The 2D shooter is a slowly dying genre, though every so often, a company tries to breath new life into it. Starfish and UFO Interactive attempted to do that with The Monkey King: The Legend Begins, and failed on all fronts.
The game is a basic arcade side-scrolling shooter, and is a loose adaptation of the Chinese “Journey to the West.” In the game, Wu Kung is being trained by The Great Teacher to become a powerful God. Joining him in his training is Mei Mei. The player can use either Wu Kung or Mei Mei, but aside from their appearance, there is no difference between the two character.
Rather, both blast their way through six levels of enemies. The control itself works fine. You use the control pad to move and press 2 to fire your primary attack. You also have a power shot, accessed by pressing 1. You can switch your power shot by pressing A. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the control system. The game controls well.
The box proudly declares that the game features “Full Tilt Control!” By this, it means you can tilt the Wii remote to the left or right to affect how fast the screen scrolls. Tilt it left, the screen moves slower. To the right, it moves faster. When going slowly, you can easily avoid fire, while moving quickly, you can zoom right past all your enemies. The feature makes an already easy game even easier. It is best ignored.
That is one of the biggest problems with the game. For a 2D shooter, it is very easy. You can collect multiple powerups in the game, and at full power, the game is nothing more than sitting on the left side of the screen repeatedly hitting the 2 button. In fact, it is entirely possible to beat several of the bosses before they even have a chance to attack. When a game is this easy, it just isn’t fun.
Also worth noting are the graphics. The game features low-resolution sprites, and it is just plain ugly. There is still a place for 2D graphics in today’s ever-evolving gaming world, but The Monkey King’s graphics are bad by any standard. 2D can still look beautiful, as seen in 2009’s Muramasa: The Demon Blade, but in The Monkey King, it’s just ugly.
In addition, the game is very short. It’s possible to beat the story mode in 20 to 25 minutes, and there is no incentive to go back and play again. A multiplayer mode is present, but much like the tilt control, all it does is make an easy game even easier.
The Monkey King: The Legend Begins is not recommended. Those looking for a great 2D shooting experience should look elsewhere, as it disappoints on almost all levels.
Score: 2 out of 10