I've been waiting for Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?! since was announced by the show's creator, Pendelton Ward, via Twitter last year. As both a huge fan of Adventure Time and of WayForward Technologies, my expectations were, admittedly, unreasonably high. If you're not familiar with the cartoon, it follows a heroic boy named Finn and his shape-shifting canine companion / brother, Jake. It takes place on a colorful post-apocalyptic Earth, referred to as the Land of Ooo. They help people with everyday problems, battle supernatural forces, and well... go on adventures. Of course they also have an arch-nemesis, The Ice King. In what is an obvious reference to certain video game franchises, he has a penchant for kidnapping princesses.
Take WayForward's trademark polish, beautiful animation and old-school flavor. Now combine that Adventure Time's quirky humor, large cast of characters and obvious love for video games, and the potential is clear.To say that it's both disappointing and far from it is a blatant contradiction, yet that's the feeling I'm left with after completing this criminally short game. Whatever you'd expect from an Adventure Time game is probably here, with the exception of the voice acting from the show's stellar cast. Yet the game seems to fall short of its potential, and not because of its quality. While it's not flawless, it is a very polished and enjoyable game. Just don't expect to enjoy it for very long.
The (rather lengthy) title is a pretty obvious precursor to the story: The Ice King steals Finn & Jake's trash for no discernible reason, so they set out on a quest to kick his butt and get it back. It's a simple premise, but it sets the tone for Adventure Time fans and newcomers alike, putting the show's random humor on display early and often. Along the way, you'll run into lots of characters from the first few seasons of the show, many of whom will send you on a side-quest or fetch quest that usually helps you advance the story. The writing really comes into play here, because it ultimately saves the game from becoming too repetitive. Which brings me to the next part...
As I previously mentioned, the bulk of the game involves you going on mini quests for the citizens of Ooo. You'll need to unlock certain abilities or find certain items to advance to the next part of the map. One mission requires you to prove the innocence of three people who are suspects in a pantyhose theft and wrongfully imprisoned by the Earl of Lemongrab, who is essentially a talking, bipedal lemon. One of the prisoners is a baby, and you'll need to find his birth certificate so you can exchange it for his pardoning. Most missions are similarly structured, but the amusing side-stories make playing through them worthwhile and keep the game from getting too stale.
The game plays nearly identically to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. While in the RPG-style overworld, you'll find familiar locations from the show, occasional secrets, dungeons, and run into randomly spawning enemies. Almost every location or enemy you run into will take you from the overhead view to a side-scrolling section, in which you either have to get rid of all of the baddies, or travel from point A to point B. There are often secrets to discover, but nothing too hard to find, with the exception of one clever Easter egg. There is a New Game Plus, but by the time you finish, you've probably fully upgraded Finn's three stats, thus defeating the purpose of the slight bump in difficulty. It definitely has the feel of a game made for a younger audience. The enemies never present any actual threat, especially with the amount of pickups they'll leave behind. Dungeons and boss battles are relatively easy. The inventory system is straightforward, with all power-ups and health items in one place. That's not a complaint, but it gets to be a bit cumbersome while fighting a boss because you have to double-tap an item to use it, so I'd suggest keeping it organized to help avoid losing valuable items or using unhelpful power-ups.
Combat is as you'd expect, mainly consisting of jumping, hacking & slashing through enemies . You'll learn new abilities as you advance, for both Finn and Jake. About half of Jake's learned abilities are for use in the overworld, and he's not really of use during combat, which is a shame. Even his shield ability can only be used to block projectiles, though does come in handy during a couple boss fights. While there's nothing wrong with the gameplay, the lack of difficulty, creativity and repetitive nature make it feel like a missed opportunity.
Graphically, it's not the best-looking game on the 3DS, but the 2D sections really shine with the 3D on. The parallax backgrounds give it it a very nice pop-up book look, and having the 3D on never got annoying or headache inducing. The overworld isn't anything special to look at in 2D or 3D, but it's pretty cool to traverse if you're an Adventure Time fan just to see the familiar locales. The character animation is spectacular. Apparently featuring help from Paul Robertson, the wizard behind the pixel work in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, everything from your average enemies, to Finn & Jake's idle animations, to bosses, every movement is lovingly crafted.
The music is also fantastic. Headed by WayForward's go-to guy, Jake Kaufman (a.k.a. Virt), the soundtrack features renditions of music from the show, catchy original tunes and a handful of songs featuring full vocals. Those were especially surprising since the game doesn't feature any actual voice acting, just some occasional sound bites. Some highlights from the fully-voiced tracks include a extension of the theme on the title screen and an awesome boss-theme from a certain fan-favorite vampire queen. Each area of the overworld has its own theme, so if you spend too much time exploring one place you might find yourself turning the volume off while running around Ooo.
Adventure Time's first video game adaptation is a decent one. Inspired by the Zeldas and Metroidvanias of old, it is a nice mix of action, adventure & platforming. Unfortunately, it has a few glaring flaws that hold it back from reaching the greatness of those titles, with most of the slack being picked up by it's own charm. By the time things start to really pick up, the game ends, but thankfully with a bang. For those new to gaming, I can't recommend it highly enough. For older gamers, unless you're a huge fan of Pendelton Ward's wildly popular show, WayForward Technologies or Zelda II, I can't say this game is for you. If you fit into any or all of those categories, then there is a very shorty but fairly enjoyable adventure to be had.
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Thanks for the review! Well done!
I played through the demo and figured I didn't need to bother with the full game (since I'm not an avid viewer of the show). It was fun for what it was and I appreciated the humor, but didn't feel compelled to drop $30 to experience the rest of it.
Is the game really that easy? I know I came close to dying a couple of times playing the demo. And then my girlfriend managed to finish it but I had to take over during some of the 2D sidecrolling travel sections.
I still might get it, at retail. If both of us end up playing through it, that's a $30 well spent.
Duck Hats AND Turtle Hammer things? Has Zero seen this??
How is the 2nd screen implemented in this game? If I missed it, I apologize.
I'm glad you mostly (6.8) liked it; having a game made of something you like so much is sometimes a treacherous path. See: every NASCAR game that I've played on the Wii. I didn't even buy the newest one..
Why would they pass up voice acting? Isn't that, like, what makes cartoons what they are? I don't even know if you'd have to pay those guys. "Hey, they're making a game of our show, so we gotta voice it." "Ok."
I see the "it's dangerous to go alone" thing there, haha, was there so much more that you haven't told us about?
Ever since this game was first announced, I had not a clue what this franchise was all about, so I appreciate your brief explanation on the cartoon and why it matters so much to you and your enjoyment of the game, Vinnie. Nice review!
I may not know the show, but I definitely know WayForward, so already my curiosity is piqued. Very interesting to hear this game bears some resemblance to Zelda II: AoL.
Awesome to hear the animation is fantastic.
I'm not sure what it is about many licensed games, but often times they fall short of their potential. More often than not there seems to be a lot more the developers can do to tap into the possibilities of bringing these established characters and worlds to life. I suppose in many cases, the franchise itself can be enough to generate the desired sales.