Upon first observing Unruly Heroes we thought Ubisoft had come up with another Rayman Origins type 2D extravaganza. But no! This one is from indie team Magic Design Studios over in Montpellier. Let’s be ruly and take a gander.
A couple of things to point out! The game is adpated from the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West (Xiyou Ji – 西游记).
Also, several of the staff members at the indie team are former Ubisoft employees. So it’s no big surprise to see where Unruly Heroes’ look and appeal come from.
Out right now on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One, this vibrant little bastard is a largely engaging homage to the Rayman series. But it shakes up that formula with some fun and games of its own.
Unruly Heroes has a rather muted opening first few stages. Getting to grips with the controls can be fiddly, but once you’re fully involved it starts to engage and flow.
You star as four characters who you can flit between at the press of a button. They all have different abilities and special skills – double-jump, floating jumps, varying attacks etc. – that facilitate your passage through the levels.
There’s quite a large emphasis on combat – various bosses and mini-bosses often block your path before you can move on. It’s generally the weaker part of the experience as most of the combat feels oddly cumbersome.
Where it does do well is in the level design. You’re challenged regularly and it’s all to the backdrop of some pretty spectacular scenery.
But this is really a co-op multiplayer experience. That’s where it truly comes alive. As with Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, the emphasis is very much on teamwork. But all three are fine as a single-player experience, too.
Added to that, Unruly Heroes looks incredible. But as Edge Magazine (and it thoroughly disliked the game) points out, the graphics come across as style over substance.
Try as we did to adore it, we can’t help but feel disappointed by what’s a disjointed and awkward experience.
It also doesn’t have the same astonishingly creative soundtrack as Rayman Origins. Which leads to that lingering feeling it’s so clearly inspired by Ubisoft’s classics, but falls short in its implementation.
Yet it’s not entirely derivative and does offer some unique gameplay mechanics (namely that ability to switch between four characters).
We just found the game doesn’t have the same glorious, intuitive flow of Rayman Origins (for our money one of the greatest 2D platformers of all time). But if you’re a fan of that series, there’s something to enjoy here.
Unruly Heroes is by no means a disaster. But from the trailers we were expecting a lot more than an occasionally inspired, regularly clunky 2D romp. Good fun overall, but not the indie classic we were hoping for.