Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!! [Review]
My opinion of Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!! swings back and forth every time I talk about it. I felt that it was far too easy, that its map required too much backtracking, and that its combat was pretty dull. At the same time I loved the sprawling map filled with many locations from the show and combat’s simplicity. While I can think of quite a few ways that the game could have been better, I still played the game obsessively from start to finish over a two-day gaming binge. It’s not often that I look up at the clock while playing a game and find out that it’s 5am any more, but the Adventure Time game just pulled me in that hard. It has its problems, but overall it’s a solid, addictive game.
Creating a game that encompassed the madness of the show couldn’t have been easy, but Wayforward Technologies pulled it off well. Characters from the show dot the landscape and fill the towns, making every jaunt through a location into something like a celebrity tour. Even bizarre characters like Choose Goose and Lemongrab make appearances, turning something as simple as exploring a town into an exciting game. I’m not normally a fan of in-game dialogue from NPCs, but each of these guys was a character from the show with his/her own personality and quirks. It feels sacrilegious to say it, but I got an Earthbound vibe from some of the insanity that came out of the character’s mouths. It’s not as consistently good as Earthbound was, but it’s still fun just to talk to the characters.
They’re all vibrant and fluid in motion, capturing the look of a cartoon. Characters breathe in and out, shift in one place, and all generally look like they’re in constant motion. Finn and Jake’s character models are especially good, with many of their attacks and moves having many frames of animation that make them look gorgeous when they’re moving. The rolling attack is one of the most impressive, and just flows smoothly across your eyes when you see it. They even threw in a few extra movements where Jake picks Finn up from the ground after they both fall out of the attack, showcasing a lot of attention to detail. The artists in this game went out of their way to make the characters move and look great.
I wish some more of that effort had gone into the regular levels in the game, though. It’s separated into four areas that have been pulled from the show, using the grasslands around Finn and Jake’s treehouse, moving on to the Candy Kingdom, the mountains, and into the Ice King’s kingdom. Many of the more famous locales are given an incredible attention to detail, right down to the torn paintings in the treehouse or the Ice King’s drum set. The levels that make up the bulk of the game’s action sequences are all pretty bland, though, looking like generic action game spots. There is some really nice art in the backgrounds of some areas, like the graveyard, but the levels themselves seem strangely uninspired in a game that has some much detail in other areas. It would have been nice to see this amount of detail spread throughout the whole game rather than in the uneven way it was done.
The music in all of the areas is pretty top-notch, and Jake Kaufman has outdone himself again. I love the upbeat music that plays during many of the action sequences, and I really enjoyed some of his remixes of the title song and other tracks from the show. The sound effects feel lush and loud as well, right down to the water that comes out of the Water Nymph’s fountains. The sounds really made the game pop, and are played in a way that makes you really feel like you’re passing close to the people and places.
The vocal tracks blow every other aspect of the music away. There are a lot of weird, fun vocal tracks with some strange lyrics that just capture the spirit of the show. The song that plays when you run into Marceline is one of my favorites, but the background music in the viking village or the whispering, creepy voices in the graveyard aren’t all that far behind. Vocal songs are rarely used to much effect in the games I’ve played, often being held back for ending themes or just in a place or two in the game. Adventure Time has lots of them, and they’re all funny and just good to listen to. Once again, Jake Kaufman has created a soundtrack I listen to outside of the game.
That high-energy battle music is at odds with the overly-easy combat in the game, seeming to be far too earth-shaking to be playing while you’re fighting rocks and turtles with hammers attached to their backs. Beyond some fights with some named characters from the show, the enemy design in this game is terrible and lazy. There are seriously at least three kinds of rocks that you fight, two types of worms, and two types of living signs. There are some fantastic ones that show up at the end of the game like the ice bull, but for the most part it feels like I’m roughing up wildlife and garbage.
