Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom review | Accursed

A platformer that puts the wonder back in Wonder Boy. Our review of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom…


Some spiritual successors are more spiritual than others. Sometimes you get games that go for the same vibe as their classic predecessor, but otherwise have no involvement from their original creators (Freedom Planet and Sonic, for example). Then you get games like Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, a ‘spiritual successor’ to Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap that has the involvement of original developer, Ryuichi Nishizawa. Monster Boy’s brilliance makes it blindingly obvious that the name change is down to legal issues, and not because it doesn’t measure up to Wonder Boy’s glowing legacy.

Much like The Dragon’s Trap, Monster Boy’s conceit is the ability to transform between five creatures, such as a pig who can use his weight to his advantage, or a frog that can use his tongue to grab and carry pieces of the environment.
To save the kingdom (which has, shockingly, been cursed), using the forms’ abilities to traverse a huge, open-ended 2D world, find better loot, and solve puzzles is essential.

And what an incredible world it is, too. It eschews the (also stunning) watercolour style of 2017’s Dragon’s Trap remake, and instead embraces a clean and vibrant Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic. Whether it depicts the heart of a volcano or takes players high above the clouds, every screen is gorgeous and lovingly animated, making Monster Boy easily one of the most pleasant-looking games in the Metroidvania genre since Hollow Knight.

There’s a decent balance between progression and challenge at first, with the game handing out new abilities and items to constantly push you forward just a little more. It encourages revisiting areas you’ve already blasted through, as each new skill or form can change your relationship to the environment; that wall you ignored before can now be barged through with your new lion form, or an undiscovered branch of the map can be uncovered with the dragon’s flying abilities.

But then, about two-thirds in, things become a lot slower. The challenge suddenly becomes more focused on avoiding instant-kill sections, precise jumps and a ludicrous number of enemies, rather than playing with the forms and tools picked up. A specific example of this is the fire section, which lasts what feels like decades and consists of the same obstacles ad nauseam. It never devolves into making you want to quit, but it can push even the most ardent Wonder Boy fan’s patience to the limit.

Mainly, though, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is essential – not just for Wonder Boy fans, but for anyone who enjoys Metroidvanias or platformers. Colourful and creative, even the iffy pace past the halfway point shouldn’t be enough to put you off. Also, if you’re not singing along with the theme tune by the end, then you officially have no soul.


The music is delightful, bringing back memories of the original Wonder Boy series without straight-up remaking those older tunes. Special mention goes to the theme, a corny but heartfelt song about adventure and saving the world, which is possibly the catchiest video game song in recent memory.


The pacing sometimes lets down an otherwise clever, expansive, and vivid renewal of a classic and beloved series.


Genre: Platformer
Format: Switch (tested) / PS4 / XBO / PC
Developer: Game Atelier, FDG Entertainment
Publisher: FDG Entertainment
Price: £34.99
Release: Out now

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