The Crown of Wu Review

Crown of Wu Header

Not many books written during the 16th century have inspired a video game. This is what makes ‘Journey to the West’ so unique as the source material and inspiration for a plethora of video games. Heck, there’s even a Lego set based on the classic Chinese novel! In some ways, we should be thankful for probable author Wu Cheng’en, as his work has led to some brilliant games. But, when it comes to The Crown of Wu, we perhaps shouldn’t be so grateful.

The Crown of Wu is an old-school action-adventure game with a vague attempt at something Dark Souls. As the player, you take on the role of Sun Wukong the Monkey King. As protagonists go, Sun is not a particularly appealing character model to look at. Rotate the third-person camera to peek at your avatar and you’re met with a character that’s particularly wooden, where monkey fur looks as though it was carved out of wood, and a hodgepodge of armour, cloth and a glowing arm and staff that all lacks a coherent design.

Matters aren’t helped when Sun Wukong gets moving; the overly stiff animation proves jarring to the eyeballs and give the overall feel of a game from a few console generations ago. It makes sense when you know the game’s origins, with the team featuring current and former students from Trazos and the progejt coming up through the PlayStation Talents programme.

Crown of Wu design

Unfortunately, this also affects the gameplay. The few enemy types you meet are clearly missing a few too many frames of animation as you battle them. In fact, I’m really not sure if the combat itself is tricky or if it’s just the fact you cannot tell what is going on that makes things so frustratingly difficult.

There’s no collision detection to be found here; enemies attack and Sun Wukong gets hit, even when he’s nowhere near the point of impact. Even more fun is when Sun Wukong does get visually hit, but takes no damage – that will really mess with your head. Combat is a floppy, messy, and unnecessarily tricky experience. So, it’s saying something that the platforming elements make the combat look like a masterclass in game design.

Crown of Wu combat

For an acrobatic Monkey King, Sun Wukong handles in the air like something a monkey might fling at an unsuspecting holidaymaker. Developers Red Mountain insists on using a multitude of disappearing narrow platforms to fill the game world from the outset. Not a problem in and of itself, but Sun slides off the edge of each platform, or overleaps them, with startling abandon. The platforming in this game is the thing of nightmares.

What else is left? Well, there are some surprisingly satisfying puzzles on offer, but if you can put up with the frustrating combat and irritating platforming to discover them all, then you are a far more patient person than I.

With thoroughly inconsistent combat and painful platforming, The Crown of Wu has earned itself the unfortunate and distinctive demerit of being the worst video game based on the Journey to the West.
  • There's some decent puzzles
  • Awful messy combat
  • Frustrating platforming
  • Wooden character models and jerky animation