Unruly Heroes is a beautiful 2D platformer featuring a wonderful hand-drawn animation style. Developed by Magic Design Studios, you play as one of four heroes interchangeably: the monkey, the magician, the pig and the brute, each with their own combat style and ability selection.
You can also play cooperatively throughout the story or participate in player vs. player matches. Sadly, the latter is a struggle, mostly because online player counts are low.
Unruly Heroes sees you playing through four worlds each with their own distinctive themes, platforming designs, gorgeous backgrounds and sound plans, summing up to a total of 29 levels. This combination of aspects sees you really fall into the world of Unruly Heroes and the attention to detail of the levels and the variation of enemies is high, from bats to underworld gods, to a crocodile toll collector and an untrusting lethal lady.
The enemy variation is also replicated within the boss battles, all of which feel distinctive and challenging in their own right because of the different combat abilities each boss contains. There are mini-bosses alongside main bosses at the end of each world, but because of how well designed they are, each manages to stand out from the other, even in despite of the number of bosses found in the game.
Moreover, combat feels really good, though I would have liked a bit more variation with the hero I favoured the most (the monkey). Of course, learning to master each hero’s abilities and combat style is part of the fun, though I still found myself heading back to one or two favourites. Having to change hero to overcome a specific platforming challenge however does force you to learn how to control that particular hero, forcing the gameplay to feel consistently fresh.
The story of Unruly Heroes is based on the ancient Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’. However, aside from the clever humour found from the main ‘narrator’ of the game, there isn’t much story to dive into here. In fact, I still can’t particularly remember why I’ve been tasked with doing anything in the game, even though the intro cinematic explains exactly why.
The environments, sound design and boss battles all come together to contribute to a linear path of progress, but in terms of actual story, as someone who is not familiar with the novel, there is a bit of confusion. Yes, it’s all well and good journeying through certain locations and defeating certain opponents, but it’s a shame that without previous knowledge, the many meanings of this tale will probably be left undiscovered.
On the other hand, the animations are wonderful to look at, and I constantly found myself looking at my character in its standing position just to see all the glorious animation detail found within their movements. This is best illustrated during the platforming segments. Of which there are plenty.
It must be said that I enjoy a good platforming challenge, and though Unruly Heroes has some very good sections found throughout its 5-8 hour adventure, the level of platforming difficulty seems a bit incoherent. For instance, finding a bit of a difficulty spike when starting a new world, and for that level of difficulty to stay until the end of that particular world.
Thankfully, the sound design for each world is good, though lacking a bit in its boldness. It serves its purpose extremely well and gives each level and world a burst of extra flavour. Additionally, the loading screen has a fun interactive musical element which helps the load times feel quicker. It’s the little things that Unruly Heroes has managed to nail.
Although the combat is good and the animations impressive, the gameplay does however become a bit stale during long play sessions. I really would have liked to see and feel a bit more variation in the core gameplay, as it does become a bit formulaic over time. That may just be the aim of the developers, but for me, the combat and platforming elements of Unruly Heroes just aren’t outstanding enough to ensure it doesn’t overstay its welcome after a while.
As per most 2D platformers, there are plenty of things to collect in Unruly Heroes. In fact, there are 100 coins to collect in each level, 50 in boss levels, and an additional scroll in each which unlocks concept art. You can purchase one of four new outfits for your heroes with these coins, each of which do look very different, and on top of that, the concept art looks great. Something which really is to be expected with the level of graphical detail on show. You will likely be motivated to collect these coins whilst you play the game, and it feels rewarding when you do.
There is also a ranking system for each level, based on the time it takes for you to finish the level, the number of coins you have collected up, and the amount of times one of your heroes has died. This ranking system works well and all, but it is far too challenging. In my time with Unruly Heroes on Xbox One I have still yet to get a single emerald rank (the top rank); expect real mastery of every single level to take some commitment.
The achievements are hit and miss – with most coming from natural progression and completing small but achievable challenges. There is however a near impossible feat – achieving an emerald rank in each level – as shown by the 0.00% who have claimed the achievement.
On the whole Unruly Heroes is a really good 2D platformer with gorgeous animations, backgrounds, and a hand-drawn art style which is nothing but stunning. The enemies and bosses stand-out, and the combat feels good. The story however is seemingly nowhere to be found, and that is despite some cleverly written and humorous dialogue, while the gameplay can become repetitive and a bit stale over time. That aside though, there is definitely a good game to be played here. This is even more relevant when the third world changes up the gameplay; to a degree where other developers should take note.
Unruly Heroes is however a really good 2D platformer, though not perhaps as good as it could’ve been. That said, I’m still looking forward to what Magic Design produce in the future.