Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks
Mortal Kombat is trying on a platform jacket. It has the same feel to it as Bruno (read it as if you’re German) who found out, after years of fitness and bodybuilding, that having little rabbits is rather cool too. Thanks for us gamers, this feeling is flushed away quickly because Mortal Kombat hasn’t softened one bit. Midway is making a sidestep to the platform world and whoever thinks this is their first time, shouldn’t be awed if I convince him or her otherwise.
It’s 1997, the year that the Sony Playstation made his way to my humble bedroom. Because I reached financial rock bottom I had to call in the help of a sort of friend. You know the kind of spoiled brat that gets everything he’s craving. He had a game collection to be scared of but didn’t think it was necessary to play each game he had. One of the titles I borrowed was Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. As you may expect you take on the role of the world’s most violent ice cream guy and played through side scrolling levels including numerous platform elements. Now, eight years later, Midway catches up with this diversion to the Mortal Kombat universe and it’s Liu Kang and Kung Lao’s task to set things straight.
Before you start you can pick one of these two fighters. Some might find this choice a little lacking but you should know that this isn’t an ordinary fighting game. The other MK characters are also in the game tough, but some as partners in crime while others are featured in boss battles. True fans of the series won’t have to miss Reptile or Sonja. The above mentioned platform elements should also be taken with a grain of salt. It’s a hype these days to blend several genres in one and Midway happily follows this trend. MK:SM is a mix between platform, fighting and rpg. The platform elements are pretty typical; jump from one platform on another. Collecting items has wisely been deleted in this game making the comparison with platform gaming stop here. Now and then the jumping part can get a little annoying but overall they achieved their goal in delivering the gamer some platform fun.
After you’ve made your fighter choice, the fun can really start. The game obviously has a story line but I will keep it for myself as it will bore you. It’s very cliché and actually doesn’t matter at all. The only thing that counts is fighting and seeing the blood. Therefore the most effort has gone to the fighting system. As you might expect from a MK game you get all the typical moves such as the bicycle kick of Liu Kang including all the fatalities, multalities and brutalities. Aside from these typical moves you’ll also be able to perform platform specific moves, such as jumping further and doing some kick ass wall walks, combo’s and special moves. Behind this fighting system lies the rpg element. Winning a fight gets you experience points with which you can buy new moves. The only moves that can’t be bought are the fatalities and platform specific moves which you’ll get after successfully finishing certain parts in the game. The quests in the game never get too hard making the game progression rather fast.
This is mainly due to the excellent controls. MK:SM is namely fully 3D with a side scrolling camera. You can compare it with the Tekken Force mode, only much better. In the Mortal Kombat universe it’s possible to hand out kicks and punches in all directions without having problems of hitting the baddy. It’s that good that fighting numerous opponents at the same time got me aroused. Quite disturbing isn’t it? If it gets hectic nevertheless you can still use the environment to your advantage. The game namely isn’t set in a Teletubbie like universe where Bruno would be happy to play around in. No, MK:SM is set in a typical dark world full of pits, cliffs and spikey catapults which all have their purpose. Use these to your advantage and you’ll see some nice little blood spilling. Some might prefer killing every enemy manually because you get more points for that, but a true MK gamer likes blood more than stats. Aside from all this violence there are also weapons in the game, but these actually don’t bring anything to the table as you won’t be able to perform any combo’s with them. They are sometimes just more effective against certain enemies.
Mortal Kombat has always been about fighting and nothing else, but this time it’s a bit different. Now and then you’ll get a puzzle. These however don’t ask too much of your thinking ability which will bring you back to the main course of the day: fighting. The only minus in the gameplay is the backtracking that occurs now and then. There are certain areas that can’t be reached immediately. You’ll first have to learn a new platform ability and once you’ve done so, you’ll have to go back in the level. Thank god the levels are on the rather small side, but I still feel the backtracking is a fault of the level designer.
For the rest, he did his job nicely however. All the worlds in MK:SM are connected to each other through a portal and of course divided by loading times, which are short if I might add. Graphically the game is also nice enough, but not jaw dropping. Nowadays we’re spoiled with extremely realistic graphics but once again: gameplay is more important and Midway understood this quite well.
If you have a friend that also likes to deliver some kicks and punches, you can really have a good time. MK:SM namely has a co-op mode, identical to the single player. When you play in co-op you’ll also be able to unlock more secrets trough co-op puzzles. Aside from the co-op mode there’s also a versus mode in the game but this can’t compete with the single and co-op mode. The only thing that’s left for me to discuss is the sound and this is actually parallel to the graphics in the game. It does its job but never really stands out from the average. Every squeal is in it, including the “toasty” that pops up now and then and always leaves me guessing.
Mortal Kombat: Shoalin Monks is a brainless action game with platform and rpg elements. It’s extremely fun for about half an hour; ideal to kill those dull minutes in a day. However if I wasn’t in such a privileged position (reviewing games that is) I wouldn’t go out and buy it. I would however consider renting it for a weekend and inviting some friends for some lean mean fatality fun.