As you may have seen from a yesterday’s post, I picked up a GameBoy Pocket with a copy of GameBoy Gallery and Adventure Island. Well I’ve been playing it a lot yesterday and today, and I’ll have to say I’m pretty impressed with it!
Adventure Island on the GameBoy isn’t a port of the NES and Turbografx game, rather it is it’s own game, it could’ve received a different name like “Adventure Island: Master Higgins and the Dinosaurs”, seriously, there are dinosaurs in this game, and he rides on their backs as if they’re like Yoshi from Super Mario World! What’s more interesting about this little game is that there are some things about this game that I like over the original games, let me explain why…
The first noticeable thing about the game is this screen that appears before playing each level. With this you can bank and save hammers and dinosaurs to reserve them for later levels. THis is really handy, especially when you know when a tough level is coming up, however you will have to deposit the said hammer or dinosaur in the bank, leaving you empty handed as you start up the level. But this is fine for the first few levels; it’s best to keep those dinosaurs because it will get tougher later on.
The gameplay is pretty much the same from previous Adventure Island games, you play as Master Higgins, decked in his trademark grass skirt, trying to rescue his girlfriend from King Quiller, sometimes it feels like there are too many games where women get kidnapped by evil kings, be it King Koopa, or in this case a ten foot anthropomorphic rhinoceros. You simply run from the start of the level to the end of the level, the idea being that you must complete the level before Master Higgins gets hungry. At the bottom on the screen shows a bar that slowly reduces down the more time you take in the level. But you can increase the bar by collecting food that appear in the stage. Sometimes you’ll come across a bottle of milk that will max out the hunger bar. Then you get the typical Adventure Island standard issue items such as the hammer and the skate board, but now there’s a new gameplay mechanic in this game, the introduction of Dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs are collected by breaking an item egg after collecting the skate board, a playing card will appear, and each card represents a different dinosaur. Spade, Heart, Diamond and Club. One dinosaur can breath fire and walk on lava, another can shoot lasers from it’s tail, and there’s an aquatic dinosaur that can prevent you from falling down water based bottomless pits.
The only disadvantage of these Dinosaurs are that when you run with them, they have a hard time stopping and skid as if they’re slipping on ice. So the dinosaurs aren’t always a 100% top choice, they require a bit of skill to use, even when they deliver a lot of fire power to the enemy.
Another cool thing I noticed about this game is that some stages don’t share the typical level design compared to other early Adventure Island games. Typically you just move from left to right, running as much as you can before Mister Higgins get hungry. But like in the image above, there are a few levels that go from bottom to top as you’re climbing up the side of a cliff, jumping up to higher platforms to get to the top. It just makes a change from running left to right.
Another noticeable difference are the bonus stages after each level. You’re given the choice to select one of six eggs, each egg contains points from between fifty points to two thousand points, and there’s one egg that contains a 1up, you’ll have to make a good choice to pick the right egg, you might only get the fifty pointer.
The bosses in the game are a little different too, in the early Adventure Island games you had to fight off an anthropomorphic boss of sorts, be it a tiger, an eagle, even mythological beasts like a kappa, but then ending with the final boss, King uiller, a rhino. In this game, the first boss is simply a growing weed that grow branches where if you touch them you lose a life. To kill the weed you have to attack it’s core, but you’ll need to need to attack it’s flowers to prevent it from growing more branches. Again, making this Adventure island a little different to the others…
I’ve been going on and on about what I like about this game, is the anything I dislike about the game? Well, there are a few. The first being is that this game really suffers from slow down once more than 3 sprites appear on the screen, and a game about running away from hunger and saving your girlfriend, slowdown isn’t acceptable to be honest, it would be like slowing down a Sonic game because of hardware limitations. Thing is though, the GameBoy can handle more than 3 sprites on the screen at once, plus it’s not quite an “early release” game either as it was released in 1991, when the GameBoy was released in 1989. It’s possible that this game has some bad programming and memory management that causes the game to slow down often.
The only other thing I dislike, and something that’s a bit common on GameBoy games are sprite size. Granted, Hudson soft worked pretty hard to cram Master Higgins on a low resolution display without hindering the gameplay, and there are worse examples of oversized sprites on the GameBoy, Metroid 2 being one of them. In this case Master Higgins might actually be a wee bit too big on the screen, not too much, but if they shaved a few pixels off him, I might be able to see what’s coming ahead a bit better. After all, this is a game about running to save your girlfriend, it’s a good thing to be able to know what’s coming up, and sometimes it feels like it’s a little hindered on the GameBoy’s low resolution display. But as I said though, there are bigger culprits of oversized sprites on the GameBoy than Adventure Island.
Is the game worth it? Sure! if you’re looking for some Adventure Island action that’s a little different, and portable, this it a great game. Mind you, there’s a bit of slow down, and it could be a better game if only the GameBoy had a higher screen resolution, but it’s still a good game. I wouldn’t blow huge bucks on it though. I bought the cartridge on it’s own for about £3. And to me that’s the right price for this game. If you’re one of those completists who need’s the box and manual, don’t spend an more than about £5-8 on it. It’s a cheap thrill and should be kept as a cheap thrill. It’s a good game, but it’s not worth mega dough for it.