Sunday, 25 November 2012

Adventure Time review in progress

  Sorry for the incomplete posts last night.  They’ve been updated today.  The second post has the images from my unboxing, while the first post has been updated with the link to the theme song, posted online by D3Publisher and hosted by Song Cloud. 

  Today I follow up on the mission to review Adventure Time, or the piece that I’ve seen through last night.  As ever, I try to avoid spoilers.

  Visuals and music convey a strong sense of whimsy.  I’ve read reviewers online refer positively to the 8-bit tunes; the developer Wayforward definitely brought their A game to the music department, even if they are not strictly chiptune tracks.  The melodies are strong and memorable, the instrumentation varied, and several tracks overlap each other to make each song.  The overall emotion delivered, of playfulness in a land of fun and goofy characters, stands out strongly and is reinforced with each new character introduced.

  As a reminder, I have no prior acquaintance with Adventure Time in any other form, but distinct personalities are coming across well, showing a certain amount of care went into personification.  The dialog is mostly drole humor and wordplay, and I can imagine a dozen or so references to the show zooming over my head.  The best compliment I can pay here is that familiarity with the source is not a requirement, and fanatical Zelda nerds like myself can still have a fun time with the game despite it.

  Judged in terms of gameplay, the mechanics are simple, adding up to some well-wrought dynamics.  Items are navigated thanks to BMO, the game console partner acting as the lower screen.  He also pauses the game, but critically, he switches between the two.  The system looks deliberate, and adds a nice slice of tension to the game; you must look down to select items in real time, giving enemies a chance to sneak up on you.  The touch interface is perfectly calibrated, and I haven’t yet had need of the sword stylus in the box; my finger has proven most comfortable.  Condiments are a welcome addition, recalling Earthbound brilliantly.  They can make food items more or less effective at healing (or hurting) Finn, and requiring logical experimentation to find the best combos.

  Navigation is done on the overworld map, displayed on the top screen, while BMO optionally displays a map on the bottom screen.  Backtracking is frequent, but Wayforward once again masters the concept by keeping it sparse and uncommon; I’ve never caught myself expecting the need to backtrack, until I enter the dungeons.  Random monsters keep Finn and Jake alert to their changing surroundings, and a small number of items are doled out in battle that can give the player new options on the map.  Jake (the dog) also learns powers that open new sections of the map, and these are always accessed with a minimalist, but always effective press of the A button.

  Towns and social interaction are mostly a game of memorizing where the inhabitants of the Land of Ooo are.  Their professions are mostly evident from their costumes, and when unclear they always tip off their role in the story with the text dialog.  Though not immensely new, it is a system that works, and keeps the player focused on their objectives almost at all times without the need for bossy partner characters or interrupting the flow of the game.  “Hey!” “Look!”  Such annoyances are thankfully gone from Adventure Time.  I have gotten myself lost once or twice, and been stymied for a few long minutes, but got myself back on track just by reading the comments on my quest items.  All and all, I consider this perfect, if a little short (more on that latter).

  Combat is a brilliant return-to-form beat’em up.  Finn sallies into battle against multiple enemies at a go without missing a beat.  Injuries follow carelessness, and the sword will not work when Finn is low on health.  Gameover, a fate I only saw once (stop laughing!), is quick, and reloads the game from the last save point with all your gear intact.  Items increase damage dealt and taken, jump height, restore and sacrifice health, and add fire element to attacks, but as discussed above, you need to look down to use them, raising the tension for those who don’t plan ahead.  The 3D effect remains a beautiful gimmick, the game plays exactly the same in 2D but looks so much better with the depth of field.

  For the most part, the game is a treat for classic gamers, and I predict dozens of “Best references to classic games in Adventure Time” articles to appear on the net in the years to come (but not from me, I promise!).  The one thing that causes me to fear, though, is the length.  I’ve already beaten two of the world dungeons last night, ostensibly the easy half of the game, but still half.  The 3DS records that I’ve been playing for 2 hours and 51 minutes.  I’ve got my hopes up for some kind of twist or extra, hard mode quest, but that’s just speculation at this point.  10 hours is a comfortable minimum for adventure games, but I confess enjoying greatly games with longer play times like Pokémon White (150 hours), or games with a lot of replay, such as Kid Icarus Uprising (34 hours total).

  For those fans of the show, looking for an adaptation of the show to their game system, I’m afraid that I have to leave the job of comparing the materials to their source to others.  I’ll chime in again when I’ve beaten the game, but I intend to take my time with it, so expect other content from me in the near future.

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