First Impressions: Pole's Big Adventure

I have a confession to make. I hate platforming games.

I think outside of sports games they must be my least favourite genre. So why would I be interested in a game like Pole's Adventure, which is very much a mishmash of 8-bit platformers? Well, because it takes the piss out of them fantastically of course!

I think it's safe to say that if you aren't familiar with 8-bit games from the Nintendo Famicom or Sega Master System days you aren't likely to get as much out of this. Indeed my lack of Japanese knowledge probably means I'm missing out on a lot of the humour, but the video game nature of the gags are clear enough that I've still had plenty of chuckles and full on Laughs Out Loud in my hour-plus of play.

Control is available with wiimote on its end, classic controller or Gamecube controller. Given the controls consist of d-pad and two buttons (jump/shoot), I prefer the old school controller on the side method. Options are sparse, but outside of being able to play with the BGM volume I didn't play with them to decipher them and they're in Japanese; so beyond my comprehension at present.

The intro will be familiar to any old-timers out there. Still screens with large pixellated figures looking like digitised photos and giant text-filled bubbles passing for dialogue. Our hero is a butch cowboy up against a green bull-man with some mustachioed cigarette-smoking man in the middle. Basically get your girl back from bull-man and kill the baddies on the way!

There are six levels all told with four stages each. It plays very much like an old 8-bit platformer with lots of jumping, but instead of jumping on your enemies heads you shoot them with a shotgun (not terribly sporting since they're unarmed, but you're a cowboy, so I guess it's okay), oh and you can eat apples on the way, lots and lots of apples. The game doesn't take too long to get through and it's not very difficult, but that's not really the point, the point is to see the jokes -- in fact if you still have jokes unseen after reaching the end the game simply starts over again! Apparently there are 100 in all, which are counted in the lower right corner as they're encountered.

The levels all echo games from the 8-bit era whether it's the green square hills of Mario, the jungles of Jungle King/Hunt, the medieval Japanese/Chinese setting of games like Kicker or the surface of the moon, you're covered. The tropes are all there from the opening "Say-gah" to power ups and one-ups to slowdown and video glitching lovingly rendered for the modern era.

Some of the gags will kill you like the mushroom that makes you grow until you fly off the screen or the background object that turns out to be in the foreground and decapitates you. Others are juvenile like the mushroom that gives you an erection for most of the level. And then you have the bizarre happenings like zoo animals in the arctic or irritants like the down pipe that takes you back near the start of the game which then means playing through the middle of the game again.

If I could compare it to anything it would be Jeff Minter's Llamatron, where the point was also to see what bizarre stuff is coming next rather than have any real challenge. The humour is great, the gameplay is fun and I think the 500 points is quite reasonable for what is a unique experience on any system.

I'm sure some of you will say "who cares?" but equally many must be wondering when you can get your hands on this. Will it get localised? Well, Sega is putting out Let's Tap! in Europe and North America and I never thought that would happen, so who knows? I do know that if it is localised for PAL I'll happily buy it again just to get more of the jokes. Now all we need is for Konami to do Parodius ReBirth to make sure shooters get theirs...

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