Yes, I know kung fu as I smashed 9 Monkeys of Shaolin in one sitting. Is it easy? Yes, but it was so much fun that I couldn’t put it down – even after finishing the story.
A tale of revenge, this side-scrolling beat ’em up features Wei Cheng, a local fisherman who aims to teach some pirates in the olden days how not to mess with his village, slapping them in the face with his rod. No, it’s not that kind of game, but there is a Wang in it.
From Sobaka Studio and Buka Entertainment, these are the duo behind Redeemer – you can read the verdict from today’s sponsor, me, from the review link here. 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is an extension of that bone-crunching close quarter combat, taking everything that worked about its predecessor and making it better.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin PS4 Review
Beat ’em ups haven’t evolved so much over the years. They’re like one-on-one games like Mortal Kombat and UFC 3, or they’re side-scrollers like Streets of Rage 4 and Mother Russia Bleeds. Though it’s relatively easy to pigeonhole a title into one of the two, it’s a safe bet and the type of people picking these games know what to expect and perhaps seek them out.
When it comes to side-scrolling and satisfying combat, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin hits on all cylinders. It’s not a complete arcade build of flashing corpses, freshly cooked chicken or arrows advising you to go, but there’s a mix of button bashing and strategy thrown into the mix. There’s also a variety of teas; green, red, yellow (ewww!) and white.
First of all, there’s only one character to choose, though you can unlock a variety of skins such as your peers, bosses and a cameo from Vasily from Redeemer. Note that this is the skin only so the move sets are the same, and voiceovers and character names will only reference Wei.
Wei is a simple fisherman who wants justice, and early on he befriends some monks who teach him the ways of Shaolin and gradually he’s accepted as one of their brothers. Cue plenty of electrifying kung fu moves using a weapon – the staff, plus some kicks for good measure.
Make Me One With Everything
How 9 Monkeys of Shaolin differs from most side-scrollers is the RPG elements and levelling up of skills. This is similar to Redeemer, only you’re more likely to use all the variants on offer.
With the basic stance, you have three forms of attack. Square is a kick that is effective again lightly armoured enemies, and later on, perfect for closing space between an assailant. Triangle is your slash attack which arguably is the most balanced move that causes the rawest damage. The third is circle, which will poke at enemies, giving a little extra reach and cancelling out their attack.
Other than cross for dodging (or with the right equipment, dashing through an enemy with temporary invincibility) these are the basics for building up your Qi, and naturally, defeating your enemy.
Qi is your spirit, but in gaming terms, it’s a charge attack from holding the attack buttons for longer. There are also R2, and L2 modifiers for the magic elements and crowd control moves, but the most satisfying move is often the parry which defends against attacks and deflects projectiles sending them back towards the enemies who are slightly out of reach.
What makes 9 Monkeys of Shaolin so good is that combat is fluid, enjoyable and responsive. Aside from moments of getting rushed by enemies using charge attack, you feel like a martial arts master and almost in god mode with your deflections, somersault kicks and Qi prowess.
You can’t expect to mash buttons though as that won’t get you anywhere. There’s no stamina to worry about, but you need to keep Qi up to defeat more formidable enemies. At first, I concentrated on levelling up my slashing technique (weeeee!) the poke, then the tornado move, thinking the kick and magic were pointless. Coincidentally, it was the kick that won me the game along with the magic.
Each time you win a stage, you win points to invest in your abilities. Those who like a grind will be pleased to know you can repeat levels to steadily level up, making some later levels a bit of a doddle. Couple these upgrades with a host of improved weapons and accessories that boost your skills, and you’re ready to shave your head and adopt a new name.
You Are Wise Grasshopper
As a side-scroller, you’ll be pleased to know that you can play 9 Monkeys of Shaolin in co-op too, which gives you plenty of chances should you die as you can revive one another. The second player can’t choose their gear, but they can pick from one of the skins you unlock from secrets scattered around, as well as a few others like your fellow monks in disguise.
My three year old helped me out on a level where you have to rescue prisoners. Ironically, this was the only level that had multiple floors rather than a side-scroller. The camera follows the leading player and will not teleport/respawn the other. In summary, I kept losing track of her as she would inadvertently walk into prison cells, and as I went back to look for her, couldn’t be found. It was a lot of fun. There’s a friendly fire option too, but who voluntarily picks that?!
Speaking of walking into cells, but specifically behind walls, there was one level where you fight a ghost that was quite glitchy. I seldom experience this sort of thing but had to restart the level three times. The first time I got stuck in mid-air between a chasm, the second the screen went grey, but I could still move, and the third was a battle off-screen. Surprisingly, it didn’t ruin the game, but it was pretty irritating to have it three times in a row.
Finally, there’s a hardcore mode which I’m working my way through now. Except for the very last battle and some falling off edges, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin isn’t a hard game as I was able to unlock all the trophies except for completing in hardcore mode and another where you can’t take any damage through a level. One of them was to finish every level without dying, which weirdly, I did in normal mode without breaking a sweat. Me.
- Excellent combat and very responsive.
- A skill tree of 9 tiers based on play preference.
- Co-op mode is pretty fun.
- Only one character to choose from.
- AI can be a little ruthless when being mobbed.
- A few graphical glitches (though didn't spoil the experience).