Unruly Heroes Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
Inspired by the Chinese novel 'Journey to the West', Unruly Heroes is the next exciting addition to the platform genre. French company Magic Design Studio's efforts are rewarded with a game both addictive and visually satisfying.
Unruly Heroes features four characters: Sanzang - the wise monk, Wukong - the fearless monkey, Kihong - the greedy pig and Sandmonk - the sensitive brute. Uniting these heroes, players must venture through levels within worlds to assemble pieces of 'The Sacred Scroll'. Without this scroll to harmonise the world, chaos ensues, with dark and strange creatures left to roam free.
With a progressive difficulty curve, this action-adventure will see you fight through challenges and a diverse assortment of enemies. I immersed myself in single player, which having the function of switching between the four characters in an instant makes it perfectly compatible with going solo. Each of the heroes, as opposed and implausible as they are, have their own specialities. My favourite was Kihong; what better way of traversing the heights than inflating yourself like a balloon and navigating (in what is essentially a pig parade balloon) through narrow corridors and crevices. I imagine Unruly Heroes is even more enjoyable in multiplayer. With each character having a unique talent, story mode encourages more of a teamwork dynamic.
Beyond the story, there is player vs player mode where you can fight in various terrain against other players or CPU, similar to a Smash Bros format. Admittedly, I did not try this out with other players but against 3 CPU enemies, it felt very chaotic which I suspect may be due to the games disappointing combat system. With character health bars, it is almost enticing to button bash your way through but on such small maps and mostly close combat moves for the characters, there is very little control and skill to input.
With use of the Unity engine combined with the Chinese folklore theme, Unruly Heroes delivers a vibrant and smooth terrain with fluid animation in both background and foreground. Part of the Magic Design Studios team had previously worked with Ubisoft on Rayman Legends, and it shows; if I am putting it simply, this platform feels very much like a Kung-Fu Panda meets Rayman Legends. After playing through, it is hard to imagine the game without its drawn art style, given how well it carries in each of the level's landscapes and characters.
Unruly Heroes doesn't take itself as seriously as the novel it is based on, presenting itself more as a lighthearted adventure with humour. The dialogue was often witty and even sarcastic at times. In all 29 levels, the obstacles are made up of progressively difficult puzzles as well as a multitude of enemies but the path forward is always clear, built on the classic left to right structure. I did find myself growing tired of some of the combination of obstacles being thrown my way, certain challenges offer very little in the way of a reaction window and although lives are practically infinite, it is definitely a test of one's patience.
Boss battles feature throughout, with some becoming playable in the form of an extra skill - some levels do require the abilities of said bosses in order to progress through. Whilst each level's difficulty is optional, ranging from easy, normal and hard, each does carry it's own reward respective of how courageous you're feeling. I was actually impressed with the amount of replay value. Given just 29 levels, I did expect it to be over fairly swiftly but each level not only carries a hidden secret scroll, but rewards a bronze, silver, gold or emerald medal depending on how successfully you completed the level. Based on time to complete combined with number of deaths, this calculates your medal score. Top marks pretty much warrants a perfect run; no deaths and within the suggested time limit. It's tricky - very tricky indeed, I found myself frustrated a number of times as often my attempt at speed found me jeopardising my accuracy of basic platforming.
Unruly heroes will likely get on your nerves but its difficulty is matched with wit and humour that deserves to be seen by a bigger audience. As the platform genre goes, this exuberant adventure piece is a worthy successor to Rayman Legends.