Adventure Time, c’mon grab your friends, we’re going to very distant lands. With Jake the Dog and Finn the Human, the fun will never end, it’s Adventure Time!
That’s the catchy opening theme song for Adventure Time (as if you hadn’t guessed), one of Cartoon Network’s most successful shows that’s watched by kids and grown-ups alike, and we really are about to go to distant lands in the newest adventure. It’s already spawned a number of video games, but the latest one Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion – and maybe the last instalment with the TV series seemingly coming to an end this year – has been developed by Climax Studios. With plenty of experience under their belt having worked on titles like Assassin’s Creed Chronicles and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, can they triumph with a more child-friendly offering like this?
To find out, we’ll have to set sail across the Land of Ooo, which has been flooded overnight and no one appears to know why. It’s down to Finn and Jake to be the heroes of the hour as they attempt to solve the mystery, save the day and reunite the kingdoms that are now cut off from each other. After hopping in your new-found boat, it’s off to take part in a mini-game and interrogate the Ice King in order to get some leads and take it from there. And that’s where the story begins…
The narrative throughout is a little bit bonkers, as you would expect with Adventure Time, seeing lots of villainous characters doing the bidding of whomever instigated the entire situation in the first place as. This certainly was no accident, that’s for sure. Having plenty of other familiar faces – Princess Bubblegum, Peppermint Butler, Gunter etc – showing up as part of the story is great for fans of the TV show and getting the original voice cast onboard really helps in regards the authenticity. It’s rather silly, funny and in the storytelling sense, there’s not much else to hope for, apart from being a little more informative about the characters for those gamers who are unfamiliar with them.
There are two main elements to the gameplay; cruising around the high seas on Jeff (the boat) and wandering about on dry land, with both exploration opportunities capable of leading into encounters. Each battle takes the form of a tactical turn-based affair, seeing the options to attack, block, use items, perform special abilities and in some cases, flee the scene. Claiming victory earns XP to level-up characters and provides in-game dosh on upgrading them, or to spend at pop-up stores ran by Choose Goose on consumables – none of which are useless, for a change.
At first you’ll have to make do with just Finn and Jake, but eventually the party is increased to four as Marceline the half-vampire/half-human and BMO the talking game console, are recruited into the team. Finn has a sword to wield and his special abilities involve him slashing the enemy with ice and other effects, whilst Jake can punch and morph into a dangerous whirlwind and a giant Dogerang (a doggy boomerang), if there’s enough energy in the bank to pull such cool actions off. BMO can aid with boosting the energy levels and putting status effects on enemies, and Marceline whacks foes using a guitar, but she also has vampire skills in her arsenal too. All four have an ultimate move, which is charged in different ways, and these can turn the tides mid-battle if you’re struggling.
Unfortunately, the conflicts get samey due to facing off against a lot of similar characters and performing the same attacks over and over. There are only so many times one can defeat the likes of Gnome Fairies, Varmints and Flame Guards, before you end up losing that buzz of achieving glory. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a bit of a grind to level-up, I think most people would avoid or flee from non-essential encounters. Alas, doing so would leave you way under-powered for the bosses, and we don’t want that as they’re already tough.
What’s good is that you can upgrade the attack power, accuracy, health levels and a few other aspects, using in-game money, because accumulating cash is really easy to do. Destroying objects and opening chests are straightforward enough, earning you a decent amount of coin on top of your battle winnings. The upgrades are capped for each character level though, ensuring you can’t just farm coins and turn all the characters into maxed-out forces to be reckoned with too early in the game.
Seeing as you’ll be venturing back and forth between places such as the Ice Kingdom, the Candy Kingdom and the Flame Kingdom, it would’ve been nice to have a half-decent map. Whether you’re sailing Jeff or on foot, it’ll show you the general direction of the objective via the compass at the top of the screen, but it’s so easy to get lost and go the wrong way. Not to mention, you’ll be in and out of the map screen to reach side quests, for which there won’t even be an icon displayed outside of that screen. Even if you were able to just place a marker down as a guide, that’d be far easier. Given that the primary audience is of a young nature, the traversing is a real slog and that’s a bit of an issue.
Other than that, the 3D open-world side of proceedings is pretty good and lends itself well to general exploration, visiting different kingdoms and using other inventive abilities that work outside of battle to access hard to reach areas. Design-wise it certainly looks the part too, delivering vibrant visuals when needed and bringing in the darkness for the more treacherous lands. It’s all in keeping with the TV show, as is the sound with some brilliant voiceover work from the cast of Adventure Time.
There are a few little niggles though. In regards the sound, when someone’s speaking it can just cut off randomly at the beginning or near the end, like it’s been edited poorly. Visually and there’s not much wrong apart from when the environments in the distance flicker in and out of view when you’re moving. The worst thing though is when the game bugs out requiring a full reset. Just don’t try to load side-quest characters onto the boat when it is full and you should be okay.
Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion succeeds in offering an authentic original tale that’s full of zany humour that fans of the animated TV series have come to know and love. Having the official cast doing the voices and presenting a world that’s full of great characters and locations is good to see too. It’s a shame then that the turn-based combat becomes repetitive once the initial buzz of trying all the cool manoeuvres wears off, and there’s just too much of a grind to level-up. Travelling across the vast Land of Ooo can be a real chore too, draining some of the fun out of it.
If you’re an avid viewer of Adventure Time, then it’s worth experiencing for the narrative at least, but everyone else should wait for Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion to get a discount.