Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Night Rentals: Adventure Island

Skateboards and Jungles?  Sure!

I loved renting games that were just basic platformers.  Sure they all seemed the same after a while, and some were better than others, but there was something satisfying about being able to pop in a game and know that all I have to do is keep going right to win.  When I rented this for the weekend, my mom and I enjoyed playing Adventure Island in turns.  One of us would beat a level then hand it off, or sometimes we'd hand off after losing a life or felt unable to do the level.  It was great fun trying to get as far as we could in the game even though we never beat the game.  I can't tell you how many times we just missed an egg that was barely off screen and inaccessible, or how we ran out of health right before the goal.  It was just a pleasant little game all around and a solid go-to for a fun Friday night rental.  However...even back then though the game seemed fun, it was not quite as fun as that other game... you know the one....

Yeah, that's him officer. He's the one who beat the competition.

Mario was always the side scrolling platformer that all the other kids on the proverbial video game block had wanted to be.  He could run and jump and grow super huge and rescue princesses--provided they weren't in another castle.  I still give Hudson Soft points for trying though, they were one of the better ones.  Hudson Soft's Adventure Island, a port of the Sega arcade game Wonder Boy, seemed like one of those blatant attempts to copy the formula that made Super Mario Bros such a huge success.  I must have rented Adventure Island half a dozen times before finally buying it used years after the Super Nintendo had come on to the market.  It was like seeing an old friend again.   Did it still hold that pleasantness?  Did I still want to find hidden eggs and ride a skateboard across an island?

Well...let's break it down, shall we?

Music and Sound 

Endless music loops of the same stuff. Hooray for Mario clones.

"Lookie!  We even knocked off the way the music fits in the game tonally," probably pops up in the owners manual somewhere if I had to guess. Okay, let me say I do enjoy the music from Adventure Island.  It's pleasant and upbeat during the island segments and gets dark and ominous in the caves leading up to the boss fight.  And boy howdy does it make it ever apparent that they are knocking off Super Mario Bros.  Let's face it though, Nintendo got it right and did it right with Mario--why not mimic success?  The music works well enough, and it is memorable, its just nothing that will stick with you for a long period of time unless you put it on your iPod or similar listening device.  Let me say though, for me the music gets old fast in a way the Super Mario theme never did.

In so far as sounds go, they aren't really anything you'll write home about.  I like Hudson Soft well enough and all, just there isn't much to be said here.  The sounds work for what they are.  I think that it's a shame they are merely functional rather than showing a bit of creativity.  It would have been nice if the fire bolas you toss had a different sound than the basic ax or if the enemies would have had some sounds beyond the noise they make when you hit them.  

Graphics and Style

Attack the villainous...snail?
You are a cartoon man running along a cartoon landscape chucking cartoon axes and fire bolas at giant snails, bats, birds, pigs (yes, pigs) and an Evil Witch Doctor with interchangeable heads!  Just another day at the office really...

In all seriousness though, the graphics are cutesy and pleasant, the monsters aren't really scary in any sense of the word (unless you have a crippling fear of escargot), and even the Evil Witch Doctor looks a bit silly.  There isn't much in the way of sprite animation aside from the goofy expressions Master Higgins makes when jumping or tripping over something.  It was fine back in the day, I didn't really notice that the graphics weren't on par with other games at the time.  But now that I've got a library of games to pull from that I didn't have as a kid the game really seems outclassed by other games.


Just keep running.

That's what you have to tell yourself, and that's what I did tell myself back when I was renting this game every now and then from the video store.  No stopping to stomp the Goombas--I mean snails-- in this Mario clone, just keep moving or poor Master Higgins dies!  Why did he keep dying?  Because apparently he was hypoglycemic or diabetic or something!  Whatever the case was, you have to keep feeding the poor leaf wearing-wearing sap or he'll kick the bucket.  Thankfully each game area has fruit just about everywhere, but you'll find yourself constantly trying to balance racing towards the end of the stage while grabbing said fruit with making sure you don't rush headlong into an enemy and die.  Not that the game lacks on fun, but it certainly has its fair share of frustrations.  I can't tell you how many times I would grab a skateboard power up only to lose it a second later by slamming into a gigantic snail or trip over a rock, then face-plant-dying into a snail.  You pick up an ax or fire bola thing that you can chuck at enemies as you go, but really the enemies are bland and act more like obstacles than actual things trying to kill you. Not that this poses a problem or makes the game less challenging, just that it makes them feel generic--like blobs or blocks could have taken their place and you wouldn't have noticed.

Final Thoughts

Yeah, I know it was just a Nintendo game, but there were other games out there that seemed to have a little more effort put into them and for a game that was pretty much knocking off the Super Mario Bros. formula, this one, coming back to it years later, feels like it did the bear minimum in terms of creative difference from Mario.  You can't go back from where you came, you have a repeating end boss with the same dark music over and over, and you are even saving what amounts to a princess.  So basically it feels like a rip off.  Funny thing is though...

It was still kinda fun.  The Nintendo has a library of games second to none with most being fairly awesome even though they are only 8 bit.  Some games tried harder than others to mimic the formula of other, more successful games and ended up giving us what amounts to shovelware years later.  However, even as copycat-ish as Adventure Island is, the controls are solid, the music enjoyable, and the game just a pleasant little experience all around.  Did it do anything new?  Not really.  But what it did do it did well.  There were several sequels to Adventure Island and it even hopped platforms.  Hudson Soft was snatched up by Konami several years ago, and since they are currently in the process of mismanaging their own brand, they haven't had time go and screw up the Hudson Soft label, so it's doubtful we'll see another sequel anytime soon, which is a shame.

If you don't already own this gem then think about making some space in your collection for Master Higgins.

No comments:

Post a Comment