PAX Prime 2010: Bonk: Brink of Extinction
In the increasingly popular tradition of resurrecting classic – yet slightly obscure – series, Bonk is the next franchise to heed the call. Although few may remember the heady hero, Bonk was once Hudsonsoft’s flagship character and the unofficial mascot of NEC’s Turbo Grafx-16 console. Thanks to this new downloadable title, it appears Bonk can no longer be considered ancient history.
Although familiar with the character, demoing Bonk: Brink of Extinction was my first experience with a Bonk title. As with any other 2D platformer, Bonk runs from left to right jumping between platforms, while grabbing various items and collectibles along his way to the goal. Like the bulbously domed cave kid he is, Bonk uses his head to bash enemies while on-foot or via his comical head stomp. Headbutts can also be used to push objects into place to help Bonk either progress or find scattered trinkets.
Along his prehistoric journey Bonk picks up a wide variety of transformations that imbue special powers. During the demo I got to try out an ice ability which was useful for freezing enemies and necessary to create blocks to jump from. According to the Hudson rep, players should expect at least half a dozen different transformations with their own corresponding powers to exploit including fireballs and rhino charges.
As unique a character as Bonk is, it’s kind of sad just how vanilla Brink of Extinction feels at this point. The in-game art style doesn’t quite capture the kooky nature of the character and the platforming itself feels unrefined. Jumping tends to be too floaty and Bonk has a ludicrously impressive apex for his double jump, which makes platforming both easy and extremely forgiving. Understandably for the purposes of a demo, Hudson might have wanted something that wouldn’t frustrate attendees, but the jumping could feel a bit tighter without greatly amplifying the difficulty.
Although I didn’t get to see too much of Brink of Extinction, I was assured the game would support full campaign local drop-in co-op. It also features a fairly robust unlock system and several bonus stages that can only be accessed through item collection, which can involve revisiting previously completed stages after acquiring new powers later in the game.
There really isn’t too much to say about Bonk’s revival. It’s a simple, fun – if a bit straightforward – platformer that seems content to play it safe. If the controls can be tightened and a little more of Bonk’s quirky charm can be injected into the gameplay, it could be a worthwhile diversion come early 2011.