The Wonder Boy series creator, Ryuichi Nishizawa, returns for an all new heavily inspired 2D platformer title, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. Co-developed by France based Game Atelier and Germany based publisher FDG Entertainment, the gameplay is largely the same and bears a striking similarity to Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. Two demo levels were available to play allowing you to play as Monster Boy or as a transformed anthropomorphic creature. I played through the latter. You can hit the jump to read on, check out the image gallery and hit up links for the trailer.
The game centers around Jin who in the game becomes cursed, stuck in animal form, and in the case of the second level, cursed as an anthropomorphic frog. The frog form bears the same attacks as the human form with the added ability to use its tongue for maneuverability, to face off against enemies or to transport items. For example there are tiki-wearing enemies that throw bombs that can be used to wretch right back at them or to destroy blocks that open up new areas. Context sensitive areas show grapple points that let you scale levels by slingshotting you to greater heights or to swing across gaps. The tongue will automatically target certain points without requiring the player to manually aim making it easier to focus on platforming and combat. Certain puzzles require the frog formation to make use of items in the world, either bombs thrown by enemies or springboards to be placed elsewhere making for a greater dynamic of puzzle solving. One other piece of equipment is the element that allows for ice blocks to form when striking a waterfall that allows you to ascend it.
The demo allowed to switch between animal forms at any time, however puzzles in the demo didn’t call for anything other than the frog to take action. A pig form, similar to the shopkeepers from The Dragon’s Trap, provided basic movement and oinks as the pig uselessly punches it’s stubby arms around. The former demo level allowed you to play as Jin in his normal human form however I did not personally play the level at E3. The demo also featured hidden shops that can be found to purchase new gear and items. But since I was already given special abilities provided by gear and the items were a little too expensive to try others on, swapping items did not serve much of a purpose in the demo.
The Wonder Boy brand is prevalent in the game despite not being called a direct sequel to any of the games in the series. You do get to see returning characters such as Pepelogoo from Monster World IV who comes in to give hints to the player. The game also features music remixes from The Dragon’s Trap along with some new tunes made by notable game composers such as Yuzo Koshiro and several others. The hand drawn animation look similar to games with a lot of animation which extends to the FMV sequences that are in the game as well. Unlike some modern games that make the most use of skeletal animation to give a smoothness to the art, characters give a wide range of emotions and animate with a high amount of frames and detail for each animal form and for Jin himself. Character art wise animation plays similar to old game titles such as Mega Man 8 which is a more welcome return to form compared to animation techniques seen in games like Rayman Legends which do see a limited use in this game, but the high frames of animation fit the style of the game very well and the game promises to carry this point through the entire game. Environments make use of flat 2D art with layers of parallax scrolling and shifting gameplay between the different layers. Waving grasslands and waterfalls give a great sense of exploring ancient ruins, caves and towns that you will be visiting. Lighting and particle effects are made to great use to simulate water, torches and light shafts that compliments the animation style very well. It’s an attention to detail I have not seen in many other modern platformers.
The game has seen plenty of changes after it’s initial backing on Kickstarter as Game Atelier initially purposed the game as a sequel to their 2010 PlayStation Mini title Flying Hamster. Now with ties to the Wonder Boy franchise, this game is slated for release in summer of this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. SEGA will assist in publishing physical editions alongside the digital versions for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 in North America.