Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!
One has to admire WayForward’s devotion to the concept. They always deliver a straight and true version of the thing they set out to create. So when they set out to create an Adventure Time adaptation with the structure of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, it comes as no surprise that they’ve delivered exactly that. For better or worse. The aging formula may not have the legs to withstand modern expectations but WayForward makes the most of it. With the collaboration of series creator Pendleton Ward, there is also an authenticity to the franchise’s authorial voice that acts as the glue holding it all together.
Adventure Time is straightforward. As the game’s title summarizes, Ice King is stealing everyone’s garbage, so Finn and Jake set out to find out why. The why is that he is building garbage princesses with the trash. So they must put an end to this and reunite the various townsfolk with all of their misplaced junk. It plays out in a clever way, entirely self-aware and also playing into fan service with a familiar cast plucked from the show.
It’s fairly succinct for an Action-RPG. At times it also feels content lite in a mechanical way. There is overhead exploration and then side-scrolling sections where Finn and Jake can interact with villagers, fight enemies, etc., etc. After a while the age of that formula sets in. It’s when every objective results in fetch quests and it feels somewhat structureless. I was often finding quest items and returning them before I knew what they were. It sometimes feels like helpful information is left out only because the inspiration is old. Adventure Time doesn’t modernize things. It just applies a new coat over Nintendo’s original work.
Perhaps it’s out for a broad appeal but Adventure Time is never especially tasking. Enemy patterns are clearly telegraphed and by the end fights begin to feel more like a chore without necessarily providing any reward beyond food or condiments to supercharge the food’s value. There is nothing to grind for and attribute bonuses are mostly pathed along the set route.
The most worthwhile thing is just to push into the story and see all the dialogue. There are some sharp lines that help justify the journey and there is really nothing to do outside the story route anyway. There’s largely only story stuff that hasn’t been introduced yet and so is somewhat confusing.
Adventure Time looks like a videogame adaptation of a cartoon. It’s vivid and the four areas carry specific themes. The design carries the show’s special brand of humor with thematic vocal tracks layered over the audio. In the graveyard, wavering whispers suggest there is some haunting about in a hokey kind of way. And in the Marauder village, their slogan is chanted in chorus, “feast, fight, be manly”. There is always a sense of character, informed by consistent style choices that feel true to the show.
The thing is Adventure Time limits itself. It can only be as good as the most divisive Zelda game, the black sheep of the franchise. An interesting thing, as only a few other titles took that Zelda’s design as their own. WayForward never truly owns it either and it feels like them working off a template for the sake of a few jokes. There are still enough decent things about it, however, especially for fans. The overall experience of Adventure Time is just fine if not hampered by its reliance on old design. It’s inoffensive and is a fun one-off novelty at best.