By Matt Gosper
The Adventure Time cartoon has, over the past few years, become a smash hit with child and adult audiences alike. With its blend of unique characters, and elaborate locations overlaid on one man’s love of classic Dungeons and Dragons, it’s no surprise that a video game tied to the show would come along sooner or later. Enter Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!
The game itself has a fairly simplistic storyline, which feels pulled straight from one of the show’s 10-minute episodes. The Ice King – not so much a bad guy as a lonely nuisance – steals all our heroes Finn the Human and Jake the Dog’s garbage, so they set out on a quest to figure out why anyone would bother doing that. It’s revealed that Ice King is building Garbage Princesses for the boys to ‘rescue’ all over the land of Ooo, to give both them and himself something to do. The story doesn't really elaborate much more beyond that, but the narrative itself and all in-game dialogue are written by the series’ creator Pen Ward, giving it the same flavour as any other traditional installment of the show.
In your quest to get your garbage back from the Ice King you take the role of Finn, with assistance from his magic dog buddy Jake. The whole game is clearly constructed as an homage to Zelda II, with side-scrolling hack-and-slash gameplay interspersed with overworld map exploration. With the addition of a shapeshifting dog however, the game also takes on tones of A Boy and His Blob, with progression in your journey linked to gaining new forms and abilities for Jake to stretch into, such as a parasol form for crossing large jumps, or a bridge form for moving between landmasses on the overworld.
The gameplay itself is pretty basic, as the title is intended to be playable by the show’s younger fans. You’ll find that once you have the hang of the controls, you’ll barely be challenged by generic enemies beyond figuring out their attack patterns. This pattern recognition is especially helpful as transitions from one zone to another involve a prolonged sidescrolling level full of cannon fodder enemies to mow through, and random encounters on the overworld will also award you loot and items to use in battle.
These are all callbacks to things featured in the show, such as Jake’s beloved Everything Burrito as a healing item, or Billy the Hero’s sword as an attack booster. Interestingly, foohealing items can be flavoured with randomly-dropped condiments as well – match the item to a relevant condiment and the item’s healing boost will be increased. Mismatch the two however, and you’ll find you have an item that just takes away more life. The drop rate of these items is so high that this experimentation is easy to master without hobbling yourself for healing items.
One issue with the gameplay however comes due to a sudden difficulty spike in the endgame. The final boss in its multiple forms has a moveset that is drastically more powerful than any of the previous bosses – luckily there’s a save point immediately before it, but even then I found myself having to try more than a few times before I managed to punch through. The boss feels cheap, and doesn’t fall into the same ‘pattern recognition equals victory’ mold that the game’s other bosses do. It seems like a point where younger gamers would also become frustrated r overwhelmed, ruining an otherwise pleasant playthrough.
Beyond those gripes, the game looks and sound pretty good – for a tie-in title it feels fairly well-polished, with the in-game sprites capturing the essence of the characters and environs even if the resolution is a little poor. Audio also does pretty well, being repetitive but not aggravatingly so, and what spoken dialogue there is in the game is passable, if not amazing. Given I played on the DS version this is understandable, but I still feel like I’ve heard better voice clips on the platform.
Once completed the game has a harder New Game + mode for eager players, but after completing it once I didn’t feel the need to dive back in for that. All in all it’s a solid title for a tie-in AND a kids’ show game, and worth a go if you need something that can be easily played in short bursts. Hell, it’s worth it just for the inside references and Zelda winks.