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Review: Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (Nintendo Switch)By Flynnie At 21.05.2019 19:39

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The opening animation really sets the tone for the upcoming unfolding adventure, with its hand-drawn art style, and its optional English or Japanese music. From there on out, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom only continues to excel at what it does. Many would call this a Metroidvania due to its branching paths, power ups, and transformations that help progress to new areas on the wide sprawling map. The story starts off with the protagonist, Jin, witnessing his Uncle Nabu flying around on a barrel, transforming objects and causing crazy chaos the around Monster World. It doesn't take too long before Uncle Nabu transforms Jin into a Pig... and so sets off the 20 hour quest to solve the mysteries of Monster World.

Jin comes across Mysticat, who informs him that the world around them can be fixed by collecting the five animal orbs which should return all the chaos back to normal again. As each animal orb is collected, it can allow Jin to freely transform into a Snake, Lion, Frog, Dragon, Pig, and finally back to his human form. The developer, Game Atelier, has done a remarkable job of introducing each animal, and highlighting its strengths. For example the Snake can be used to squeeze through tight holes, Frog can be used to swim fast underwater, Lion can be used to charge fast, and the Pig ability can be used to sniff out clues, hidden areas, and also has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal.

Additionally, certain transformations can be further levelled-up by gaining new gear, such as elemental armour, swords, bracelets, and boots, all of which change or strengthen attacks. While this combination of transformation and items may sound overwhelming, it's actually executed with an initial hand-holding pace. In traditional Metroidvania fashion there are challenges and road blocks that are introduced before they can be passed, which can jolt the player into remembering what power up is needed where. Don't be lulled by the cute art style and initial ease of progression, though, this is a tough nut to crack.

Get used to dying as enemies can be relentlessly lethal, and secrets can stay well hidden at any part of the journey. Thankfully there are checkpoints dotted throughout the world, and some replenish health back to the max, while others just save progress, and towards the latter part of the journey, a teleportation rod becomes available which can make traversal back to these health rewarding checkpoints much easier. The cutesy cartoon art style is something to behold, with captivating animations and elegantly hand-drawn graphics, it perfectly sums up what a retro inspired game of the '90s should look like. Alongside the graphics is a masterful soundtrack that absolutely complements the package, from the music in the opening animation right up to the credits, it helps sets the tone for every stage, level and scene in Monster Boy and never does it set a foot wrong.

Progressing through Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom rewards players with absolutely awesome boss battles that can push experienced players to their limits, and frustrate those who are newer to the gaming landscape. There is a sense of relief and accomplishment when a boss has been defeated, which is more than can be said for a lot of platformers that have made their way to the Nintendo Switch. However there are times that a developer will admit that a task is perhaps more punishing than they had anticipated, which is why Game Atelier released patch 1.0.4, which helped remedy some of the harder sections in the latter point of the adventure, by adding a few hints as to where to go next, among some other bug fixes that halted progression altogether.

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Final Score
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is not on the budget side of the indie spectrum, but what Game Atelier and FDG Entertainment have released is far from a cheap experience. The beautifully hand drawn art style, rocking soundtrack, rewarding boss battles, excellent progression system, and thrilling adventure, offers the very best of what makes a great action-adventure platformer, and turns it into a must own for anyone interested in the genre.

9

/10

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