I rush into the house, throw my things onto the counter, and head over to the television. Flipping a few channels I land on the Cartoon Network and let out an excited smirk. I hear the familiar chirping of penguins before a voice sings softly “Adventure Time, come on grab your friends” through the television. It is also worth mentioning that I am 20 years old.
Adventure Time is one of those few television programs that I can actually admit rivals some of the best cartoons I grew up with. At my age, I can still appreciate its style, and find its humor as fresh as just about any show out there right now. It’s smart, charming, and endlessly interesting, whether you are a kid, or an adult on a lot of drugs, or otherwise. And now, it has a video game – and it’s actually pretty good.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage!??, aside from being the Fiona Apple of video game titles, is a new release from developer Wayside, who are known for Bloodrayne Betrayal, Silent Hill: Book of Memories, and Double Dragon Neon. The game saw supervision from Adventure Time creator and god Pen Ward, who brought the game to life with Adventure Time’s unique humor.
It becomes clear quickly that Adventure Time was created with the idea in mind that it would be homage to classic gaming. Basing almost the entirety of its style on Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link, Adventure Time takes place in a 3D over world with combat and exploration taking place on 2D sidescrolling, platforming levels. Those looking for a light-hearted excursion into a cartoon world, fans of the series, or fans of platformers will probably love this game for all that’s its worth.
It goes down much like an episode of the outstanding television show. Pen Ward manages to make a great adventure out of something super simple. Ice King steals the hero’s garbage and flees. As a result, players must guide them to retrieve their garbage and in their words “kick ice kings butt”. The story is hilariously, and purposefully vacant, much like the television show. It makes way for an underlying mysticism and overwhelming joy that is brought out by great characters and hilarious dialogue.
Players command the now iconic Finn (with Jake comfortably in his backpack) around the Land of Ooo, where the Adventure Time stories take place. Players will combat enemies with a collection of skills and attacks that Finn uncovers in a very Zelda manor. These skills will open up new areas that Finn can then access. Combat is fun and satisfying, but doesn’t get exceptionally deep. It can be fast paced; however, Finn doesn’t have very much in his arsenal. Some of the games very limited enemy types (I estimate about 12 total throughout the entire game) either are fought entirely the same, or can be a bit cheap to fight against, as Finn’s limitations makes it difficult to take them out without succumbing to some damage.
Taking damage isn’t really an issue. A plethora of healing items appear and are common. The game uses an inventory system which is accessible from the bottom screen of the device. Upon defeating enemies, Finn collects food items, or various other items from Adventure Time lore (such as the amulet of the Nightosphere), which are all stored in a tiled inventory system. You may then combine certain food items, like syrup and pancakes, or activate items with a double click with a stylus, or by holding the L-Button and moving the cursor to the desired item.
This works great, for the most part. Unfortunately, in a heated battle like against one of the game’s bosses (which have the potential to amp the game’s difficulty up), it becomes very difficult to use items on a dime. If you are really low on health, and have an item like Tree Trunks Pie, which heals most, if not all of your HP, good luck trying to click it with a stylus while trying to dodge the enemy’s barrage of attacks. The small size of the items on the screen makes it hard to click without taking you completely out of the action, which in certain situations could get you killed. Usually, though, players won’t have an issue with this.
Adventure Time is a remarkably easy game. At its very hardest parts, I only died once, and was able to master it right afterwards. Platforming puzzles are never extreme. Enemies are never hard to take down, though as previously mentioned, some bizarre attack patterns that outmaneuver the best of Finns move set will result in frequent minor damage. That can be easily healed by disgustingly common healing items. The game’s quests are never more intense that fetch quests for major items, and even if you do die, save points are very forgiving.
Therein lays the question of where Adventure Time’s appeal is. It is definitely there. I happily describe it as an experience similar to the enjoyment someone would get out of a Kirby game. Equally easy, short, and simple, but insanely fun. Adventure Time is a great pick up and play experience. It is simply fun to play through, despite only lasting a few hours, and encompassing very little as far as complexity goes. It manages to take what works out of the Kirby and Zelda formulas and make a very nice licensed product. There is even a fancy new game plus mode for increased difficulty.
Adventure Time is great to look at as well. Bright colorful, sprite art decorates the entire game and adds a BMO-esque (you’ll get it if you watch the show), feel to it. It comes off as a very polished retro game. The graphics don’t surpass similarly stylized Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion, but they are by no means bad to look at. The 3D doesn’t really add as much to Adventure Time as it does to Epic Mickey though. At the very least it is still easier on the eyes than many other games on the system.
Pen Ward’s writing is evident in the game. It never becomes quite as hilarious as many of the episodes of the show; the game is homage mostly to its self-awareness, and to the large cast of the television show. In that respect you could sort of call it fan service. Many much loved Adventure Time characters make an appearance in the game, such as Lemongrab, Lumpy Space Princess, and Party God. There are a few hilarious lines sparsed in, such as when Lemongrab declares that an infant he imprisoned is a total complexity to him, and then gives it to Finn saying “free baby”. It’s funnier in the game, I promise.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage!?? is exactly what I had hoped for. As a licensed product, it does a great job of transferring these amazing cartoon characters and their world into video game form at the hands of series creator Pen Ward. As a game, Adventure Time holds up pretty well. It abides by a simple formula that works. It has issues though. It’s inventory system could be usable while pausing, to make up for combat issues, some more complexity could have been present, and damn the game could have been longer. Those aren’t the reasons to play Adventure Time, however. You play for the great world and characters, and the fun gameplay. It retains that Kirby appeal, while not being nearly the best in its genre on this great handheld. I can see myself going back to this one in the future. And for the future beyond, I say bring on the Lich!