Digital Domain’s Monkey King

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Developer / Publisher – Digital Domain Interactive, LLC
Price – US $9.99 / EU €N/A / UK £N/A / AU $N/A
Release date – July 25th, 2017
Control Method – Dual Shock(for menu navigation)
Pro Patch – No
Digital only – Yes
Reviewed on – PS4 Pro

Something different has arrived in VR.  A 3D “cinematic storybook experience” that heralds a new way we produce and consume movies.  Based upon 16th century Chinese mythology this story follows the tale of Sun Wukong and his journey to become the Monkey King.

Each story starts off with a very brief prologue told in storybook form

To summarize this quickly, this is a 360 short film broken up into 3 chapters each roughly 10 minutes long.   This is not a game, but a sit back and (almost) relax experience.  While the movie takes place all around you, the action typically happens at a fixed point on screen.  What this allows you to do is focus on the narrative taking place and not get all distracted by the world surrounding you.  I say almost relax because occasionally the action will happen around you, forcing you to turn as the characters move about you.  Heck, even when the story was unfolding I found myself glancing of at the night sky or looking up at a waterfall.  It’s that kind of loose control over the viewer that makes these VR cinematic endeavours so unique.

Without ruining too much of the story, you follow the future Monkey King in his past exploits.  Starting the movie puts a storybook in front of you, filled with some nice art and pictures from your (future) heroes’ story.  The story is told from the perspective of the Monkey King at a time when he may be a little down on his luck.  Suffice to say what unfolds is an origin story of sorts starting out at Sun’s “birth” and continuing through the 1st few key events in his life.

The look of this short is nice with cartoonish visuals reminiscent of cut scenes you might see from the last generation of consoles.  I’m not saying it looks bad, but it does look like an extended cinematic from something like ‘Ratchet & Clank” or “Jak & Daxter” It’s very clean and very polished with everything looking sharp and crisp with an art style that works great.  What makes this stand out as more than just a 360 movie are the subtler VR moments.  Watching Sun fly up from a treetop right next to you head and than plummet back down can only be experienced in VR.  An intense battle happened right next to me making me feel like I could actually touch the combatants.  It these kinds of moments that make VR movies stand out from it’s flat competition, and still work way better than 3D movies.

Your protagonist, and unfortunately the answer as to why he’s in chains is not found out in the 1st 3 chapters of his story

Another nice touch is how this movie keeps you focused on the what you are supposed to.  I recommend watching this is a swivel chair as you may be performing a complete spin or 2 as you follow a character’s movements.  When a scene ends, the next starts up at the same point you were looking, meaning you are almost never scrambling to find where the action is coming from.

Lastly are the performances.  All the characters involved look and sound as they should, and while they may be sterotypes you have seen in film and television before, that doesn’t take away from what you are watching.  It these performances that sell the story and the voice actors deserve some credit.

This isn’t perfect, while I did like the visual style, the look does come off as being dated with some animations looking stiff and wooden.  This does carry with it some mature themes, which is fine, but in one particular battle, characters are ripped in half and, while not gory, immediately squashed any thoughts of putting younger children in here.  Besides that, moment, and maybe one other, these themes have been in Disney movies throughout the ages, just watch it 1st before you throw your kid in there.  One last thing to note is while this does tell a complete tale, it’s only part of a larger story with more chapters promised soon.

There really are some beautiful moments here

I enjoyed this a lot.  Compared to Ctrl, I found this just flowed better and just has a layer of polish and professionalism that I can appreciate.  If your looking to kill a half hour than this is a wonderful way to do it, but like I said, best viewed in a swivel chair.

What would I pay? $10 is fine.  It’s the same price as a movie ticket but the way this story is told just wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for VR.  This is the future people, watch it!

Digital Domain provided theVRgrid.com with a review copy of the title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!

Good

  • Contains cinematic moments that can only be experienced in VR
  • Solid voice acting
  • Crisp and clear presentation

Bad

  • 30 minutes long
  • Well a complete story, still ends with 'to be continued'
  • Visuals feel a little dated
6.5

Alright

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