Adventure Time: HIKWYSOG Review

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I’m not an old gamer. Raised in the 90′s in a lower middle class family, gaming consoles weren’t of the highest priority to my parents. I would sometimes head to my neighbors house and play on their Nintendo 64 or their Xbox (you know, after the 90′s of course), but I could never save my games or play them alone at night, mere inches away from a fuzzy television screen. I had gameboys, though. They were cheap and the games were, too. I remember the first game I ever owned being Pokémon Yellow with the limited edition Pokémon themed Gameboy Color. Other fantastic Gameboy Color games like The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons came into my possession over the years of Christmases and birthdays. It was because of this that I harbor a deep love for RPG and Adventure games, as well as handheld games. After finally getting an Xbox 360 as my first gaming console back in what I believe to be 2007, I continued to buy games that featured grand stories and elements of exploration and wonder; Mass EffectFallout 3The Elder Scrolls IV and V. Not exactly a list of favorites for the retro-aligned gamer that chooses to put Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 as their favorites, but they always brought me back to my days of foraging through the Safari Zone to catch a Kanghaskhan and crawling through dungeons to slay the bastard at the end, drinking in his defeat as well as increasing my heart count.

That longing for my limited gaming nostalgia, rife with adventure and cartoony fun, is what led me to discover the fantastic cartoon Adventure Time, created by Pendleton Ward for Frederator Studios, featured on Cartoon Network. A friend of mine showed it to me. I had heard of the show before and even watched a few disturbing Youtube Poops involving it. It seemed too strange and a bit stupid for my tastes at the time, and I was currently disenfranchised with the likes of Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon for featuring third-rate live-action shows constantly.

But, oh man, when I sat down and watched that episode of Adventure Time (the episode was “The Enchiridion” for those of you who were wondering), my god damned jaw dropped. It was the greatest cartoon I had ever watched. The flood of euphoria from the show’s nostalgia-scented universe, one that makes me want to be a kid again as well as features a post-apocalyptic Earth (a clever metaphor for nostalgia if you think about it correctly), is what kept me hooked on the show.

So, when I heard that Wayforward Technologies and Pendleton Ward were teaming up to develop an Adventure Time game for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS, I felt ambivalence. For one, I was stoked that such a thing was being developed, but at the same time I didn’t own one of those magical devices called a DS or a 3DS.

I then did what any sane human being would do in that situation. I dropped the $200+ dollars necessary to purchase the 3DS (“midnight purple” because fuck yeah) and Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?!! all in one fell swoop. Thankfully I had $200 in store credit at best buy. After playing it, I can definitely say that it reminded me of the classic games that I dumped hundreds of hours into, day and night, playing over and over ad nauseam.

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Adventure Time: Hey, Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?!!
Wayforward Technologies
Nintendo DS & Nintendo 3DS

Adventure Time: HIKWYSOG is not a particularly long game. During your first run you’ll most likely clock in at around six hours or so. I remember checking in on the progress meter at one time during my play and being shocked to discover that I had completed 61% of the game already. To call a short game a bad game, though, is to call games like Portal (a three-hour game itself) cheap and shoddy. It ends when it’s supposed to and I felt satisfied with what I got by the game’s conclusion, enough to go for seconds.

AT: HIKWYSOG‘s story is vibrant with the atmosphere and humor of Adventure Time.The Ice King has stolen Finn and Jake’s garbage in the middle of the night and the duo are now on a quest to get their trash back. It’s not revenge or anger driven by any stretch; the guys just want their stuff back from the loony ice-themed wizard. It turns out that the Ice King stole the garbage in order to try and build himself a princess to marry, which is both hilarious in its delivery and sad when you get to thinking about just how crazy and lonely one man has to be to do such a thing. They track him across Ooo, helping other character with their problems before they confront their wily arch-nemesis.

The dialogue is simply fantastic; it’s goofy and chocked full of made-up words, as is the show. Although it’s not fully voiced, with snippets of the show’s audible dialogue playing when a character shouts a known line or catchphrase, the writing really captures each character’s personality. Finn acts manic and excitable, Jake is relaxed and lazy, the Ice King is tragically insane, and Lumpy Space Princess, my personal favorite, is narcissistic and rude in a valley girl sort of way.

Seriously, try not reading this in his voice.

Seriously, try not reading this in his voice.

The gameplay resembles what slightly older gamers have come to know as Zelda II.There’s an overworld in which you walk (overhead camera. Think Pokémon) from destination to destination across the Land of Ooo. Along the way, you’ll come across monster encounters,black ghost-shaped sprites that wander around the overworld. Touching these monster encounters, as well as any village, staircase, or forest icons on the overworld, enters you into a flat, side-scrolling perspective. In this mode you’re able to fight monsters and talk to NPCs.

