Sun Wukong VS Robot is out now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and in it you play as Sun Wukong, a legendary warrior with Chinese origins who has been reimagined many times. The beginning of the game starts with a cutscene where Sun Wukong is seen fighting off multiple assailants, but he is overpowered. Upon waking, he finds a crown embedded with four gems and he must defeat four evil robots to destroy the gems and escape from the maze he’s been trapped in.
The opening cutscene has creative characters, fun choreography, and a unique art design. When the gameplay begins though, the style is reduced to that of 8-bit, reminiscent of early Game Boy or NES games. Personally, I wish the art style from the opening cutscene was carried throughout the rest of the game more. It was creative and had a lot of personality. That being said, I haven’t hated on the simpler style.
The gameplay isn’t much different in that regard actually. Most of the combat is boiled down to attacking with the X button, although there are abilities to pick up, such as a laser beam or a gourd that shoots out flames. There are also cauldrons scattered throughout the game where you can upgrade your stats.
Sun Wukong VS Robot markets itself as a metroidvania game but I find it hard to agree with that qualification. For one, the game is incredibly short. Depending on how good you are you can probably rush through everything it holds in an hour or two, but three to four hours is where I would expect the average time to fall. My second issue is that it doesn’t really play like a metroidvania. All of the abilities you unlock can be earned at any time through the cauldrons and so all you need is experience to spend on the upgrades. Since enemies respawn each time you leave a room, you could easily grind out the experience and unlock the upgrades.
This departs from the normal metroidvania experience since the abilities aren’t tied to milestones, only experience. It also feels like it’s possible to beat the entire game without unlocking any abilities. I mean, I’m definitely not good enough to beat the game without the upgrades but it’s possible to access all of the bosses without getting them. I actually explored too much, too quickly, and managed to find some bosses while severely underpowered and struggled with the fights more than I needed to.
However, as soon as I grinded the experience to unlock all of the abilities, which didn’t take much time, I was able to easily run through the areas and beat the bosses quickly. But because it’s possible to access all of the areas without any special abilities, I wouldn’t call Sun Wukong VS Robot a metroidvania.
The gameplay is a challenge though. There are a lot of enemies – speaking in terms of quantity and not design variations – and it plays like an old-school game. Your range is limited, enemies can take multiple hits, and your mobility is also pretty restricted until you upgrade it. For as short of a game as it is, Sun Wukong VS Robot will see you dying multiple times.
Beyond the cauldron upgrades there are capsules to find that contain the aforementioned abilities. Those can also be found at any point in the game, even without any special movement upgrades. The last pickups to find are health and ability upgrades that let you take more hits or use your abilities more.
The first boss isn’t too difficult to beat, but the other three do provide a good challenge. Since I wasn’t worried about getting experience at first and didn’t realize what the different abilities were, when I encountered the second boss I spent my time banging my head against a wall before I realized that maybe I had skipped something. Backtracking to a different boss allowed for a fairly swift defeat and this gave a boost to experience levels, which in turn gave access to a dash ability – something which ensured the rest of the game was a breeze. This is mainly due to the dash ability coming with unlimited uses in the air so you can skip any horizontal obstacles. It also lets you easily hop around boss fights.
But beyond that there isn’t much else to talk about in regards Sun Wukong VS Robot. As a side note though, since the game is so short and there aren’t many abilities to worry about, beating it provides a relatively easy 1000 Gamerscore.
If Sun Wukong VS Robot was longer and structured a bit more like a traditional metroidvania where the upgrades were tied to progression, it could well be a great little game. As it is, it’s a good challenge and does manage to kill a couple hours, and so if you grew up playing old Game Boy or NES games, then Sun Wukong VS Robot might be a nice nostalgia trip.
Sun Wukong VS Robot is now available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One – find it on the Xbox Store for £4.99