21 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 6.3 hrs on record (5.1 hrs at review time)
Posted: Oct 17, 2020 @ 9:58pm
Updated: Oct 17, 2020 @ 9:58pm
Product received for free

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If I could learn to fight so easily and to become so OP, I would too.

9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a beat-em-up with really attractive graphics and smooth feel that definitely could give it a reasonable spot among those beat-em-up games that you play and save for another rerun or two in the future. Having two-player coop makes it even better though I only played by myself for this review. It was a good amount of fun, and I enjoyed my experience, but the game definitely has its flaws.

It's one of those games you have to mentally prepare yourself for becoming OP in the second half of the game because of some almost-cheating combos that you can rack up that allow you to continually fire off powerful moves against enemies that they have no chance but to show up and to die shortly thereafter. So this is an arcade-style game that is more geared toward player-fun rather than excessive deaths and retries.

Considering that it has 4 different difficulty settings and I haven't played any beat-em-ups lately, I opted for the easiest difficulty, because the game actually has a rather in-depth story (not necessary to listen to or to read) that is fully voice-acted. After completing the final boss, your game concludes with the narrative but you can go back and replay any stage if you wanted to earn some of those completionist achievements.

I think I counted 23 different stages in this game, all fairly short in length. The enemies progressively get more difficult and the bosses do take a bit of extra effort to defeat. There are 5 bosses total, each of them giving you an unlockable mask to wear after defeating them. You can also find secrets (one per level) that will unlock various other in-game mods as well.

You earn essentially skill points from each stage--anywhere from 4-10 points. You can also go back and replay any previous stage for half of initial skill points, rounded down. The game has several pages of skill upgrades, starting with the first page of physical attacks and the others unlocked through progression in the story. The other pages involve more aerial attacks and magical attacks. I relied heavily on physical and magical attacks. The aerial skills I neglected a bit. Anyway, bottom line is that you can unlock every skill and max upgrade the trees by playing every stage twice--or if you feel lazy, grind a couple of easy stages on repeat because they are short.

Aside from that, you also have a loadout with selectable polearm weapon, an item, and also footwear that can alter the way you play any particular level. These are the slots that are given and you can talk to the NPC in charge of your gear to freely change among what you have unlocked. To unlock all weapons and items, you just need to complete each stage once.

Overall this game is quite fun to play and nice to run through just to look at the artwork. The music is engaging and the sound effects work well. There are some issues with the physics engine that's not tuned too well and a few other bugs, but nothing game breaking.

Gameplay
Rather satisfying beat-em-up in which that you can string together some rather nice combos with the different forms of moves that are unlocked through progression, with significantly different available playing styles for the player to choose from. Different loadouts also affect the way that you progress through any stage. With short enough stages, you can go experiment and not feel like you are locked into any unpleasant set up for too long.

Controls
Controls fine with controller, which I used. I know that there are also keyboard and mouse mappings--remapping available on KB+M, not on controller.

Graphics
Really nice for a modern beat-em-up, the different stages really show a variety of settings and there is some good use of lighting and color to give you a really fresh look and feel from stage to stage. Some of the battle animations look really funny when you try certain combos or things get too fast, after your character gets OP.

Music & Sounds
The music is pretty nice. The sound effects work well. The voice-acting isn't bad, but isn't good either. My biggest issue is the accents just not matching well (listening to English acting). Vocalization is also available in Russian, but of course I cannot speak about that at all.

Audience
I think a fan of the genre will definitely have plenty of fun with this title and the variety of skills/loadouts/stage designs that are brought together in this work. Know that entering any beat-em-up game, you should expect to control one guy opening up many cans against a boatload of enemies.

Pricing
$19.99 is a fair price, I think, given that it has replay value. Most beat-em-up games are fairly short, and this is no exception. Even with 20+ stages, most of them only take a few minutes, so you can complete the whole game in about 5 hours. The different fighting styles available and moves that you unlock make for some cool combat sequences. For completionists, you are just going to be grinding some of the achievements. I cannot speak about how long or how many deaths it will take to complete the hardest difficulties, since that will vary by skill and how much you decide to take advantage of this OP upgrading system.

Positives
+Excellent graphics, both narrative art plates and also in-game stage designs and visuals.
+Fun gameplay with responsive controls.
+Cool soundtrack that's nice and engaging.
+Good length for a beat-em-up.
+A real story in this kind of game, much deeper than most.
+Coop, including online coop option.

Negatives (Oct 18, 2020)
-Places where the game teaches new moves and the displayed control scheme doesn't match your playing control method, leading to a lot of confusion. Fortunately for me, there are only so many buttons on the controller, so I tried different things until I got what I was supposed to see.
-Some loadout item/weapon descriptions run into the "Back" button, obscuring other important text.
-One footwear I preferred was the one that takes the dodge into a dash with i-frames. This was fine but there were areas where I was too easily falling off some slanted bridge surfaces, leading to many in-game checkpoint reloads, was just a little annoying.
-Stages with rolling barrels that cause damage will stop at screen's bottom when enemies are defeated. Walking into them when they are stationary will still cause them to break and cause contact damage.
-Some odd physics remain, especially with small rolling objects or dead bodies. Some objects roll on and on and on like a perpetual motion machine, while some dead bodies will remain upright or twitch nonstop.
-I had to skip a lot of spoken dialogue because of the accents. Some of the Chinese and Japanese names/nouns were so woefully mispronounced, accompanied by accents that were clearly not standard English, but were not Asian accents either. The combination just felt totally jarring. The voices were perfectly fine, they just didn't fit in the game, that's all.

Conclusion
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is just a satisfying beat-em-up with a lot going for it and some flaws. It's accessible with 4 different difficulty settings that allowed me to run through the easiest setting and see the whole game without facing any significant gameplay frustrations. I could see myself going in at a later date with a friend or maybe I will go and tackle the more difficult versions of this game as well.

Score: 8/10

I received the product for free. I did not receive any compensation to write this review. The opinions represented here are entirely my own and were not influenced in any way.
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4 Comments
janner66 Oct 18, 2020 @ 9:54am 
I really like the different difficulty levels and the voice acted story really interests me. I'm not a huge fan of beat em ups so I think I would be reluctant to pay the full price but sounds interesting and accessible for all.

Thanks for the review.
YQMaoski Oct 17, 2020 @ 10:39pm 
@FruitNDoggie, yes, you have access to every stage at your will after completing them. (There's a part of a story that locks previous stages temporarily--Chapter 4, but once you are past there, it's open again.) Also a nice feature is that you can at any time you wish, request a network game with a friend, as long as you are in between stages.

@AviaRa, you are welcome. :-) The flaws were just things I noticed could be improved, the actual gameplay itself is quite fun. I am rather enjoying the completely OP upgrades that allow me to just maw hordes of enemies. Hehe.
FruitNDoggie Oct 17, 2020 @ 10:24pm 
You can replay individual stages at your own discretion? That's a nice feature in a beat-em-up.
AviaRa Oct 17, 2020 @ 10:17pm 
Looks great. Wishlisted.
Although there are quite a lot of flaws, so I'll wait a while for some updates.
Thanks for the review!