Platforms: DS and 3DS (reviewed)
When I was a kid, I used to love watching video game related shows, no matter their quality. Looking back (and even going back and watching some of them), most of them were pretty terrible, relying heavily on being referential to the licenses they were based on. The show Adventure Time, from the five minutes I made myself suffer through, seems to keep that trend while using nonsensical dialogue that’s aimed at being cute and/or funny. I’m obviously not a fan of the show, so what the hell drove me to even try the game? Looking to play heavily like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and being handled by one of my favorite developers, WayForward, I thought I’d be able to overlook the license and find a solid game mixed in there somewhere. Things didn’t turn out quite the way I was hoping.
To start, the game is going to feel very similar to Zelda II fans. You traverse the world via an overhead map with randomly spawning enemies that, when touched, bring you to a separate screen where you’re forced to fight off a few enemies. These battle areas change the perspective to a side-scrolling view (Zelda II) where you fight by punching or hacking at enemies (Zelda II, again) to exit the arena. Entering towns or dungeons from the world map leads to this perspective change as well (Zel…you get the idea).
As Finn, the series’ protagonist, progresses, you’ll be able to access areas you weren’t able to at the start by gaining new abilities. Finn will gain a few abilities, like being able to stab downwards in the air to unlock certain gates, but his dog friend, Jake, will gain most of the upgrades. Jake will be able to use his ear as shield, expand it to use as a parachute to extend jumps, and other uses on the world map.
The use of these consumable healing items harkens back to another old favorite, Earthbound, allowing you to mix some of them together to boost their effectiveness. Toss some ketchup on a burger and it’ll be a seriously powerful restorative item, while adding something a little less typically compatible, like syrup and a cupcake, will hardly make a dent. It’s a clever mechanic, but actually using them can be a little problematic. Using the lower screen for storage and use of the items isn’t a bad idea, but when in the thick of battle, the need to actually touch the item to use it without being able to pause is a more than a little frustrating.
Another issue I had with it is the relative ease of the game. While Zelda II could be outright brutal at times, I only had to fumble with the healing items on a handful of occasions throughout the game. Even the boss fights had very quickly decipherable patterns, making them more battles of attrition than challenge. Using the items that either adds buffs to you or attack enemies almost seems like a wholly unfair advantage. While there is a second quest to partake in once the game is completed (…not going to say it), I couldn’t bring myself to actually go through the game one more time, despite it’s rather short length.
The short length of the game is padded out in the worst way – backtracking. As you gain new abilities and get fetch quests from the denizen of Ooo, you’ll be going back to see the same stuff you just saw. While I wouldn’t usually call out a game for this, as there are many great examples of games doing just that, the very few areas to actually explore seems like a lazy way of reusing assets to make the tiny world seem larger. And with Finn’s slow crawl over the world map, it really gets tedious, particularly a fetch quest you have to go through near the game’s end, as it has you going back to just about every area of the game.
While WayForward’s usual graphical prowess is represented here, the art style of the show doesn’t have much appeal for me either. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll likely be more into it than I was. I guess I liked the execution more than the presentation. The music and sound effects are pretty nice as well, but nothing that made me want to grab a set of headphones and really dig into the experience more. I can’t speak to the quality of the voice acting since, you know, I’ve watched five minutes of the show and found it nearly insufferable, but I guess based on that minimal experience and the minimal amount in the game, it seems on par with what I’ve heard. Take that as you will.
Perhaps not being a fan of Adventure Time tainted my experience somehow. I had zero interest in it until I started to hear about its similarities to Zelda II, so even coming at it as a fan of that style of a game didn’t do it for me. Fans of Adventure Time might find some fun here, but not enough so that I’d recommend it. It’s definitely not a bad game. It’s just largely not fun with entirely too much tedious backtracking.