Sun Wukong Vs. Robot
Developer: Bitca & Indie Nova
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Platform: PlayStation and Xbox (also available on Switch and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 11/06/2021
Price: £3.99 (PS4), £4.99 (Xbox)
A code was provided for review purposes
Sun Wukong Vs. Robot is a short Metroidvania adventure. Instead of journeying far and wide to uncover upgrades and fight challenging enemies, this game will have you exploring a small area that still follows the Metroidvania tropes. Is this brief adventure still worth your time? Find out in this collaborative Rapid Review written by myself and Brent Gass.
Which one of you is Sun Wukong?
Sun Wukong Vs. Robot is a Metroidvania with a minimal story that uses occasional cutscenes to portray its narrative. After each boss fight, I was treated with a visual showing a gemstone breaking off my head. It was a simple addition, but it made me feel more attached to my otherwise emotionless character These cutscenes not only stylized the game but also added personality to the character. The story features are certainly no reason to pick up the game, but they supplement the gameplay nicely.
Although the runtime is short, the developers of Sun Wukong Vs. Robot still bring interesting gameplay elements to the table. Like many Metriodvanias, this title begins simply. I was able to jump and could wield a staff. There were no combination moves involving my staff, no special abilities, and no depth in the gameplay. It was extremely straightforward. As I progressed deeper into the world, I encountered new abilities, found upgrades to my base character, and was able to visit new areas of the map. I found that these new upgrades seamlessly fitted in with the character’s base move set and were simple and easy to master. I could hold down the attack button to charge my shield, dash instead of walk, and even swim through lava. I had a good time experimenting with the powerups even though they were nothing new.
Unfortunately, with so many similar titles out there, it is hard to justify purchasing Sun Wukong Vs. Robot when it is rarely unique. Moreover, the level design did not captivate me very much. There were some great rooms, like a journey through a lava lake, but many rooms were mundane and failed to excite me. Not only were the rooms basic, but enemies were as well. I thought the enemies were fine, and they served their purpose well, but there was nothing that encouraged me to learn a new pattern, and even the enemy designs were not particularly exciting. Sure, there was some stand out enemies, such as a flying ninja blob, but even still, the patterns were not new. The enemy designs did not leave a lasting impact on me.
Moreover, I was never pushed to truly master and learn the patterns of the enemies because there were constant save points that replenished my health and upgrades which healed me back to full health. While the abundance of save points allowed me to play in short bursts, it also enabled me to be lazy and simply charge through enemies to get to the next one. The developers occasionally counteracted this by forcing me to kill all enemies in a room before allowing me to proceed, but this only happened sparingly.
On the other hand, the bosses were all stylish and rewarding to defeat. Each was more mechanically advanced than the last, and the boss fight changed the pacing of the game wonderfully. Though I found the boss fights fair, the first boss fight I faced was extremely difficult. I chose to fight another boss instead, and once I gained additional health and abilities, fighting the first boss I faced was a simple task (especially since I had practised it so many times). I enjoyed being able to fight the bosses in whichever order I pleased, but I felt that guiding players towards specific bosses, or restricting certain boss fights until certain abilities are obtained would be a welcome addition. In my case, directing me towards the easier boss would have alleviated my frustration when I had to retreat and fight a different boss.
Though there were few unique elements, Sun Wukong Vs. Robot did feature an experience system, a feature of which I have never encountered in a game of this genre before. Enemies drop experience depending on their difficulty. I was able to spend this experience on upgrades, traits, and health. Initially, I thought this was an interesting addition, and I enjoyed being able to prioritize certain upgrades. Unfortunately, the satisfaction wore off when some of the same upgrades I purchased with my hard-earned experience were awarded to me after defeating certain bosses. Instead of rewarding me with brand new upgrades for killing enemies, these experience shops simply allowed me early access to upgrades. That not only defeats the purpose of killing enemies but makes the experience management useless, as you will get all the upgrades regardless of how you spend experience.
Although there were a lot of game elements that were unnoteworthy, it is important to realize that the title is a budget title. At the price point, Sun Wukong Vs. Robot brings fluid movement, a simple gameplay loop, and constant action. While nothing stood out, the game was incredibly polished, and there were no performance issues or major bugs. Sure, there are things to be desired, but I found it important to stress that the game is effective as a very basic Metriodvania and would work great as an introduction to the genre due to the short run time, and little monetary investment required. Plus, there are easy achievements for both PlayStation and Xbox fans.
Do the Robot
As for the atmosphere, I found the style of Sun Wukong Vs. Robot to be sufficient. As I mentioned previously, the enemies were not particularly captivating. On the other hand, bosses were excellently designed, from the flash of text indicating a tough battle is ensuing, to the designs themselves. My character looked formidable in the animated cinematics, but very simple when traversing the levels. The visuals overall are pleasant though, even if they do not always stand out as spectacular. The retro eight-bit style lends itself to a small colour palette that creates a high contrast environment, which makes combat and platforming easy to see. Additionally, the music was also fine. It did not really stand out as I was playing the title. It did work all the way through though, which is somehow challenging to attain. The atmosphere of this title was good, but nothing to write home about.
Overall, at the price point, purchasing Sun Wukong Vs. Robot can easily be justified. However, there is nothing that sticks out as exceptional, and the journey is not memorable. I enjoyed my time with this game, but I am not itching to return.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Sun Wukong Vs. Robot on the Microsoft store here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.