I’ve been on a real kick lately, and hoo boy, watch out when I go on a kick! The latest kick is, as usual, something familiar that’s come back to the forefront, and it has to do with my enduring love for Metroidvania—or, if you’re nasty like my dude metalheadmike, Rygarmania—games. After playing through the excellent Momodora recently, I finally got a chance to dig into Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on Switch, and buddy, it slaps.
Clocking in at around 15 hours or so, Monster Boy serves up exactly what I want out of the genre. It has a pretty large map but there isn’t any wasted space. There’s just the right amount of fanfare whenever you pick up an important item. The sense of progression comes through clearly without the need for experience points or leveling up of any kind. The bosses tend to be pushovers for the most part, but their gimmicks are clever and the journey in between is fraught with legit platforming and enemy combat-related perils.
In other words, it’s the perfect side-scrolling stew. If the visuals are a full dessert platter, the fact that the soundtrack is excellent—featuring contributions from industry masters like Yuzo Koshiro, Motoi Sakuraba, Michiru Yamane, and many more—is very much the icing on the cake.
Just listen to this!
And this banger, which you’ll hear on loop a lot in The Lost Temples:
Throughout the adventure, you gradually acquire five forms on top of being a regular ol’ human—Pig, Snake, Frog, Lion, and Dragon—which is a mechanic the developers never forget to incorporate. This could have easily been a one-and-done device limited to the stages in which you acquire each form, but they all play a major role from beginning to end. I actually got a little overwhelmed thinking about how tough it is to pull off legitimately thoughtful level design while playing this. They all work together so perfectly that it’s clear the team spent a ton of time plotting out the progression of each individual stage.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a must-play game I’d recommend to pretty much anyone who likes colorful visuals, top-notch level design, and the level of personal TV game accomplishment that can only be accessed when someone actually does the genre justice.