PAX South: Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom Preview

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas took me by surprise last year when it was ported to PlayStation 4. What would have easily been overlooked popped on my radar when Greg Miller from Kinda Funny gave it a shot and mentioned it having Zelda Wind Waker vibes. So I picked it up and played it for a pretty mindless action-adventure game.

So when I saw the game’s poster on a booth here at the show, I decided to swing by and check out their next game Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (UPDATE: "They" being the Publisher FDG Entertainment). Billed as a spiritual successor to the Sega series Wonder Boy from the 80s and 90s (one I am completely unfamiliar with), I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

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Gameplay-wise, Monster Boy is a 2D side-scrolling platformer. The unique twist this game puts on the genre is its monster-switching mechanic, where your character can switch from human mode to other creatures like a pig or a frog. Each creature has its pros and cons. For example, the pig can sniff out hidden secrets but can’t equip a weapon or armor. My demo level with the game reminded me of Adventures of Pip, a charming 2D scroller from 2015. Meanwhile the character art style reminded me of a Super Nintendo game I haven’t thought of in years: The Legend of the Mystical Ninja.

The story of Monster Boy opens with your character, Jin, peacefully fishing off a pier. Suddenly another character comes flying by on a barrel, waving a magic wand and transforming everything in his wake. It turns out this is Jin’s uncle and he’s on a bit of a drunken bender (the barrel he was flying around on is a cask of alcohol). Playing through the introductory level gives you a basic feel for the fairly standard side-scrolling 2D platformer mechanics of jumping around and hacking away at enemies like crabs. You collect coins from the enemies you defeat that can be used to purchase upgrades like armor or metal boots that will allow you the ability to walk on the ocean floor.

Eventually, I encountered the game’s first boss fight, a little squid that the drunk uncle turned into a giant squid. The squid would attack with its four tentacles or, at one point, by sucking me into its mouth and temporarily draining my health. But I ultimately came out victorious...only to be turned into a pig by Druncle and thrown to the sewers.

This is where the “monster” part of Monster Boy comes in. As a pig, I was still able to attack with my hoofs but I could no longer wear armor. Instead, I now had the ability to sniff out hidden switches in order to get through some light platforming puzzles in the sewers before the demo level came to a close.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom will be launching on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch later this year. I don’t anticipate it to set the world on fire but it will probably make for a nice budget diversion just as Oceanhorn did.