Adventure Island II: Aliens in Paradise Review
Posted by Corbie Dillard
Easily one of the Game Boy's best pure platformers.
With the success of their Adventure Island series on the NES console and their first release on the Game Boy platform, Hudson was obviously looking to continue that success with the release of their second Game Boy release. While the game is based on the third NES release, it actually eclipses it in some ways and brings a level of platforming to the Game Boy system that is every bit as good as that found in the legendary Super Mario Land releases. So how exactly has this once great platformer held up over the years and is it still as good as it was when it was first released?
If you've ever played an Adventure Island game, you should know exactly what to expect from Adventure Island II: Aliens in Paradise. While there's plenty of hatchet and boomerang tossing action to be had, the emphasis on platforming is what makes the game so much fun to play. You'll have to traverse some rather tricky levels throughout the game, each featuring a solid dose of pinpoint jumping exercises to keep you on your toes.
There are basically 8 areas in the game, each with 6 regular levels and 2 hidden levels. You can access these hidden levels through designated regular levels that feature a hidden exit for you to locate and make use of. Your ultimate goal is to reach the exit at the end of each level. While this might sound simple enough, there are a few catches to surviving throughout each level. As Master Higgins on foot, you cannot take a single hit. One hit and you're out and must then restart the entire level over again. There are no checkpoints to be found in this one.
To help you out on your quest, you can also unlock two weapons, a hatchet or a boomerang, from one of the eggs strung around each level. Some of these same eggs will sometimes release a special dinosaur friend to help you out. Each dinosaur has its own unique benefits. One dinosaur makes moving around underwater easier whereas other dinosaurs feature special attacks that can be useful against the stronger enemies in the game. It also allows you to take a hit that will only take out the dinosaur allowing Master Higgins to continue on through the level on foot again. You'll quickly find these dinosaurs to be a rather helpful tool in getting through some of the more difficult levels in the game.
At the end of the 6th level in each area you'll have to face off against a boss. While these bosses feature some great movement and attack patterns, they're not overly difficult or frustrating and generally only require you to learn their patterns in order to defeat them. Once you've beaten the boss you can then progress to the next area on the world map.
The control in the original Game Boy Adventure Island release was solid, but Hudson have really outdone themselves with this sequel. Not only is the character movement much smoother, but the feel of the control is so much better and more responsive this time around. You'll find that it makes some of the pinpoint plaforming sections in the game much easier to manage. If you lose a life on a tricky section in this game, it will be because you blew it, not because the play control failed. All of the hidden goodies are like icing on the cake as they give you a good incentive to come back to the game in order to access the hidden levels. Not only will you enjoy your first trip through the game, but it's every bit as much fun to go back and locate all of the game's many secrets.
Much like the other facets of the game, the visuals in Adventure Island II: Aliens in Paradise are top notch. There's not a bland area in the bunch and some areas are truly staggering in terms of overall visual quality. There might not be any parallax scrolling to be found, but it certainly doesn't make the game look any less impressive given the sheer level of detail found in the backgrounds. The enemies and characters are also much more detailed and better animated this time around as well, which pretty much rounds out what is a thoroughly impressive visual display.
While the soundtrack in the original Adventure Island Game Boy release was certainly no slouch, Hudson really knocked one out of the park with the musical score in this sequel. Not only is the quality of the musical tracks better, but the tunes themselves are even catchier and more melodic. There's honestly not a bad track in the entire game from start to finish, and while some of the tracks are repeated due to cartridge size limitations, they're so good you certainly won't mind hearing them repeated from time to time. Toss in some very dynamic sound effects and you have an audio presentation that feels right at home with the other high quality aspects of the game.
There were quite a few platforming attempts on the Game Boy system, some good and some not so good, but Hudson struck gold with this second Adventure Island release on the system. Not only did they show the gaming world that they could bring a solid platforming experience to Nintendo's portable game system, but they also showed that they could make it every bit as good, if not better, than their home console offerings. The end result is what is still one of the most playable platformers available for the system and a game that no fan of the genre should be without. It's also the game that proves that the Super Mario Land series certainly isn't the only game in town when it comes to platforming on the Game Boy system.