Gosh, Hamster’s been at this for a while now, hasn’t it? About a year and a half ago, the original King of the Monsters arrived on mobile by way of the ACA NEOGEO series. I reviewed it at the time and despite the game’s iconic status I wasn’t too hot on it due to the thin amount of content and lack of multiplayer support. We’re quite a ways down the road now, and it’s time to take a look at the mobile release of King of the Monsters 2 ($3.99). It’s a well-loved follow-up to be sure, but does it shine in this format? Let’s slide in and have a look.
There isn’t a whole lot of juicy history behind this game. SNK scored a strong hit with the original King of the Monsters in early 1991, at a time when the company needed all the success it could get. So yes, of course we get a sequel. King of the Monsters 2 arrived in early 1992, and it made a few changes to the gameplay seen in the previous game. The original King of the Monsters was basically a wrestling game with an interesting theme. You would choose one of several monsters and then battle the rest of them, one at a time, in stages set in various Japanese cities. Then you do it again, and that’s the single-player game. Grab a friend for one on one fun and you’ve got a pretty enjoyable bit of arcade diversion.
One of the fun things about the original game was how the arenas were cities that were slowly destroyed over the course of the match. It really made you feel like you were a giant monster, and a person couldn’t help but want more of that. Well, how lucky we are! King of the Monsters 2 gives you some room to stretch your legs, such as they are. Each stage still culminates in a one-on-one battle, but before that match-up you’ll wander through short stages, swatting down airplanes or aliens, smashing bridges and buildings, and collecting power-ups. There are more power-ups this time around, and each of the monsters can level up a couple of times. They get access to more special moves when they do, along with stat and health buffs. It’s in your interest to smash everything and try to find those power-ups, but be careful not to grab the bad ones.
This is a good time to talk about the monsters. The playable roster has been significantly trimmed down this time. There are only three monsters to choose from. The Godzilla-like Geon is here in mutated form, the King Kong-like Woo has powered up into Cyber Woo, and the Ultraman-like Astro Guy is here in a slightly modified suit. These, apparently, are the only survivors of the original monster wars as chronicled in the first game. Yes, there’s a story. That’s half of it right there. The other half is that aliens have invaded so these three remaining kaiju are tasked with stopping it. Let them fight, and all that. Don’t worry about a potential lack of creative creature designs though, as you’ll get to see plenty of other monsters as you make your way through the game.
There are no pin falls this time. There’s still a lot of wrestling DNA in King of the Monsters 2, as you will regularly get involved in grapple fights with the boss creatures. But your goal this time is to whittle their life meter down to zero, at which point they’ll go kaboom. There are no electrical power lines serving as ropes to whip them into this time, and the game broadly feels more like a beat-em-up as a result. A beat-em-up whose stage-to-boss ratio of time spent is very different from most others, but a beat-em-up nonetheless. Some may lament this change, and I do think it’s swings and roundabouts if we’re talking about playing the games in normal conditions.
We’re not, though. This review is about the mobile version, and we have to take a few things into account. First, while players certainly can make use of an external controller, it’s more likely that they’ll be using touch controls. Next, while players technically can play in multiplayer via extra controllers and some sort of decent-sized display, it’s more likely that they’ll be playing alone. I personally find the first game’s more pure wrestling approach to be more fun in multiplayer. It’s less random, the whole tug-of-war of trying to pin the opponent is interesting, and there are more characters to choose from.
But King of the Monsters 2 is, I feel, considerably more satisfying than the first when it comes to single-player. The opponents are more varied in their forms and attacks since the game doesn’t need to consider how a human will control them. Traveling through the stages smashing things and swatting lesser enemies is enjoyable and helps set the stage. Chucking buildings can feel cheap in multiplayer matches, but as a single-player feature it’s awesome. The random power-ups (and power-downs) are more tolerable when they aren’t messing up an otherwise interesting battle between two human players. The locations are a lot more varied in setting, too. That’s important when you’re playing alone, because it helps ward off repetition. There’s a proper final boss here as well, and it’s a real SNK sonofagun.
What I’m trying to say here is that for the purposes of most mobile players, King of the Monsters 2 is a considerably better experience than the first. There’s even a good ending and bad ending, encouraging further replays. It feels less like you’re playing a multiplayer game against the CPU and more like you’re playing a normal game meant for one player to have a good time with first and foremost. Some of the controls can be a little trickier with the virtual buttons so there is still a benefit to using an external controller if you have one. Still, even with touch controls it is a hoot to fire the game up and smash your way through a few aliens and landmarks. You can save whenever you need to, so feel free to break the game down into as many sessions as you need. It’s a cheap game that likes to milk you for as many coins as it can, but you have all you need.
This game is also a good one for the usual extra modes Hamster includes in all of these releases. There are lots of opportunities for variable scoring here, and you can also go faster or slower through the stages to an extent. That means both Score Attack and the timed Caravan modes work very well, provided the leaderboards are active. Even trying to better your own scores adds some value to the game. All the other usual options are here, of course. Game settings, video and audio settings, and control settings are all here. The only thing missing is an option for online or wireless multiplayer, and no I am never letting that particular bone go.
I knew going into this what the result would be, more or less, but I can happily recommend King of the Monsters 2 in its mobile form to anyone looking for some arcade action. For what it is, it holds up really well. The graphics still look good, the game plays well, and there just aren’t a whole ton of good kaiju brawlers out there even now. The single-player mode is enjoyable to bash your way through, and with three characters and lots of variability, it stays surprisingly fresh on multiple playthroughs. All in all, a good addition to the ACA NEOGEO mobile line-up.