I almost forgot about Crown of Wu until the review code reached my inbox just before the release date. Alas, that may have been an omen, and based on my time spent with the game, I think that this will soon be forgotten the moment I click ‘publish’.
Oh dear, not a good start for Red Mountain Studio and Meridiem Games’ third-person adventure, but I genuinely could not get one with it. Nevertheless, I’ll aim to give a fair critique as to why this game won’t get an invite to the Christmas party. Is it bad? Of course not – it’s a review – it’s subjective. So, what would you like to know?
Fans of Dragonball Z would love to believe that it was an original story, but I’m afraid Goku is based on the infamous Monkey King, Sun Wukong and the story Journey to the West (see Sun Wukong vs Robot). Crown of Wu goes back to its roots as you have to help him escape his imprisonment and defrag his brain into remembering who he is, what his powers are, and where he left the remote.
Crown Of Wu PS5 Review
In a nutshell, the crown of the title has been stolen, and you have to retrieve that. That’s not a simple drive up to the local storage place and picking it out of a dusty box, but to traverse a world of floating platforms, fighting dodgy characters, recovering memories, and defeating Zhu. These days, third-person adventures resort to Souls-like mechanics, but Crown of Wu is more of a platformer with arcade-type combat.
You start with only your trusty rod (fnar fnar) and stumble through the environment unlocking your elemental powers. The first ten minutes are effectively a tutorial, with a mixture of garbled audio and pop-up text and the occasional cutscene. By the way, the latter showed promise with some very cool artwork but said scenes were incredibly slow and didn’t really offer anything in the way of engagement.
While Crown of Wu tells you the buttons, it never feels natural. Modifying buttons are used for activating your powers, and though combat is essentially a button-masher, thus taking away the need to remember any combos, having to hold an analogue button to sprint, double-tapping jump to land of a disappearing platform, then doing the same again and then pressing a shoulder button to hold onto a vine was a bit too much. The Monkey King, despite being agile, is not Nathan Drake.
Monkey See, Monkey Fall
As you can imagine, you’re going to be fighting quite a bit in the game. Indoctrinated in the way of the Souls-like, I found the combat confusing because of how simple it is. It’ll go like this: lock on to an enemy and bash the square button, press circle to dodge, stay out of range while your stamina recovers, then rinse and repeat. Oh yes, then fall off a ledge while evading and restarting the battle. Drat!
This was the fall of the monkey as the number of times this happened (user error!) was too much, to the point I didn’t enjoy the game, and it became a chore. It was more so to do with the unforgiving platforming and your hero’s inability to jump far. Even when you do, a platform will disappear, or you (me) will forget to hold R1 to hold onto a vine and then repeat the process again.
Crown of Wu is arguably an indie game, and in terms of ambition and presentation, it’s very good, though I wasn’t a fan of the sound production – notably the garbled voices for dialogue and the sometimes indifferent score. As for ambition, that comes from fusing three core elements: platforming, puzzles, and combat. Platforming was too erratic for my tastes, and the puzzles were pretty damn good, but the combat was uninspired.
Make no mistake about it, Crown of Wu wasn’t a game that resonated with me, despite having an interest in the source material and this type of game. However, the three core elements of the game didn’t gel, and as a result, it won’t be a game I’ll be returning to. Regardless, do check out other reviews, as they’ll differ from mine.