content from the rest of the series. There are dozens of secrets to find and plenty of equipment to choose from, with set bonuses and all..
There is a lot here, this is far from a bare minimum effort sequel, in fact it's a clear labour of passion that goes above and beyond the call of duty for such a project. Refer to the 2021 Monster World 4 remake for an example of how wrong this could have gone, and, luckily for us, didn't.

Monster Boy fez um ótimo trabalho ao pegar mecânicas de Wonder Boy de diferentes transformações e transformá-lo em um Metroidvania muito bem incorporado. É um daqueles jogos em que tudo se encaixa para criar uma ótima experiência.
Teve algumas partes que foram um pouco frustrantes, no geral é um jogo agradável, um metroidvania divertido, repleto de segredos, boa jogabilidade e um visual maravilhoso. Eu recomendaria para qualquer um que goste de plataformas/metroidvanias.

+ Stunning artwork and animations make exploring the world a joy.
+ Great pacing and sense of exploration without overstaying its welcome or relying on backtracking.
- Some frustrating spikes in difficulty.
- Occasional cases where it's not obvious what the game is asking of the player.