When you’re presented with an action platformer that’s centred on friendship, a giraffe and hotdogs, you just know a penchant for the ridiculous is going to be required.
The Adventure Pals is the game in question, rocking onto Xbox One and looking like a spoof of that cartoon which features the human and his adopted brother who’s a yellow dog. Fortunately for developers Massive Monster, it’s clear that The Adventure Pals are much more than that, but it’s still a very silly game on the whole. Is that a good thing though?
It sure is, or my name’s not Wilton!
Actually, I’m not Wilton, because that’s the titular character whose birthday kicks off the entire adventure when his dad gets dad-napped. Not only that, but the mad fellow behind this elaborate kidnapping plan, Mr. B, has decided to transform Wilton’s dad into a hotdog, along with all the elderly folk he finds residing across the land – I’m not kidding. Why hotdogs? What’s the big idea? Well, whatever it is, Wilton’s on the case with his birthday gift and new best buddy Sparkles the giraffe, alongside a pet rock to figure it out, hopefully saving his dad in the process.
The story itself is bonkers, but serves a purpose in setting the tone for everything you’ll experience. Most of the narrative is delivered via text based interactions between the characters, which although would’ve been better if voiced, are still well worth reading for the outrageous puns littered throughout the conversations with some weird creatures. Chatting to a travelling band of foxes, or a whale in dire need of a pair of underpants, is only eclipsed by interacting with a piece of regular toast and its French counterpart – I think you have to be there to really appreciate it. Having humour that can be understood by both the elder and younger audiences, whilst still being funny, is an achievement. Even if you’re only laughing at how terrible the wordplay can be.
To access levels, Wilton must traverse an overworld, riding upon the back of his mighty steed, Sparkles. Taking quests and completing levels opens up more levels within that world and subsequently additional worlds. There are five worlds in total, ranging from the greenery of Treevale and the sky high Lunacropolis, to the underwater exploits of Crablantis. Lunacropolis aside, each of these worlds have five levels and a boss level, which doesn’t seem a lot, until you factor in the stages.
Once Wilton arrives in a level, you’ll find that it’s then split into five stages, each of which requires you to explore, fight and locate the exit to the following stage – or to acquire a much coveted Ruby at the end of the level. Platforming is a key part of the gameplay as you navigate many different layout designs you’ll encounter during the entire game. Initially it’ll be simple jumps and wall jumps to climb higher or delve downwards, but later there’ll be disappearing and moving platforms, nodes for Sparkles to attach to with its tongue to fling you both higher, and zip lines. The gradual addition of these elements keeps things ticking over nicely, especially when combined with the many hazards.
Putting the enemies aside for the time being and there are potential dangers thrown into the mix regularly. At first, the threat of falling into nothingness or feeling a bit of a prick from the spikes situated along your route is the extent of the peril, but later on there’ll be rotating axes and saw blades, as well as laser-like beams that can cause damage to your health. Losing all health and dying isn’t the end of the world though, it just means there’s a deduction to the coin balance and you’ll need to replay that stage again. What’s great is that, should you fail, the enemies seem to be downgraded to improve your chance of success slightly – a cracking idea to appease those who have less patience or skill.
The sheer range of enemies presented in The Adventure Pals is wonderful; in design more than anything else. You can expect to encounter battle-ready hotdogs, deer, lobsters, dinosaurs and even hotdog hounds that consume you whole. They all look silly, but still coming across as menacing enough to be a threat when wielding swords, bow and arrows etc. Until the hotdogs start producing exploding mines from their rectums and the furry spider creatures release toxic trumps – it’s at that point the giggling takes hold.
Then there are the big boss characters to tackle every so often, just like in any other game of its ilk. Except I don’t think I’ve ever seen a beast made up of breakfast items that squirts ketchup and mustard at you – I’m not yolking… sorry – or been chased by a dinosaur that’s essentially a mixture of vegetables combined together. The battles don’t drag on and generally picking up their routine of attacks is enough to see you find the perfect timing to strike.
Naturally, to eliminate these baddies, there must be combat involved and luckily for you Wilton can swing a sword around and chain attacks together, whilst utilising different bombs stored in his Tardis-like rucksack to gain the upper hand. The bombs are vital as the melee attacks are quite limiting when surround by a few enemies, usually seeing Wilton take a couple of blows due to the non-existence of specific block or dodging mechanics. Sure, you can making him jump out of the way of attacks and hover a tad using Sparkles’ rapidly rotating tongue, but I’d have much preferred an actual defence mechanism to add another layer to the combat.
One would expect the abilities earned from levelling up would provide more attack focussed upgrades for Wilton, but instead it sees the pet rock, Mr. Rock, receive the most enhancements. He’ll be able to weigh in with hits on the enemies and eventually protect you from arrows. Other abilities include cheaper prices for bombs and potions, being luckier when opening chests, and the addition of a trumpet which toots green gas. Aside from needing more Wilton abilities, there are plenty to work towards unlocking.
Once you’ve completed all the levels, should you feel like you need more, then the combat arenas are one option, with five waves to conquer in each arena. Seeing as combat isn’t the most exciting aspect, I feel the main extension to game time comes in the form of replaying levels to sweep up the collectibles. Cupcakes are well hidden in every single stage, which can be redeemed for fun accessories to wear in-game, and a sole sticker is to be found somewhere within each entire level to add to a sticker book. What becomes frustrating is trying to find these before reaching the exit as, on occasion, it’s easy to reach the point of no return, with no choice but to finish the level, torn up and ashamed.
Before I played The Adventure Pals, I expected a cheap imitation of the popular Cartoon Network show, when in fact it’s a damn good platforming adventure. There are a ton of stages to play through, each lasting only a few minutes at a time to ensure you’re in and out of areas before they become stale. Having a plethora of enemy types and hazards thrown in along the way helps a lot too. The goofy humour definitely sets it apart from most games though, with its silly conversations, wacky designs and plot about turning old people into hotdogs. Despite all the positives, it’s a shame that the combat is lacking that extra dimension to be exciting, and that it’s annoyingly easy to get disorientated within the design layouts.
Nevertheless, if you fancy a few laughs, and want to help the aged, buy The Adventure Pals!