Back in March 2012 fans of the cult TV series Adventure Time rejoiced around the world, as series creator Pendleton Ward announced via a doodle on his Twitter page that WayForward Technologies and D3 Publisher would be working on a video game adaptation for the DS and 3DS, the absurdly named Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?! WayForward had a big task ahead of it in producing a game that would both cater for the younger casual market and the older fans of the series, while also providing that necessary element of quirky humour. Luckily, it seems to have accomplished just that.
The story suitably reflects the peculiarity of the TV show, as heroes Jake the dog and Finn the human must set out on an adventure across the whimsical Land of Ooo in search of the series’ often misunderstood antagonist Ice King, who has stolen their rubbish bin and moulded the contents into a garbage princess, most likely in a tragic cry for attention. During your travels you will encounter many of the show’s eccentric characters, from Cinnamon Bun, Starchy, Gunter, Lumpy Space Princess and Tree Trunks to the more obscure inhabitants of Candy Kingdom such as Lemongrab, Party God, the Duke of Nuts, Cosmic Owl and Dr Ice Cream.
If you're reading this and wondering what on Earth is going on, then unfortunately Adventure Time: HIKWYSOG — catchy, huh? — may not be for you. At many points the game feels like a love letter to the fans, with cameos of the much-loved gender swapped characters Fiona and Cake in the credits, many references to certain classic episodes such as the musical door at Red Rock Pass featured in “What Was Missing” and memorable in-game items such as the Everything Burrito from “Conquest of Cuteness”. Much of the humour and charm of the game will be lost on players new to series, and with its short main quest it’s hard to imagine what newcomers will take from the experience apart from confusion and slight disappointment.
In terms of gameplay, Adventure Time is a homage to retro video games, taking direct inspiration from The Legend of Zelda II, with a top-down view when exploring the overworld and a quick transformation into a side-scroller as soon as you enter a dungeon or area of note. Most of the action takes place in four main areas — the Grass Lands, Candy Kingdom, Red Rock Pass and the Ice Kingdom — but there are also a few other surprise locations which you can visit on your journey. At first you can only access certain sections of the Grass Lands, but the more you play and abilities you gain, the further the handy map opens up, which is displayed helpfully on the screen of your faithful companion, BMO.
The controls are easy to grasp, as Finn attacks with his fists and sword and can jump, while Jake lazily hitches a ride in Finn’s backpack, attacking using his Stretch Armstrong-style arm and occasionally morphing into an umbrella, boat, ear-shield and other shapes to help you on your way. The gameplay is fun and light-hearted but can become repetitive at times, consisting of little more than a mixture of small fetch quests, investigative missions and boss battles.
Most of the enemies offer little in the way of a challenge and for the most part BMO’s treasure inventory screen remains full, there being practically no need for extra help in fighting the odd Hypno Worm or Candy Zombie. However, the latter boss battles are much harder than expected, as the difficulty level increases dramatically for the final bout with Ice King, whereas the rest of the skirmishes in the Ice Kingdom feel more like battles with the Cute King and his army of Cuties than an expedition through the mazes of an ice mountain. This strange and sudden curve can catch players unaware, yet is almost welcomed after the easy nature of most boss battles, with Donny and the laughable ‘fight’ with Bliblob.
Once you complete the main quest, you unlock the ability to play the game all over again in game+ mode, a harder difficulty setting. Yet the game+ mode starts the player off with the stats you have already acquired in your first play-through, meaning that if you’ve been keen to collect all the stars, the higher difficulty will provide only a slightly harder challenge. It’s also a shame that WayForward missed a great opportunity to make the game+ setting take place in the gender swapped world of Adventure Time, playing instead as Fiona and Cake, retrieving Prince Gumball’s pants and duelling the Ice Queen. Now that would have been mathematical!
One of the best aspects of Adventure Time is that, rather unexpectedly, there is no help system. The game simply supplies you with one of Ice King’s rather pathetic riddles and lets you loose to roam free in Ooo to figure out where you must go on your own. Yet nothing can justify the game’s inexplicably short length — it takes just over five hours to finish the main story and barely seven if you collect every game item. It’s a great shame, and we wonder if it should have been considered for a 3DS eShop download release rather than a physical retail launch. Despite its length, though, Adventure Time provides an enjoyable blast to gaming past and plenty of smiles.
An element of the game not to be overlooked is the incredible chiptune style soundtrack, composed by WayForward’s Jake Kaufman, which you can check out on D3 Publisher’s SoundCloud page. Each area of the map has its own distinct melody and style; our favourites are the epic ‘Party in the Clouds’ and the cheery ‘Candy Kingdom Overworld’. Yet not all of the sound components in the game are perfect, as another missed opportunity is the lack of voice acting in the game. The TV series is full to bursting with talented voice actors such as John DiMaggio (Jake and Bender from Futurama), Hynden Walch (Princess Bubblegum and Starfire from Teen Titans), Tom Kenny (Ice King and Spongebob Squarepants) and even Pendleton Ward himself who voices Lumpy Space Princess. It’s a great shame that there's no voice work from the main cast, or even a few of the series’ original songs such as Marceline’s 'I’m Just Your Problem' which could have fitted perfectly with the Red Rock Pass section of the game. Even without voice acting, the dialogue is excellent; with Ward handling the script personally, each line is hilarious and sounds exactly like something the characters would say.
Adventure Time is aesthetically pleasing too. Each sprite is drawn in immense detail with fluid animation that matches the art style of the TV show perfectly. It’s worth making Finn stand still for a while just to see the adorable animation of him whipping off his hat to reveal those shiny golden locks. Each environment is colourful and cute, although the overworld can sometimes look a bit bare, even when an entourage of ghost-shaped sprites are attempting to corner you for battle.
There is little difference between the 3DS and DS versions of the game, with the obvious being a wider top screen view on the 3DS, the 3D element, a brighter screen and better sound quality. Sadly the now not-so-secret ‘secret screen’ from the 3DS version is not present in the DS version — for those curious, enter the Konami Code at the start-up screen — which is slightly disappointing. Aside from that, the gameplay and story is exactly the same, meaning that there is no reason why European gamers and Adventure Time fans shouldn't import the game on the region-free DS.
Adventure Time: HIKWYSOG is a tough game to put a number on. On one hand it's inaccessible to newcomers due to its countless episode in-jokes and absurdity that any fan of the cartoon has come to expect. It's heart-crushingly short, lacks voice-acting and provides players with little challenge or depth. Yet at the same time, the title is created with such love, care and attention to detail that its hard for fans to stop smiling throughout the course of its five to seven hours. If you're a fan of the show this game is an absolute must-buy and not to be missed. However, if you're a newcomer to the series you may want to steer clear of these lumps, or else you're in for a confusing, but absolutely algebraic, ride.