Good Friends, Good Times
HIGH Sparkles the giraffe.
LOW Level designs feel repetitive.
WTF The Cupcake Cat.
Playing videogames for over three decades means I’ve played a lot of great games and a lot of bad ones. But the vast majority of things I’ve played fall into one category – good games. These are titles that get most things right and have no major problems, but they don’t stand out and aren’t memorable past the basics, like recalling who the main character is or what the gist of the plot was. The Adventure Pals fits into this category.
The Adventure Pals is a platformer that follows the story of Wilton, his pet giraffe Sparkles, and his sentient rock friend, Mr. Rock. This unique trio is out to stop the nefarious Mr. B, who’s turned Wilton’s dad into a hot dog. The story is a little ridiculous but always light-hearted, often containing self-referential jokes about the absurd plot. The story isn’t the only part of the game that’s good natured – levels are bursting with color and cheerful music, protagonists are smiling and upbeat, and even the enemies seem jaunty as they arrive to attack Wilton and friends. It’s hard not to enjoy a title that never takes itself too seriously.
The three besties must explore various areas across five different worlds, including a vast forest, an underwater kingdom, and even a wasteland populated with dinosaur creatures. Levels are accessed by free-roaming an overworld map, but each individual level is clearly marked, and there’s little to do while travelling between points. Each world also contains a shop to buy explosives and health potions, as well as various characters who ask you to complete tasks for them. These tasks are usually related to finding red rubies – collect enough rubies and open new levels.
To defend himself as he explores each area, Wilton brandishes a sword for melee attacks, chucks bombs for a more explosive touch, and carries Sparkles in his backpack. This boy/giraffe combination is reminiscent of Banjo-Kazooie – while Wilton does much of the legwork, Sparkles spins her tongue to hover like a helicopter, uses her teeth like a wrench to turn switches, and can grab pegs to swing the group from place to place. Mr. Rock is always nearby, but is somewhat independent of the other two, orbiting Wilton and attacking when enemies are near. The protagonists are well designed and fit the story perfectly.
While The Adventure Pals offers solid platforming and action, it also includes RPG elements. When enemies are defeated, they leave behind glowing blue orbs that fill up an XP bar. Each time a new rank is reached, the player selects one of three choices to upgrade Wilton, Sparkles, or Mr. Rock. Such abilities include gaining more powerful explosives, giving Sparkles a grapple attack, or increasing Mr. Rock’s attack range. Each ability only needs to be selected once and all upgrades were easily gained prior to the final boss. As someone who’s feeling a little burned out on RPG elements being inserted into every genre under the sun, I was glad to see The Adventure Pals taking a light touch.
While Wilton, Sparkles, and Mr. Rock have plenty of obstacles to overcome, skills to earn, minor puzzles to solve, varying locales to visit, and no shortage of enemies to beat up, it all began to blur together as I progressed. Boss battles suffered a similar fate. I enjoyed the fights and the bosses are as absurd as the plot, but with the sole the exception of the final boss, none stood out. Everything here is good — just not great.
Five years from now, I’m not sure how much I’ll remember about The Adventure Pals. The quirky main characters will probably come to mind, but not much else. Platorming fans won’t go wrong checking it out, but it’s solidly in the middle of the spectrum — not great, not awful — and as such, it’s smack-dab in the middle of that good category that vanishes from memory.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Massive Monster and published by Armor Games. It is currently available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Nintendo Switch. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Zero hours were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Everyone 10+ and contains Fantasy Violence and Crude Humor. When enemies are defeated, many of them leave behind cartoons skeletons, but no bloodshed. None of the humor sticks out as particularly crude, though some of the dialogue relies on juvenile humor. Parents should feel safe letting older kids play this game.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Story and dialogue are delivered solely through text. Each time a character speaks their name is clearly displayed. There are no audio cues needed for gameplay. The game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
When he does find time to play, Brian’s preferred games of choice are platformers, beat-‘em-ups, or a good adventure game.He still enjoys the retro gaming scene, could talk about the Nintendo 64 more than he might like to admit, and misses playing in actual arcades. Brian also gets to pass on his love of gaming, as his oldest son is just now starting to join the fun.
As for that GameBoy - it’s sitting in Brian’s nightstand, waiting patiently for four AA batteries.