The crowning glories of this slick fighting engine, though, are the all-new Fatalities. Previously players who could pull off these awesome finishing moves with tons of different characters were revered as gaming gods, nimble-fingered know-it-alls with some secret, zen-like knowledge of the game. These days, you lucky monks are awarded with tons of new ways to dispatch a foe throughout the course of the game, and introduced to them with a watch-and-learn tutorial screen. Each particular button sequence is stored in the menu screen too for those with goldfish-capacity memories. Then there are the all-new Multalities. Just as awesome, with these you can immediately dispatch several enemies at once.
Holding the skull and spinal column triumphantly above everything else, however, are Brutalities. Unleash hell with one of these bad boys and not only will the room be cleared of any enemies unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity, but there'll be lashings of blood on the dancefloor, ceiling, walls and any other visible surfaces. And you're not limited to pulling these off when an enemy is rasping for his last breath of air, either - these awesome moves can be executed at ay time during a fight. The only mandate? Fill your Fatality meter up first by, you guessed it, building up combos through skilful gameplay.
So we follow the twosome into the hub-like Outworld, the fabled MK hinterland and setting for the quest missions in last year's MK: Deception. From here you're largely free to choose which environment to explore next, and because of the continuing availability of new moves (and hence the ability to access new areas), there's tons of replayability and revisiting to be done.
The camera can occasionally be a bit of an issue during the game, thanks to its fixed rotational nature, though players can always zoom out for a panoramic view during the platforming parts of the game, then zoom in close enough to smell the blood and sweat during combat. The Versus mode is back, and though it's solid, there are no new additions. If there's one other gripe we have, it's the bastardisation of the traditional one-on-one game to fit into Shaolin Monks; the camera takes a much more panoramic view, and of the few playable characters there are in the game, these must be gradually unlocked throughout the single-player mode. That said, if you're that bothered you could probably pick a copy of Deception up these days for around a tenner anyway.
So there we go. It is a Mortal Kombat game, but the emphasis is purely on a fast and frantic actioner. Was it a good move? We certainly think so - and seeing how well the depth of combat and very essence of the Mortal Kombat series has been translated, we're certainly looking forward to the inevitable sequel. Only with more playable characters. And more blood. You can never have too much blood, right?
To feast on more Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks goodness until your head explodes in a gout of blood and flying brains, visit www.mkmonks.com.
Eye-wateringly, finger-blisteringly good. A fresh change in direction, and a spiritual awakening for the franchise.