Taking obvious inspiration from influential platformers like Rayman Legends and the classic Donkey Kong games, one could be easily forgiven for assuming that Unruly Heroes is just your standard run-of-the-mill platformers. But scratch the surface and you’ll quickly find a truly unique and narratively interesting platformer unlike any others. With its plot deeply routed in Chinese mythology, how can Unruly Heroes be anything but magical and interesting?
Unruly Heroes could be considered a modern retelling of the widely renowned ‘Journey to the West’ novel published during the Ming Dynasty in China. It tells the tale of a Monk who travels west with his three disciples to obtain sacred text and provide atonement for the sins of their past – as is to be expected, along the way they encounter a wide variety of demons and mythical beings who hinder and help their progress.
Similarly, Unruly Heroes opens with a beautifully animated cutscene in which you’re told that the ‘sacred texts of order’ have been destroyed and scattered across the world, and it is up to four unlikely heroes to recover the texts and save the world. As with ‘Journey to the West’, Unruly Heroes follows Tripitaka the Monk, Wukong the Monkey King, Kihong or Pigsy, and Sandmonk as they navigate across the different worlds and environments, battling fearsome monsters as they go.
As stories go, basing your game off of a story that is so ingrained into society isn’t a bad place to start. But, Unruly Heroes doesn’t just retell the story – it refines it, making it more interactive and easier to understand for modern audiences. Not to mention it cuts the story down from 100 chapters to 29 polished levels which advance the story and show off each character’s unique abilities.
On the whole, I do like how each character varies from each other. Wukong has more of a free playstyle, swiftly bouncing around the place taking out enemies in his stride. Whereas Tripitaka takes a more slow approach, using his magic to take down enemies with precision. Or, Pigsy who use his size to stomp on enemies and crush them with his strength. The one character I’m not too sure about is Sandmonk. In terms of his playstyle, he is very much the tank of the group – he can use his strength to break down walls or destroy obstacles, but in terms of mobility, he is given the same free reign as Wukong which feels nice to play, but I don’t believe really fits his character – should a hulking behemoth of a man really be able to jump around with the same finesse as a literal monkey? I’m not sure.
But that’s just my personal view, in terms of actual gameplay, each character is a joy to play and uses their unique skills to solve different puzzles. Pigsy has the ability to inflate and float to unreachable areas, Wukong can extend his staff to protect from incoming projectiles or create bridges. The only caveat is that they have to be near their respective idol – usually indicating that a puzzle is incoming. Unusually, the best comparison I can make for the puzzle aspect of the game is to the Trine series. Both have you controlling multiple characters to solve puzzles using their unique abilities. I would say that Trine has perhaps refined its puzzles, whereas Unruly’s feel a little on the easy side.
From its story to its art style, to its soundtrack, Unruly Heroes is seeped in Chinese mythology and culture. The seemingly hand-drawn art style of each level and the attention to detail on each character is breathtaking and is truly impressive – For one of its first games, Magic Design has truly outdone themselves and it’s hard not to look forward to whatever they have coming next.
If you’re looking for a solid and refined platformer which a unique and brilliantly told story, you’ll be hard pressed to find something better than Unruly Heroes. It has its small quirks, but it’s ultimately a pretty satisfying experience.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*