Are you a fan of 2D action platformers like Rayman Legends? Are you also a fan of the Chinese novel Journey to the West? If your answer to either one of those or both of those is yes you might be interested to know that there is a new game that mixes both of those things together. Magic Design Studio’s new game Unruly Heroes features an art style and gameplay like that which you find in the recent Rayman games (maybe not too surprising given some of the team members worked on those games) and combines it with the theme of Journey to the West. The result is actually quite good.
Unruly Heroes can be played with up to four local players with each player being able to take control of one of four characters. Wukong is a monkey, Sandmonk is a brute, Sanzang is a monk, and Kihong is a pig. Of course you can also play it single player and just switch between characters on the fly as I did. The mission these four set out to complete is to assemble “The Sacred Scroll” by finding pieces of it scattered throughout the levels. It must be done in order to ensure peace in the world. The story and characters overall were quite uninteresting actually which was a bit of a disappointment.
Each of the four characters feature their own distinct fighting style and abilities. One is better suited for long range attacks while another is better at close up combat. Two feature the ability to double jump while the other two are able to glide distances. I preferred to use the characters with the double jump ability as often as I could but you can use whichever feels the best to you. While playing through the games 29 levels you’ll find certain points where you’ll require the skills of a certain character to proceed. These points are usually marked with a statue of the character required. One part might require you to lay down Wukong’s pole across a gap in order to cross while another might require you to use Kihong’s ability to inflate himself like a balloon in order to make it through some crevices. The level design as a whole I found to be pretty good and it never really felt too samey to me.
When you’re not platforming through the levels you’ll more than likely be fighting your way through. The combat system in the game isn’t the most interesting but it gets the job done. Every character has their own moves such as basic attacks, heavy attacks, ranged attacks etc. I enjoyed just building up combos and juggling enemies when I could and you can even switch between characters while attacking to further vary things up. Enemies will display an exclamation mark above them when they are about to attack giving you a nice heads up that you should get ready to dodge.
Should you die at any point you’ll respawn as one of the other three playable characters. Dead characters will appear in a bubble that expands and once it has reached a certain point you can pop it to bring them back. Just be warned that if an enemy pops it first you’ll lose access to that dead character until you reach the next checkpoint. This mechanic did annoy me a bit and I feel like it would’ve been better if I didn’t have to wait until a certain point in order to pop the bubble. If all four of your characters die you’ll be sent back to the nearest checkpoint. Besides the normal enemies, at times you’ll encounter boss battles that will challenge you to study them in order to beat them. It’s the basic learn their attack patterns, dodge out of the way, and attack when they present an opening until they are dead but pretty much all of them were really fun. The final boss battle seemed quite a bit more difficult compared to the others though.
When you get done with the story modes 29 levels there is plenty more content that you can indulge in. For instance there is a PvP mode where up to four players can battle it out in small arenas. Unlike the story mode you can play this online with other players if you choose or just play against CPU opponents. I played a few rounds of this but since the combat system in the game wasn’t one of the strongest elements of it I don’t see myself coming back to this mode. Other things you can do is go back to each stage in the story mode in order to find collectible coins and scrolls. These allow you to buy new skins for each character and unlock other things such as concept art. Each level will also reward you with a bronze, silver, gold, or emerald medal depending on how fast you can complete it and how many times you die while doing so. It’s a nice additional incentive for the speedrunners out there.
Now it wasn’t just the gameplay that I mentioned reminded me of Rayman Legends but the visuals as well. I mean there is no way you don’t look at these screens and not get reminded of how their beauty matches that of the recent Rayman titles. It just features outstanding art design in all of the levels and the animation work on the characters is just so good. That said I did notice a little bit of unresponsiveness in the animations which led to the feeling of input lag at times while I was playing. It caused me to die at a few tricky parts in the game several times which is a little unfortunate. Music and sound effects were OK and the voice acting was really forgettable. It seemed like the voice actors really didn’t have much interest in this and even the attempts at humor failed to get me to laugh. The game has 27 trophies on PS4 including a Platinum trophy. It won’t be easy as you’ll have to finish all the levels at emerald rank for some trophies. Most of the others involve beating levels in certain ways.
While the story in Unruly Heroes is pretty forgettable the solid platforming, creative level design, and downright gorgeous visuals are worth the price of admission on this one. It won’t wow you with its combat system but the rest of the package just might. This should be on the to-play list for anyone who enjoys platformers.
*Unruly Heroes is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.