XBOX REVIEW: MORTAL KOMBAT SHAOLIN MONKS

Mortal Kombat is back with a vengeance. Shaolin Monks is a very diverse game, blending elements of fighting, action, adventure, puzzles and some role playing. These different genres work well together and the arcade-style controls allow gamers of all skill levels, yes even beginners, to pick it up and play immediately.

At the start of the game you can choose either Kung Lau or Liu Kang. Each are martial arts experts with different moves, combos and animations. Kung's specialty is a Dr. No-inspired bladed hat while Liu is able to shoot fireballs. There are more characters to unlock and fight against including Scorpion, Reptile, Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero and Kano. The enemy characters are an eclectic mix, running the gamut from ancient Asian mythology to Western cartoon and comic book villains. It's interesting to see whom you will encounter next.

Unlike most games, regardless of genre, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is blessed with both great single and multi-player modes. A co-op mode, known as the Ko-op mode to you Kombat fanatics, is an excellent team-based experience that lets you partner with a friend to take on a seemingly endless gang of enemies. The neat thing about this mode is that you or your partner don't have to be evenly matched in skills. As I mentioned the gameplay and control system is user-friendly. A weaker player will be able to take on the stragglers or keep an eye out for sneak attacks while the better player can take care of the majority of the fighting.

As in an RPG, experience points are awarded for specific accomplishments. In this case, making uninterrupted combos and fatalities. You can make hundreds of points for a good fatality. The points can then be spent on purchasing more moves, combos, fatalities, brutalities and throwing moves. You can even upgrade some of your moves to make them longer and more powerful. Every move or item that you purchase is fully explained and demonstrated in the menu.

I'm really impressed by how accessible the game is but it does get really tough about halfway through so don't think that you're getting off easy. I can certainly see a lot of beginners throwing in the towel as the difficulty does ramp up at an extreme pitch. There are plenty of carrots-on-a-stick to keep players enthused. Unlockables include mini-games, movies, moves, artwork and games demos such as a playable version of Mortal Kombat II.

Throughout the co-op journey you will find various health power-ups that will keep you and your buddy replenished. At any given moment you can steal your partner's health by attacking him. Conversely this could also happen to you. You can't trust anyone, and this game definitely leads one into temptation.

The only problem I have with the co-op mode is that you're invisibly tethered to your partner. Since it's not a split screen you can't properly battle enemies to the left and right at the same time since the screen isn't big enough to go in both directions. This will leave one of you vulnerable to attacks from enemies of either side that remain off-screen. There's really no way around this except to try to remain close to your teammate at all times and avoid splitting up.

Along with an arcade gameplay style, the game also shares an arcade-style look. The graphics are colorful and clean but they vary in quality depending on the style of the character. The environments may not have a lot of depth to them but they do have interactive elements such as spiked walls and pits that you can use to help you destroy the enemy. The voiceacting is edgy and nervous sounding. It's very unrealistic and doesn't convey the proper emotions. Only the music indicates how we should feel. Even the cutscenes don't make sense, especially in the single-player mode.

If you're looking for a fight you came to the right place. If you're looking for something more than just a fight you've also come to the right place. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks puts the mental fun back in fundamental.

Preview By Devin
The Mortal Kombat franchise is like a cockroach, drop a nuclear bomb on it and it will not die. Try as we may, with horrible movies and laughable games as a constant reminder, Mortal Kombat can and will never be forgotten.

Now we see Mortal Kombat re-entering some dangerous waters, namely the action-adventure genre. With huge failures in the past, it was almost a rule that Mortal Kombat would never enter the action-adventure realm again. This time is different. This time, Midway has all the right moves.

MK Shaolin Monks has one of the shortest learning curves compared to most of the games today, which is a good thing. The controls are fairly simple yet intuitive. The typical MK moves are still here, your jumps, quick and heavy attacks and of course, launch attacks (the infamous uppercut). Your special moves are now as easy as ever to pull off. Instead of having to bash mind-numbing button combos, the R trigger acts as your special move modifier. You do have a power meter for your special moves, so you won't be able to just sit there throwing fireballs all day.

Needless to say, the Fatality is still around. The beautiful thing about fatalities in Shaolin Monks is the ease of execution. In the demo, both Kung Lao and Liu Kang's fatalities were quite easy to execute. Unfortunately you will have a fatality meter as well, and while the Special Meter will replenish on its own after a few seconds, the Fatality Meter can only increase when you get combos. We expect that multiple fatalities will be available.

