Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?!! is a new game for the DS and 3DS by WayForward, makers of A Boy and his Blob. It takes gameplay reminiscent of Zelda II and combines it with the absurdist aesthetic of the Adventure Time TV show. If you are not familiar with Adventure Time, it is a cartoon, created by Pendleton Ward that has attracted viewers far beyond its target demographic of 10 year olds. The game itself has a lot to live up to as both a game and as an AT property, and while it’s not entirely successful, it does manage to achieve far more than your average licensed product.
In Adventure Time, you play as Finn, a young human boy, and Jake, a magical talking dog with the ability to stretch his body into different shapes. You will travel across the land of Ooo in an overworld map, and when you are attacked by roving monsters or reach certain crossing points or dungeons, the game becomes a side-scrolling platformer/beat-em-up. There are four areas in the game, each with its own unique enemies and art. In each area there is some sort of problem for our heroes to solve. When you resolve the issue, you will receive a key item or power that unlocks the main dungeon. You’ll fight numerous enemies, solve simple puzzles, and do some pretty simple platforming. Along the way you will find different power-ups and hidden Wizard Stars, which can be used to increase Finn’s stats. The power-ups often give Jake, who is feeling lazy and spends most of the game in Finn’s backpack, some new form to shift into, such as a raft or umbrella. These new abilities allow you to reach new areas and progress through the game. There are numerous savepoints in both the overworld and dungeons ensuring that you won’t lose too much progress should you die. The top screen displays all the action while you can manage your inventory and view the map on the bottom screen. Adventure Time never really deviates from its fairly standard formula, which is really too bad because the bizarre world these characters inhabit is rife with opportunities for unique gameplay. It does become more interesting as you play because you gain so many new abilities. Unfortunately, the game is rather short. It only took me about five hours to finish the whole game, and I found 11 of the 15 hidden stars. There is a new-game-plus that allows you to take your leveled-up Finn into a new game, but you don’t get to keep any of your items or powers.
On a technical level, Adventure Time looks fine. I played the 3DS version and the sprites generally look pretty good and the characters are well-animated. The game looks clear and crisp on the 3DS’s large screen. The 3D is used well with a nice depth of field added to both the overworld and the sidescrolling sections, and there are no framerate hiccups or other issues. The art style is even more impressive. The aesthetic is quite cartoonish with simple lines and little blending of colors or shades. The characters and world are bizarre with talking candy people, anthropomorphic houses, and evil signs walking around. It looks a lot like the TV show, which is great news if you’re a fan. However, if you’ve never enjoyed this sort of art style before this is not likely to change your mind. The one downside to the game’s presentation is that many of the actual environments aren’t as creative and detailed as the characters and items that inhabit them. There are a few exceptions to this, such as Finn and Jake’s tree house home and Princess Bubblegum’s castle, but in the large stretches of open field, the monochrome coloring and simple lines are more dull than charming.
I did have a lot of fun going through Adventure Time, but not because it plays great. The platforming and combat aren’t really anything to be too excited about. It usually controls well enough, though occasionally I found the actual movement and combat mechanics to be a little clunky, and this resulted in me talking some damage, but it was never a huge issue. Fortunately, falling into pits only results in a slight loss of life, not instant death, and health items are plentiful. This alleviates any frustration that remains. As a result, the game is really easy. I only died a few times, and it was because I forgot to heal myself. When the game is difficult, it’s not much more fun either as this is rarely due to clever game design. More often it’s because Finn’s jump just isn’t quite precise enough or because the boss stays in the air for most of the fight. Overall the actual gameplay part is acceptable and does not detract from the rest of the experience. Thankfully the humor from the show, which is combination of easier jokes for children and more detailed and clever ones for older viewers, is in full swing here. It does not merely reference scenes from the show, although there are certainly plenty of references, it makes its own jokes, and this is one of the game’s better qualities. It feels like a good new episode of the show rather than an amalgamation of all the jokes that were already made. Unfortunately the game features very little voice acting and some of the samples seem like they are lower quality than others. However, the music also deserves special note, with a bunch of new songs that capture the spirit of Adventure Time without being simple copies. I still can’t get the opening theme out of my head.
It would be really hard for me to recommend Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?!! for anyone who wasn’t a fan of the show, even at its discounted price of $30. As a game it’s solid, neither particularly good or bad. Still, if you like Adventure Time and want to experience more of it, this is a pretty good way to do that.