Fighting handles with Finn making quick, short-ranged strikes and Jake throwing slower, longer ranged punches. There are a variety of other attacks that Jake can learn by finding them within chests inside of dungeons that are also useful in overcoming obstacles. Being a talking dog that can shape shift his body like Mr. Fantastic, Jake can learn to smash a giant fist on the ground, crushing enemies as well as destroying rock barriers. He can also turn into an umbrella when Finn’s in the air, elongating the distance he jumps while slowing his descent. Eventually, Jake can also learn (well, I say learn, but it’s more about him being inspired to become less lazy) to form himself into a wheel with Finn inside and glide across bodies of water, ramming into any enemy unfortunate enough to be in their path. The downside is that since defeating enemies offers no rewards besides the occasional item drop, you may prefer to just jump over your foes and make your way to the next area without conflict, effectively taking some of the challenge out of the game.

When it comes to boss battles, most of them can be quite easy if not entertaining. Bears with chainsaws tied to their backs, a hundred penguins (Gunter!), and vampire half-demon Marceline herself make appearances as bosses. They all have very predictable patterns (except the Gunters, who waddle and slide around randomly) and can be defeated with enough patience and timing, but when it comes to the last two boss fights at the end the difficulty ramps up as you have to spend your time equally between dodging projectiles and double tapping your healing items on the touch screen. Speaking of that, this game definitely loses points for making it difficult for me to choose my items in the heat of battle. Having to stretch my thumb precisely over which item I want to use and then needing to double tap it can be highly frustrating sometimes.

In the overworld, Jake can also employ his body shaping abilities to cross bridge gaps and lakes as well as crush barriers and rise to mountaintops. These are restricted until one of the NPCs convinces Jake to stop being lazy, which acts as a way for the game to restrict access to areas until you complete certain objectives.

Any game worth its salt these days includes a way to level up your character. It’s not an RPG mechanic, though, because you can easily level up all your attributes in a single playthrough. Leveling up your Hearts and Attack stats, two of the three attributes Finn possesses, will lend you more hardiness in combat, while leveling up Speed gets Finn and Jake to their destinations a lot quicker. If I had to give a piece of advice, though, I’d say to stick with leveling up Hearts and Attack  all the way before you even think of dropping anything into Speed.

Another interesting mechanic is the item-combining system. When you kill an enemy, they sometimes drop items that you can pick up and store in BMO’s STUFF inventory. These items come in three flavors: Buff, Food, and Condiment.

Buffs are items, usually references to the show (Billy Sword, Businessman Briefcase, etc.), that can give Finn special abilities or enhance his own. Food heals Finn with varying degrees of potency. Condiments, though, really mix a few things up. Items like Ketchup, Sea Salt, Bug Milk, and Jam can be dragged and dropped on top of food in order to either increase their healing properties or give Finn different abilities while healing him. I discovered that adding salt onto a milkshake will let Finn shoot Ice Shurikens, another reference to the show. A big problem, though, is that you could possibly play the entire game without ever knowing you could combine condiments and food. A single, small and irrelevant text bubble will mention this aspect of the game and it’s hard to miss if you don’t talk to the right character.

As for the music, I am completely in love with this game’s theme song. If you took the original ukelele-driven theme song of the show, sprinkled extra awesome on top of it, mixed in some chiptunes, and topped it with some god damned rock and roll, you’ll have the awesomeness that is this theme song. I’ll frequently find myself leaving my 3DS open in my guardshack at my day job blasting the main menu for my personal enjoyment (unfortunately, I work alone. I can’t share it with anyone!). The rest of the music is entirely chiptuned and thoroughly enjoyable. Each environment has it’s own special melody that speaks to the atmosphere. The music is simply a masterpiece.

This game features a rather boastful amount of talent for it’s art and animation department. Paul Robertson, Joakim Sandberg, and Shiho Tsutsuji joined their incredible forces to create an overall beautiful and fluid design. Animations are smooth and quick, owing their polish to Paul Robertson. It’s a very colorful game and simply enjoyable to just look at. Everything really feels like an episode of Adventure Time.

Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?!! Is a great game for those of us who want to reminisce back on the glory days of handheld gaming as well as a fantastic entry for younger gamers. It has a few flaws here and there, mainly in its length and lack of difficulty, but none of them are a deal breaker in the least bit. Adventure, exploration, and humor are a trademark of both the show and this game. I’d definitely recommend playing it, even if it means you have to buy and entirely new Nintendo 3DS.

8.3/10

Frank Margarella has his own crappy personal blogs here and here. You can follow him on twitter @Fuhjem.

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