Tired of dispatching enemies with your fists, hats or fireballs? Midway will have you playing levels over and over again with the different environment options that can be used to take out your opponents. I was fighting some beasts, which resembled Orcs from Warcraft, in a room that had giant spikes on the ceiling with a fire in the middle of the floor. Needless to say I quickly hopped around and tossed some baddies into the ceilings, watching them squirm while stuck on the spikes, and run burning after I tossed them in the fire.

I became super jazzed when I started seeing some stuff from the Mortal Kombat universe. Johnny Cage and Reptile make cameos in the demo, as well as the original Pit level. You start off at the bottom of the Pit, and yes, you can lob an opponent up and onto the spikes in the famous level. Pretty soon you'll have to make your way to the top of the Pit via a platformer like jumping puzzle. And yes, once at the top you can uppercut your enemies down into the spikes below, and doing so treats you to a cute little cut scene.

The presentation in the Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks demo was top notch. The graphics were great, the sound was a bit too loud in some areas but overall awesome, and the incredibly easy gameplay made for an all around fun Mortal Kombat experience. And best of all, Baraka stabbing monks through the face. So in the end, Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks should help redeem the aging Mortal Kombat franchise with its new action-adventure look. Keep an eye out for shish-kabobed monks, September 19th, 2005.

Preview By Gooseberry

Just when you thought Mortal Kombat was going to stay the same forever, Midway goes and changes it all up. But don't panic. They changed it for the better! Well, that's not entirely true, as Shaolin Monks isn't a fighting game, it's an action adventure game!

Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is an Action/Adventure title driven by both intense single and multi-player action. Similar to the recently released Mortal Kombat: Deception, background interactions (i.e., acid pits, living trees, spiked ceilings, etc.), multiple new fatalities, and action-based puzzles will also play an important role in the player’s quest for an “outstanding” victory. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks will feature an impressive line-up of Mortal Kombat characters, as well, that make frequent appearances as enemies, in boss battles and during several additional in-game interactions.

Features:

  • First Ever MK Action/Adventure with Multi-Directional Kombat System. Levy attacks in any direction at any time, all the while not losing focus on the primary target (with unique animations and properties for every direction). Experience incredible depth of combat via Strings, Juggles, Special Attacks, Air Combat and Fatalities.
  • Single or Two-player co-op gameplay. Play as Liu Kang or Kung Lao, each with their own unique repertoire of four “Attack Styles” plus Special Attacks, and Fatalities. Unlock additional characters and abilities through various gameplay systems.
  • More Comprehensive Fatalities, New Multalities, Brutalities and Classic Special Attacks.
  • 10 Fatalities per character! With 3 levels of Fatalities, unleash bigger and better versions as your hero progresses.
  • At Level 2 let loose the incredible Multality, a room-clearing wave of destruction destroying multiple enemies at one time.
  • Level 3 allows vicious Brutalities.
  • Utilize classic attacks such as Kung Lao's hat throw and Liu Kang's fireballs.
  • Weapon Kombat. Discover weapons throughout your journey and use them to increase the damage on your enemy kombatants.
  • Interactive Environments. Melt enemies in acid pits, impale them on spiked ceilings, and hang them from hooks. Combine background interactions with Combat to solve unique action-orientated puzzles. Hurl an enemy into a spiked wall and leap from their impaled body to a higher area!
  • Mortal Kombat Mythos. See the infamous Mortal Kombat Tournament from the eyes of Earthrealm’s mightiest combatant Shaolin Monks Liu Kang and Kung Lao. Explore the Outworld in its entirety…revisit the classic Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 stages in 3D! Fight and interact with a slew of classic Mortal Kombat characters, such as Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Kitana and Goro. Seek and discover the myriads of MK secrets.
  • Expansive Character Customization. Choose from several paths in which to spend experience points gained from battle! Augment your hero’s abilities for incredible feats of agility, such as running along walls…or choose to augment any of 4 trees of Special Attacks to unlock new attacks unique for each character.
  • Experience the Mortal Kombat franchise from an entirely new action/adventure perspective with the first ever Multi-Directional Kombat System and explore the Mortal Kombat II universe as two of the series' favorite Shaolin Monks: Liu Kang and Kung Lao.
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System: PS2, X
Dev: Paradox
Pub: Midway
Release: Sept 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
4.0