Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting
Title: 9 Monkeys of Shaolin
Platform: Linux, MAC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4 and Xbox One
Developer: Sobaka Studio
Release date: Out Now
tl;dr: Weapon based combat in China
Price: £25 / $30
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9 Monkeys of Shaolin is set in 1572 and tells the story of Chinese fisherman Wei Cheng’s parents died at the hands of the Wokou clan when he was only a child. After being taken in by his grandfather, Chen embarks on a mission that will take him across Medieval China to avenge the death of his friends and family.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a side-scrolling beat’em up where you go from point A to point B and beat up everyone in your way with bosses every so often popping up. To defend yourself, this game offers surprisingly deep combat. While most beat ’em up has two attacks, the protagonist here has three: a jump kick, a standard attack and a strong attack; all of which can be combined to create a wide array of diverse combos. There’s also a dodge button which sorts of acts as a jump function.
Our hero also carries a staff instead of using his fists. It allows for a longer range of attacks avoiding combat that feels too close for comfort. Another interesting mechanic, certain levels will reward players with new weapons and gear. Each staff, footwear and beads will give the protagonist various buffs such as a lance which will poison your enemies or footwear will slightly increase your speed.
As you complete levels, you’ll also be rewarded with XP points that you can use to upgrade the character. The upgrades are surprisingly deep upgrade skill trees. You can upgrade the impact of your special attacks (more on that below), take less damage, increase damage output when health under 30%; just to name a few. It gives players a lot of freedom when it comes to upgrading the protagonist which can encourage additional replays while focusing on other branches of the deep skill trees.
Along with the traditional attacks, Chen can also use a magic called Qi. Under the health bar, there are three smaller bars that act as you Qi meters. Using combinations of a trigger button with a face button, you’ll pull off a stronger attack. The Qi meter fills up as you take to beat up enemies. The small issue here is that some enemies can only beat with those special attacks meaning you’ll be pounded by cronies as you fill up your Qi meters over and over so you can kill the main enemies.
The game also features usable items. Ideally, you’ll have to destroy every crate you find as you’ll be able to find specific teas that can either refill your health, give you an attack boost or sustain an unlimited Qi meter for a few seconds. Each tea will be assigned to a d-pad arrow. Note that teas don’t carry over to the next level.
While I enjoyed my time with this game, it’s not perfect. The lack of a lock-on mechanic can make combat a bit random and messy as if you’re trying to take out the biggest guy of a group, you’ll end up beating up the others instead. Additionally, typical beat ’em ups will be typically linear; but after every level, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin will bringing you back to a hub where you need to talk to a specific character and choose the next level. You have to be careful as two of those will give you missions and if you don’t pay attention, you’ll end up in a previously done level.
The game looks great overall; despite the overall visual of the game featuring a brown-ish palette. Some levels are either a bit more colourful or take place at night. The latter levels can make it a bit harder to see the action so staying at the forefront of the screen will avoid unnecessary deaths. The soundtrack has an obvious China sound inspired score, but it’s pretty forgettable.
If you’re a fan of the genre, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a must-play. From its deep combat, vast upgradeable skill tree, players are sure to keep coming back. Obviously, as with any beat’em up, the replay value is pretty thin and the lack of lock-on feature can be a bit deterrent, but it won’t stop players from enjoying the ride.
- Surprisingly deep and enjoyable combat
- Deep upgrade system
- Lack of lock-on feature
- No linear progression
- No proper jump button
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is rated T for Teen and PEGI12 due to the presence of fantasy violence and language.
This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by the publisher