Given the ridiculous and huge creatures that the characters fight in the show, there is no excuse for the monster design to be this bad. There are dozens of adversaries that Wayforward could have culled from each season to fill the game with some awesome fights against creatures that would at least look like they could fight back. The series is practically built upon Finn and Jake fighting powerful adversaries, so I really don’t know why this one crucial aspect isn’t represented in the game. It was a huge misstep, and the game suffers because of it.
Fighting charred rocks and worms is about as difficult as it sounds, too. The main problem with the game is that it’s just far, far too easy. Most enemies are barely capable of attacking, many of them throwing themselves at you in short leaps that you can easily avoid. Your arms don’t give you a lot of reach to hit them with, but once you get your sword you can cut down almost anything in the game before it could ever hope to get close to you. The only reason for you to take any damage in this game is because you’re being careless, as you’d have to be paying almost no attention to blunder into these weak attacks.
The bosses don’t improve things much. They hit harder than regular enemies, requiring that you actually attempt to get out of the way of their attacks, but avoiding their simple patterns is just far too easy. If you can beat Toad Man in Mega Man IV, then you’ve seen almost every single attack pattern this game has to offer. Any time a boss needs you to do something other than jump over it to dodge an attack, it moves so slow that the game is practically screaming at you what to do. There was one late-game boss fight that required me to use one of Jake’s special abilities, giving me hope that future bosses might be more intricate, but then nothing more came of it. The last few bosses were pathetic to the point that I didn’t take damage against many of their modes.
One sequence against the Ice King was a bit of a challenge, requiring some bullet-hell like moves to avoid beam attacks, but you have a trick up your sleeve. The enemies in the game all drop various food and attack items, and you have a gargantuan inventory to store them all in. You can keep forty items in it and access them at a touch, meaning that you can heal yourself forty times if you were even close to having trouble. The items are all cool little nods to things that showed up in the show, but it still felt like an unnecessary addition to a game that was already far too easy.
Adventure Time is a kid’s show, I can hear you thinking. It should be easy for its target audience. Well, I don’t believe that it’s entirely built for kids given some of the jokes and things I’ve seen in it, but even if it was there’s no reason for it to be this easy. It’s just a hair above the difficulty of a Lego game, with the game barely resisting your attempts to get through it. There’s a reason why kids always want to play the games their older siblings are playing, guys, and oversimplifying something to make kids like it more won’t always work. It could have been a lot harder and still been an easy game.
I’d also argue that the amount of exploration the game requires makes it hard to say this was designed entirely for kids, too. The game gives you new abilities to use with Jake every once in a while, and most of them allow you to go back to older areas to collect new items. Unlike many other games with exploration elements, many of the items you get from these places are mandatory for new missions. In other words, you have to keep a really good journal of the places you couldn’t get to along the way or have a good memory for them. That’s a lot of work for a kid, and I think it would be prohibitive for the kind of child who needed combat to be this easy.
I did like exploring the world, though. It captured the adventure spirit of the show, but the fact that the items were necessary most of the time took away some of the joy of looking around. There aren’t a lot of hidden treasures beyond some stat-boosting stars, so I rarely felt like I’d found some treasure off the beaten path. I would have liked to see some more exciting or unnecessary loot in out-of-the-way places rather than having it be mandatory to visit every single location on the map. The big map makes it feel like the game is a lively place open to exploration, but the fact that you need to visit just about every spot to finish the game makes it surprisingly linear.
It is still fun to go to every single one of these places to see what they have to offer, though. Like I said, a lot of the game’s music and characters lend the whole thing a charm it doesn’t deserve at times. It can get dull in places, but the presentation and humor carry it through many of its dark spots. At worst, most of the game’s problems are annoyances that take away from a game that should have been fantastic with a few more months of work. I think that Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!! was bubbling over with promise, and that a sequel with more work could turn into something great. With some more challenging combat and a more interesting world to explore it could have been great, but as it stands it’s a solid, but easy, game. It’s still a must-play for fans of the show or fans of weird action games, but it could have easily been so much better.
Images courtesy of gamefaqs.com.