Adventure Island is a game created by Hudson Soft in 1991 for the original Gameboy. Wikipedia indicates that this game was an adaptation of a 1986 game called ‘Wonder Boy’. I don’t know the accuracy of this statement, but it seems that Hudson Soft used to be called Escape- and Escape were the ones who developed the original Wonder Boy. We will definitely get to a review of that title for the Sega Game Gear.
When you begin the game you know nothing about it other than this cave man with a hat is on a quest to… do something. This is probably one of those old school games that requires the manual to explain things. The plot of the game is staple- you adventure across levels to save the damsel in distress. Not much to expand upon there.
There are many islands to choose from- and you don’t get to pick which order to play them in. Each island has sub-sections for you to play, increasing the longevity of the game.
The controls are solid. When I move the character nothing is slippery and nothing requires an extra button press to execute. The D-pad is used to move the character around and the A button is used to jump. Controls for the Gameboy are fairly straightforward and simple- which makes games playable in a way that won’t frustrate those who were looking for a pick up and play option.
The enemies in this game are lackluster if not slightly creative. The standard formula for a platformer of this time is to jump on enemies a la Super Mario Bros. If you try to do so, you will be met with a death. You can’t even touch the enemies in this game without dying- and for some of the little shits if you jump in the air to try and pound on them- they jump in the air to meet and touch you- resulting in a death.
The easiest way to defeat them is to crack open an egg at the beginning of each level and get your stonr mallet. With infinite ammo, so to speak- you can kill things all day. What’s nice about this weapon is that it isn’t a pisser to use and it actually works, unlike in other games *COUGH*.
We had Super Mario Bros. 3 in 1988 which had a variety of enemies to choose from that were very creative- so Hudsonsoft had no excuse in coming up with more original enemies that would have made the game much more challenging- and not prohibitively so.
The bosses in this game come at the end of each island- and they are mediocre in nature. With some basic effort and maneuvering you will send them to the bottom of Davey Jones’ locker- quite literally in one stage.
Powerups come in the form of mounts- which act a lot like Mario’s mushroom expanded form. You can jump about the same height, but your movement speed is increased and you sometimes get a projectile with the creature- be it a chibi-dragon or another type of dinosaur. If the chibi dino looks familiar, that’s because it was modeled as such because of one of the character designers was Minoru Maeda from the Dragon Ball series. Occasionally you will run into this weird fairy. Use this fairy- for around 10 seconds and change you will get invincibility to touching enemies. You will get extra lives from time to time- but they are difficult to come by.
For a Gameboy title the music is absolutely solid. It isn’t terribly repetitive and it’s upbeat. I think it gives the game its charm. I would honestly say it is par for the course when compared to the Mario Bros. games by Nintendo.
Difficulty and Annoying Restarts
If I haven’t already mentioned it yet- there is no save feature. For a game for you to pick up quickly and play that is fine- but with the advent of a battery save feature from the NES’ Legend of Zelda series, perhaps the idea of putting one in a Gameboy cartridge wasn’t far off. There is no password system. The only way to really beat the game is to sit down and play it in one sitting- which may take around 9-10 hours. That’s great for a Gameboy game- but I don’t have all day to sit down and play this.
The difficulty is like my old electronic circuits course in college- You pass like a prodigy or fail hard like everybody else. There is no in between. I would expect at least to be able to jump on enemies and be afforded an additional hit if I touch them outside of their hit box. Alas, if you spend the time to learn the quirks of this game you will manage to proceed just fine. Unlike my electronic circuits course. That a****** of an instructor. ‘I’m not on tenure; I don’t care if you pass or fail!!’
The game is replayable, but not memorable enough to make you want to harken back to it. The lack of a save feature kills any and all desire for me to want to go back and plug it into my Gameboy. They really should have had a short password system- especially if save features couldn’t be implemented yet.
The game isn’t bad- for 1991. Although cookie cutter in style, at least Hudsonsoft had the intelligence to do it right, unlike so many other bad platformers for Nintendo consoles. The controls are solid- which is absolutely vital for systems like the NES and the Gameboy- and for any console for that matter. Enemies are quirky and take some time to figure out, but once you do you should have no problems finishing the game- which may be a problem to some. There are some challenges to find in Adventure Island- but they are far and few between. The music is fantastic- but again, a lack of save feature kills a lot of re-enjoyment you could have had from this game. RGN gives this game a 79.3/100. Pick it up if you are looking for a different type of ‘familiar’ challenge- and if it’s cheap, of course. Don’t pay over $4 for this thing.