The best way to describe Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is that it is a love letter from Midway to MK fans. If you love Mortal Kombat, youll love Shaolin Monks. If you dont like MK, then obviously Shaolin Monks wont be your cup of tea. This adventure/beat-em-up is jam packed with hidden goodies and things MK fans will go crazy for. Plus, the gameplay is pretty decent to boot!
I said in my review of MK: Deception
that the absolute best part of Mortal Kombat is the characters and overall storyline. The gameplay hasnt always been spectacular, but just seeing Liu Kang and Scorpion and Sub-Zero was enough to hook you because they are so darn cool. Well, I think that theory is proven true with the release of MK: Shaolin Monks. It takes everything that was fun and interesting in the Mortal Kombat series and puts it all into one big easy to play beat-em-up. And the result is one of the most entertaining MK games to come out in quite a while.
The story in Shaolin Monks begins right at the end of the original Mortal Kombat tournament. You follow Liu Kang and Kung Lao as they first try to escape the island and then as they uncover a new plot of Shang Tsung and they end up following him into Outworld. All of the characters from Mortal Kombat I and II play pretty big roles and some choice characters from later MK games make appearances as well. The storyline twists and turns and is actually fairly satisfying overall.
The gameplay in Shaolin Monks is a beat-em-up rather than a traditional fighter. You basically just run around beating the crap out of faceless, nameless minions until you come to a boss fight which will be a MK character. The best part is that you have all of the same moves as in the fighting games but the controls have been simplified so that you can pull off pretty much anything with just a couple of button presses. Fireballs, hat slices, bicycle kicks, uppercuts everything can be done with just a couple of buttons along with a bunch of regular punches and kicks and throws. This creates a very fast paced game that is easy to pick up and play and pretty darn fun. Fatalities have also been simplified. You just build up a meter and then you can perform a fatality, multality, or brutality with a simple button combo. Also, boss fights are always ended with unique fatalities that are very cool.
What the gameplay in Shaolin Monks does is hand you the other secret ingredient to MKs success (the blood and gore) on a silver platter. It is extremely easy to rip apart enemies and spray blood all over now and since you constantly find new moves and combos and fatalities, it never gets old.
Single Player and Co-Op
There are two ways to play Shaolin Monks single player and co-op. In single player, you choose either Kung Lao or Liu Kang (both have their own unique move sets) and go to town on the bad guys and play through the storyline. When you hook up with a friend, however, the game gets even better. You can now perform brutal team moves and really cause some destruction. Also, a good portion of the unlockables come from the co-op mode so you have good reason to invite a friend over for some MK goodness. The co-op mode is definitely the way Shaolin Monks was designed to be played and is considerably more enjoyable with a friend, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is unfortunate that so many unlockables are exclusive to co-op mode and it is also disappointing that the two modes are completely separate i.e. you cant start a single-player game and have a friend join in later. There is plenty of stuff in Shaolin Monks that it is worth playing through at least twice (once by yourself and then in co-op) but not everyone has friends willing to spend the time it takes to play through it and, in that case, you really are only getting half of the game.
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