I am 23 and I watch Adventure Time. I work with children and they’ve asked why I proudly tote little badges of Finn and Jake on my big grown-up jacket, why someone who is inescapably an adult watches a children’s TV show. It’s a valid question and one that needs answering before I go much further. Here’s why I watch (and play) Adventure Time. Adventure Time is nostalgia. It’s your best friend from childhood, re-imagined as a talking dog with elastic buns. It’s the culinary treats your parents used to allow you every so often, masquerading as the Everything Burrito or a birthday cake drenched in maple syrup. It’s the adventures you imagined housebound on long rainy days, of fighting monsters by the dozen, rescuing princesses and living in a tree-house with your best friend. Adventure Time gives us another chance to feel the innocence and emotion and excitement of being young, a doorway to childhood sculpted to fit our adult, cynical selves. It’s a series that takes this feeling of childhood and adulterates it with a world haunted by the folly of a nuclear war (the Mushroom Wars, as they’re known in-universe). The comic foil of the Ice King is darkened with the knowledge that he was a normal loving man corrupted by the insidious power contained within his crown. The main antagonist is a living skeleton, revived in the nuclear waste found in a derelict subway, the bones of commuters scattered across its dusty floor. Adventure Time lets us feel like children again, but it doesn’t patronise us. That’s why I watch Adventure Time. Wayforward Studios appears to understand this and has given us an imperfect game that is nevertheless the perfect Adventure Time game. A lot of the older fan-base of the show will have grown-up in a world dominated by SNES games or Megadrive games. Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!! (other titles considered include Adventure Time: Every Grammatical Pedant’s Worse Nightmare???!!!!) is a game deeply influenced by that generation. If you’ve played the older Zelda games, you’ll instantly feel at home with the overworld roaming and fetch-quest centred gameplay offered here. The story, along with the myriad conversations with NPCs and even the flavour text for consumable items, is excellently written; there’s a large dollop of charm smeared across every sentence, whether it be surviving a verbal autobiography by an anthropomorphic well or simply reading an item’s flavour text. My favourite exchange of the game comes from Jake learning one of his first abilities; Hot Dog Princess describes her urge to walk slowly all over Jake’s elongated form, describing in detail the paw marks left in his flesh. His conceptualising of this creeps him out so much that he only reluctantly agrees to act as a bridge for Finn, giving you access to other areas in the overworld. The game, quite frankly, lives and dies by its dialogue and the basic fetch-quest system (get item A for character B, who gives you item C for character D, repeat until complete) is kept fresh purely through the excellent writing. The combat is perhaps a little simplistic, even considering the obvious target audience (children, not childish men), with each random encounter, boss level and dungeon leading to a scrolling level. Platforming and basic dodging are the only skills you’ll need and while there are items and special attacks to mix up the rough-housing, none change the basic approach enough to keep the fighting fresh. Extra range is provided by ice-shurikens, to pick an example out of my burgeoning inventory, but the extra range is limited by the small screen size and isn’t the game-changer it should be. There are a series of items that boost attack strength and other stats, but limit themselves visually to only adding a brief change of colour to Finn. It’s a sad thing to use a ninja cloak and fail to see it appear on Finn and is a real missed opportunity to really make the combat visually fun, if not mechanically so. The decision to lower the difficulty level is certainly prevalent elsewhere in the game too. Food items, the game’s med-kits, are dropped far too frequently and despite a sensible option to combine items, I too often found myself abandoning food along the wayside for lack of backpack space. The limited crafting is a gem sadly under-utilised. Adding maple syrup to a hot-dog should have more effect than merely replacing the hot-dog image with a brown splodge, indistinguishable from every other brown splodge in my inventory. You’ll bump into save points (fountains surrounded by water-nymphs, of course) incredibly often and it’s hard to feel any real tension when death will set you back a mere thirty seconds of play. But you’re not here for perma-death or the slog of challenging combat. What you paid the price of entry for was the Adventure Time experience and it’s here in force. Every part of the game seems to have been hand-crafted by Pendleton Ward himself: the quality and humour of the songs match those in the show, the voice-clips are a real treat so rarely given out and the writing, as discussed, is pitch-perfect. There’s a real love for the series here and honestly? Any opportunity to visit the land of Ooo is to be snatched up as soon as possible by fans. The game has flaws, sure, but none that should dissuade you from looking down at your watch and realising what time it is. It’s Adventure Time.
Review: Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!