It’s fair to call myself an unabashed fan of the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time. It’s one of those rare “kids” shows that is designed so anyone, adults or children, can enjoy it. Often times it deals with mature themes in such a way that it never feels like it’s talking down to anyone. The show can make you laugh and cry all at once. That’s mostly due to its creator, Pendelton Ward, having a heavy hand in creating a deep and meaningful world that, for the most part, isn’t designed to be a marketing ploy, like a number of kid’s shows of old. Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! for the Nintendo DS has much to live up to in that regard.
For those with no history of the show, the world takes place in the Land of Ooo, a post-apocalyptic Earth which has been changed into a magical land following a massive nuclear war. The world of Ooo is actually fairly dark when you look at it, but the show is designed in such a way that you might never notice it. Ooo is a cartoonish world, where candy and food has taken on sentient form, creating humanoid “Candy People.” There are a number of other magical creatures that inhabit the land as well. The show mainly focuses on Finn, the last remaining human on the planet, and Jake, a talking dog with the ability to change his shape, much like the Pokemon Ditto. They usually fight against Ice King, a powerful, yet idiotic, wizard who controls the Ice Kingdom and has a legion of penguins at his command. Ice King generally just wants to fit in with Finn and Jake because he’s not “cool” enough but usually goes to extreme measures such as kidnapping the magical Princesses of the land.
HIKWYSOG starts with Ice King stealing the garbage of Finn and Jake with no clear reason for doing so. Finn and Jake assume that Ice King is up to no-good and begin a quest to track him down to figure out what his grand plan is. The story was written by Pen Ward and as a result, much of the writing feels right at place in the game. There are some genuinely funny moments scattered throughout the game. If you are a fan of the show, you will feel right at home with much of the games dialog.
One thing that many licensed titles do is take jokes from the source material and beat them into the ground. You will hear jokes from the show or movie repeated ad nauseum. However, HIKWYSOG actually creates most of its own humor. While you see many characters from the show, the game doesn’t simply copy and paste jokes from the show, which is a massive relief. The game feels like its own self-contained episode of the show.
The game itself feels like an identical copy of Zelda II from the NES. While the graphics are better, in general you do much of the same things. The over-world has a top-down perspective but when you enter dungeons, towns and random battles, you enter a 2D-sidescrolling perspective. In general, you will find yourself performing various fetch quests for people in the land. This generally means that you will have to explore every cave in order to find exactly what you need in order to advance the game.
When in combat, the game, sadly, becomes far too automatic. You have a number of attacks that you can perform with your sword or by changing Jakes form, but for the most part all you will need to do is use the basic attack and use your shield. You will find yourself fighting a large number of enemies and, as a result, most of the encounters begin to feel far too similar. Enemies never have complex patterns, even when you are fighting dungeon bosses. The most complexity you will ever gain from the game is using Jake as a shield to deflect projectiles. This becomes even more disappointing when most enemies will only take a few hits to kill, meaning that at times, fighting can be a chore. Enemies never do too much damage to you and if they do, you collect enough health items that are randomly dropped that it never becomes an issue.
It’s disappointing because most of the platforming you do in these dungeons can be difficult and fun. Some points in the game will have you jumping to small moving platforms while others will have you using wind to fly across massive caverns. There are a number of hidden secrets scattered throughout the environment that will give you buffs to your stats or replenish your health. If you’re a completionist, there is plenty to find throughout the world.
Of course, if Jake could simply transform into anything at a moment’s notice, the game would almost become even easier. However, the game couches this idea by saying that Jake is simply feeling lazy and doesn’t want to do any of his special moves. As you progress through the game, Finn and others encourage him to do a variety of different maneuvers to travel across the land. At one point, he will learn to turn himself into an elevator to reach new areas in the overworld, while at another, he will decide to turn his paw into a massive fist to destroy things blocking their path. The idea itself is fairly clever and feels like it’s something that actually would happen in the show. However, in practice it means that you will do a ton of backtracking in the game.
The leveling system is fairly simple. You will find a number of chests scattered throughout the world that will give you a point to your stats. These three are speed, health and attack. If you are searching for everything, you’ll likely have Finn’s stats maxed out by the time you finish the game. However, it never feels like you need to do this as enemies will still take just as many hits by the time you are finished. You also find enough health items that it’s mostly a luxury to increase your health.
However, it is in your best interest to find everything because, even if you find everything in the game, it will still only take you around four hours to complete. Even with that short of playtime, most of the game feels like its being padded out, with a number of missions that will force you to backtrack all the way to the beginning area of the game. While there is a New Game + mode, it mostly plays exactly the same, only doubling enemy health. The game just feels like it’s far too short for the asking price for $30.
Wayforward, the games developer, has always had a knack for designing fantastic looking 2D sprites. Even in the terrible Bloodrayne: Betrayal, the art was fantastic. That history is no different here. The art for the game looks fantastic and characters move smoothly. The world feels like it’s been ripped right from the cartoon and makes the game feel genuine. That said, there are a few color glitches with the DS version, which can cause the environments to disappear when you enter a town or cause your inventory items to simply have the wrong colors for no real reason. Additionally, the sound design is wonderful, evoking many of the fantastic songs from the series, without ripping them off directly.
While Adventure Time: HIKWYSOG isn’t the best licensed title ever made, it’s still substantially better than many others. The writing is fantastic and the design is great. The combat and length of the game, however, hold it back from mainstream appeal. If you’re not a fan of the series, you’ll likely be disappointed. However, if you’re a hardcore fan of the show, you’ll likely get a ton of fun out of the very short play time.
SCORE: 7 out of 10
A copy of Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! was provided to Pixel Related for review.