Whether you know of the old Chinese tale Journey to the West or not, you’re almost sure to be aware of some of the many films, comics, TV shows and games that it’s inspired. They range from Dragon Ball to Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, from Digimon to 80s cult classic TV show Monkey. It is the story of four travellers who journey to the western regions of Asia to obtain ancient sacred texts and then return much wiser, in order to spread their knowledge.
Unruly Heroes is the latest bit of media to take from this classic tale, and it follows it along a fair bit closer than most. It stars four characters, each of whom have different abilities, who need to travel throughout the lands in order to try and restore balance to a world which has fallen to chaos.
How to bring order back to the world? Usually by punching things. Your main way of interacting with this world is by hitting things a lot. Each character has their own combos, but they all function in the same way at a base level. Hit the button, hit the enemies. It’s simple stuff.
There are specific aerial attacks, long range attacks, and heavy attacks, and each character has access to these, but special attacks are slightly different. Maybe you’ll grow in size, maybe you’ll unleash a giant area-of-effect attack, and so this is the main thing to pay attention to when picking your favourite.
The puzzles are where things become more character-centric, though even here it is clearly signposted who you should use. These puzzles are fun little distraction but are often simple enough to solve. There are a few instances where the timing required is almost preternatural, though it could just be I missed how I was meant to do things and ended up cheating. Still, they are a nice change of pace from the platforming and button-mashing.
The standout aspect of Unruly Heroes is the writing. There were a few times I genuinely laughed out loud (or just breathed through my nose slightly louder than usual), but the character interactions often aren’t enough. It’s a shame, because we are constantly inundated with pretty looking action platformers now, so they need to standout. The writing is a highlight here, but woefully underused and it feels like a missed opportunity.
Unruly Heroes is a solid game, a good game, a fun game, it just isn’t a brilliant game. All of the components are fun, the visual style is lovely, the characters are easy to use and the puzzles don’t make you want to throw your Switch at the cat. Those are all good qualities, but it just lacks that little bit extra that would turn it into a great game, a must-play. You aren’t going to walk away with a new appreciation of life or Journey to the West, just a feeling of “Yeah, that was a laugh.”
Version tested: Switch – Also available for PS4, Xbox One & PC