The journey to the West is one of the best known and most exploited stories of oriental origin for the most varied multimedia adaptations, although probably few actually know the cycle of classic novels attributed to Wú Chéng'ēn, written around the end of the sixteenth century. The fact is that the story of the monk accompanied by the monkey, the pig and the demon has practically entered the global imagination of Chinese classicism and continues to be an infallible source of inspiration for those who intend to stage something particularly exotic. When a considerable care of the product from an artistic point of view is added to this base of fascinating atmospheres, then some really interesting solutions can emerge, just like in the case of Unruly Heroes, which we examine in this one review.
In presenting the game we cannot help but notice how some of the members of the French team Magic Design Studios come from Ubisoft and have previously worked on the last chapters of the Rayman series, which is also evident at a first glance of this new title. Both as a structure and as a graphic style, the relationship with the famous series of platform 2D by Michael Ancel is clear, although Unruly Heroes still manages to maintain a notable originality in terms of style and game solutions. First of all thanks to its peculiar setting, of course, but also to the alternating use of the four protagonists who manage to vary the game action in an interesting way, in addition to the various solutions in which it is possible to find oneself during the levels. Beyond some flaws and some intrinsic limitations in the type of game, this debut by Magic Design Studios promises really well.
There was a monk, a monkey and a pig
The story broadly resumes the premises of the original text, with the four unlikely heroes sent to unknown lands to recover the pieces of a sacred parchment capable of maintaining harmony in the world. Unruly Heroes plays with the classic subject pressing his hand on the lapels humorous, in accordance with the cartoonish and colorful graphic style that characterizes the game, but the challenges that await the four are not to be taken lightly, including demons, spirits and assorted mythological creatures obviously inspired by the traditional imagery of Chinese folklore. The structure blends elements of action e puzzle on a fundamentally platform basis, while remaining anchored to the classic tradition of the 2D genre, with separate levels, secrets to discover and occasional boss fights, within very diverse environments.
Beyond the skill required in the mastery of the movements during the platform phases, a great importance is entrusted to the combat system, as well as using a little ingenuity to get to grips with the puzzles. In many cases we are faced with environmental puzzles, linked to specific peculiarities of the various settings, or we resort to the typical switches up to very particular conditions, such as the possibility of controlling beasts and enemies by exploiting their various abilities. The alternate use of four protagonists equipped with different characteristics it works well to vary the action, but to this are added the many different situations, with frequent surprise variations that recall, again, the recent chapters of Rayman and some ideas that also refer to the Oddworld series. In short, both in the moments in which it demonstrates a certain originality and in the numerous solutions that are not entirely new, excellent results are to be recorded, thanks to an assortment of ideas and particularly happy choices also in terms of sources of inspiration.
Riddles and kung fu
The abilities of the four characters are reflected in both the combat system and the solving of puzzles, thanks to the powers and different tools they can use. Wukong, the monkey, is armed with his classic extendable staff, he is fast and can double jump, the monk Sanzang can glide, take over enemies and throw balls of energy, the Kihong pig fights with a halberd and is able to flutter while the demon Sandmonk can deliver powerful punches capable of breaking down walls, as well as performing the double jump. The mastery of these different skills it becomes essential to advance in the various levels because the puzzles require their correct alternating use, with some variations in correspondence with particular statues that activate further specific powers: the lengthening of the Wukong stick to overcome obstacles, the levitation of Kihong that allows you to fly and reach inaccessible places, Sanzang's energy spheres and more.
In short, just as regards platforms and puzzles Unruly Heroes offers a lot of challenging elements, but to these are added the fights that are practically constant and in some cases even quite challenging. The different styles of the four characters always keep the action fresh, but the control system at this juncture it is probably the weak point of the game: the response to commands is not always perfect and the action, during the clashes, can become particularly chaotic and the imperfect control does not help. This can also lead to moments of frustration in clashes with the boss or in particularly complicated phases, also due to the sometimes rather punitive positioning of the rescue points. The medium difficulty level is not particularly demanding, therefore the errors that can derive from the control system are often not very perceptible but can increase those peaks of difficulty that are noticed scattered in some moments of the game.
Lo graphic style of Unruly Heroes is one of the strengths of the entire production, even if everything is still supported by an excellent study of the gameplay. In any case, packaging the game with such care is a notable plus, which allows the title to stand out in the chaos of indie productions on the market. The simple use of the 2D platform already determines a particular charm, but the developers have also shown that they know how to handle the material in question with a certain skill, enriching everything with an original character design, excellent animations and a beautiful construction and variety of scenarios. In short, from an artistic and aesthetic point of view, the work done on Unruly Heroes is masterful, an even more impressive result when you consider that it is an absolute debut for the independent team.
Also regarding the content the offer is considerable, considering that to complete the game it will be necessary (at least for a first run) from eight to ten hours and for a platform of this type they represent a good longevity, to which must be added the possible replayability of the levels for collectors of extras. The conclusion of the level is in fact evaluated based on the time used and the amount of coins and special objects found, which stimulates you to go back inside to get better results and discover the various secrets. It must be said that with such a long duration there are drops in rhythm and intensity, but these are physiological defects. The possibility of playing in two-player cooperative multiplayer is interesting but the problem is that this is not provided online, at least for the moment, which greatly limits its possibilities of use.
CommentTested version PC Windows Digital Delivery Steam, Xbox Store, Nintendo eShop Price 19,99 € Resources4Gaming.com
When an interesting subject is combined with a particularly inspired technical realization, the results can only be remarkable and Unruly Heroes exudes care and passion for a genre, that of the 2D platformer, which actually needs new proposals of a certain level, like this one. . Beautiful to look at and enjoyable to play, this reinterpretation of the journey to the West captures easily and does not give up to its conclusion, despite some minor problems with the rhythm and the control system. Truly a game that deserves great attention, as well as its debut development team.
- Aesthetically very charming and inspired
- Good mix of platform, action and puzzle elements
- Great variety between characters, levels and situations
- Some uncertainty in the control system
- A bit inconsistent pace, with peaks of difficulty