Even in the modern age of gaming a lot of games have been trying to feed off of classic ideas or franchises to grab a wider market, this is exactly what happened with the recent Adventure Time game on DS/3DS. Latching on to the adventure platformers of years gone by Adventure Time does something usually only seen in the indie genres, prove that you don’t need to be a big flashy FPS game with dramatic cut scenes to be fun. Unfortunately it is a game that has a few faults and falls a little short of being super memorable. But, for the price point and for being a portable game with a great source material it is hard to ignore even if it isn’t going to be an instant classic.
If you are a retro gamer the first thing that is going to catch your interest with this title is the fact that it is based on The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link; not just my opinion this is stated by the games creators. You’ll be able to see this instantly when you play the gam; an over world map in which Finn and Jake (the two protagonists of Adventure Time) move around on (even with shadowy figures to cause “random” encounters with) and then all the action is via 2D sidescrolling levels. It is fun to play a game like this again, something not released on a modern system every day.
But don’t worry, this isn’t the only thing that will catch your interest. If you are a fan of the cartoon series you’ll be happy to know that this game oozes of the humor and charm from that cartoon and in fact mimics it almost perfectly. If you’re not a fan or just have never seen it, I’d suggest doing so before playing this game. It isn’t required, you’ll still get the jokes but the goofiness of the game might make more sense if you have seen the source material. I’d like to go more into the type of humor and child like whimsy this game depicts but it is just too difficult to explain and describe. This is one of those things that actually knowing the source material and/or playing the game is the only way to get it right. Trying to explain why something is funny from this game would just leave you in a moment of “You had to be there.”.
The presentation is really nice, everything in the game pops and looks just like the cartoon. It is nice seeing something so well represented in a classic 2D presentation. All the colors are vibrant and all the art work, be it for the actual game characters or their artwork during “cut scenes”, looks sharp. The backgrounds aren’t amazing in some areas, but others have a lot of detail there. Everything is made even nicer when playing the 3D version on the 3DS. This is one game where I’d say the 2D presentation is actually accented by the 3DS screen. Moving platforms, the scrolling background, doors, items and more moved to separate planes makes this classic 2D sidescrolling game have just a bit more modern depth; something I enjoyed the entire time I played.
The music is fantastic, simply awesome. From the remade and extended main theme from the cartoon to the different themes for each area on the map, to the level and boss themes; the songs are just cool. Some of the tracks, especially the ones on the over world map, can be a little repetitive but all in all I enjoyed each track. Each one drives the game well and sets the tone for each area perfectly and there isn’t much more I can ask from a soundtrack in a video game like this. I will be honest, I’m not sure everyone will enjoy these loose and humorous rock styled tracks though. You should listen to the opening theme to see what I am talking about.
Unfortunately even though the artwork, humor and story reflect the cartoon they are based on perfectly there are no voice acting from the iconic characters. You do get some sound clips of familiar catch phrases though and everything you read does read like the characters they are suppose to represent. So, I personally don’t count the lack of voice work as a negative but I could see how some people will miss it. Since they are not full motion cut scenes anyway, it just doesn’t seem necessary in my opinion.
The gameplay and core mechanics of the game are fun but here is where the game starts slipping. Nothing about the gameplay isn’t well done but nothing about it stands out either and some of the added mechanics like a leveling system doesn’t seem to add much to the game either.
The game stays true to 2D adventure platformers like this pretty well and doesn’t put too much focus on either the platforming or the battles in a way that makes one feel too hard or one feel too pointless. You’ll find that each type of mechanic for the gameplay is well balanced as you walk across the screen and fight bad guys and jump around. But neither one actually seems all that difficult either making the game seem a little shallow sometimes. Most of the enemies cause a problem only because they are pretty abundant and you have to back track so many times that you’ll get a little sloppy with disposing them; but I don’t think I ever really lost a life from the standard enemies. Bosses on the other hand can present a challenge do to their size or wide range attacks but even then I never felt in too much danger that I wasn’t going to get around this obstacle in the game. The game may look like Zelda II but it doesn’t have the difficulty curve in battle. Towards the end of the game things did take a sharp hit upwards because the dungeon in this section got so long without and save point, it was easy to get frustrated or to lose a bigger chunk of life. But the rest of the game does have a lot of save points to be found and items to give you more life are never too sparse; you can hold a lot of them anyway.
The actual platforming again you’ll find pretty easy especially up front. Later on you’ll meet moving platforms, larger gaps and things like directional wind to battle. But nothing is too crazy that you won’t get across it with a little thought first. I fell down a few pits due to mistakes so I can’t call it too easy but I wouldn’t call it hard either, it serves its purpose. But when you do fall you just a lose a bit of a heart, just like a Zelda game. Most of the more difficult gaps just take some thought and a certain power that you must gain. So as long as you don’t run in and jump without thinking you’ll be ok.
As far as combat goes it is pretty straight forward, especially at first. At the start of the game Finn has the ability to punch and tapping the Y button will cause Finn to attack in a specific pattern. Jake does not tag along as a true companion but instead hangs around in your backpack like Kazooie from the N64 game Banjo-Kazooie. Jake provides a punch with a longer reach when hitting X, and that is it at first. Eventually Finn gains a sword and Jake will gain some powers, which leads into the discussion about leveling up.
There are the two types of classic Adventure-RPG style leveling systems in this game, finding powers and raising actual stats. Through the game Jake will gain powers that are useful in combat (or 2D levels) and on the overworld map. This again mirrors the Zelda franchise where Link would find items to help in combat and ones to get him to different parts of the map to reach a new dungeon. Eventually Jake will have an ear shield, a large fist smash, be able to make a bridge and more. Unfortunately these are gained in a rather linear manner and don’t really need to be sought out; so they flesh out the overall game but not the adventure. Finn gains a sword and later a power up for that sword, nothing big there really.
You can also find stars which can be used to boost a specific stat, each star for one point boost. A lot of games in this genre do leveling this way instead of having actual experience points or anything of that nature. That part is fine and trying to gather stars causes you to explore a bit, which makes the game a little longer. The problem is, I never really felt any difference from getting higher stats. This really made the quest for finding new stars feel shallow, if the game isn’t really going to play any different in a noticeable way such ideas become a distraction from better things instead of a welcome addition.
I was able to get through Adventure Time on my 3DS in just right at 4 hours (seems to be a trend). After beating it I was treated to some nice credits, a tease that I could play the game as Fiona (no, you can’t) and then was awarded a New Game+ mode. So there is a reason to go back, since the game seemed a little easy and short I would honestly like to play it again at a higher level of difficulty. Plus the humor, story and simply fun gameplay asks for more than one play.
Overall Adventure Time on the DS/3DS is a solid and fun game that harkens back to a classic game genre that isn’t visited enough these days. For a portable game it is great, offering a pick up and go experience with a fun story and adventure. But at times its simplicity left it feeling a little shallow and some mechanics were not fleshed out enough. It is pretty obvious that even though kids and adults alike enjoy the cartoon and both will enjoy the classic style of this game the overall gameplay was aimed only at a younger audience.