A magical monkey battles bowls of noodles.
Written by Nate Lakritz on October 6th, 2018.
Originally a Japanese arcade hit in the 90’s, Monkey King: Master of the Clouds has been ported to a number of classic consoles over the years as Cloud Master, and most recently the modern Nintendo Switch. The studio behind this newest version actually stems from the original creators and has managed to keep the original game’s spirit as alive as ever. Monkey King now features colorful, remastered pixel graphics and should provide a rush of nostalgia to those familiar with any of the previous variations. For everyone else, it offers an extremely difficult skill-based challenge that mirrors many notoriously hard games of the past.
Monkey King is a basic horizontal shooter where you must dodge enemy projectiles in a bullet hell environment. Adventuring through various areas of China, your monkey character rides on a magical cloud and must vanquish mystical Asian-inspired beings. From blasting away bowls of noodles to battling ancient beasts, there’s no shortage of interesting opponents here. However, successfully surviving for more than a couple minutes is much easier said than done.
Gameplay so simple and straightforward that you might mistake this game for a casual affair. You’ll soon realize Monkey King is no joke. The game’s difficulty ramps up in a matter of seconds and a peaceful stroll through the Chinese countryside becomes a constricted inferno of enemies in a matter of seconds. Getting stuck behind a rock, touching an enemy, or absorbing a bullet will immediately kill you. Checkpoints are the only thing keeping the game from being downright impossible. I had severely underestimated the challenge that Monkey King presents and no amount of experience beating difficult retro games will help you here. It takes a ton of repetition and dedicated memorization to excel in Monkey King, and I have yet to see anyone make it past the first stage.
Collecting every single power-up is essential for success. Not only do you have to completely clear a group of enemies to spawn a power-up in the first place, but you also must manage to retrieve it in the midst of an oncoming assault. Increasing the power of your bullet spray is your only hope in surviving a boss fight, or even reaching one in the first place. It takes several strength power-ups to see any significant effects on enemies, so missing the easy ones is a huge mistake. Killing a mini-boss will turn them into a doorway that leads to a shop. Here, you can choose from a variety of secondary attacks like bombs, vertical shots, or a shield of fire. These aren’t very useful from my experience, but everything helps in Monkey King. Just know that the shield isn’t going to make you invincible — it rotates around you and usually fails to be in the right place at the right time.
Playing co-op mode gives you another advantage, albeit small. Although more enemies will spawn with two players, they are often bunched up and hardly increase the difficulty as a result. Playing with a teammate means more friendly bullets on the screen — something that proves more valuable than anything else. Power-ups and lives must be shared between players, but you still stand a better chance in co-op mode and I can’t possibly imagine beating the game without it.
Monkey King: Master of the Clouds is built to test your patience and separate the strong from the weak. It’s one of the most difficult games in existence, but by no means impossible or unfair. The gameplay is polished and controls are tight, with great graphics and music to boot. I really enjoyed the game even though I found myself constantly dying at the hands of Asian monsters. After realizing the true difficulty of your task, it’s more about seeing how far you can progress during a run than knowing you stand a reasonable chance. You won’t be enjoying the sights and sounds of China, but rather clinging to life at all times in Monkey King: Master of the Clouds.
Graphics: The original game's graphics have been remastered into colorful and vibrant pixel art.
Sound: The Asian-inspired chiptunes are really unique. I can't think of too many games with an oriental soundtrack.
Gameplay: Dying will happen more than you'd ever want to know, but it's always very fair.
Multiplayer: Co-op mode is essential, as it's your only change at beating this game.
Fun Factor: This game won't be fun for most players, as it's meant to be an extremely difficult challenge.
Final Rating: 8/10. Monkey King: Master of the Clouds is built to test your patience and separate the strong from the weak. It’s one of the most difficult games in existence, but by no means impossible or unfair. Gameplay is polished and controls are tight, with colorful HD graphics and Asian-inspired chiptunes to boot.
You won’t be enjoying the sights and sounds of China, but rather clinging to life at all times in Monkey King: Master of the Clouds.
About The Author
Nate has been playing video games for as long as he can remember. His favorite game of all time is The Last of Us, and he loves the Star Wars universe. Nate started Launch Party as a way to contribute to the gaming industry by utilizing his passion for both writing and video games. He loves reviewing games and sharing his experiences with everyone.
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