The Super NES had Mario, the Genesis had Sonic, so you knew it was only a matter of time before Hudson would be looking to create a mascot game for their Turbografx-16 system as well. Hudson went old school, and I mean really old-school to find their man. Like prehistoric old school. The result was Bonk, a loveable but rather crude caveman whose head bonk is even worse than his bite. While Bonk's Adventure doesn't break any new ground in the side-scroller genre, the game has so much personality and good humor that it's hard not to fall in love with the game, despite a slightly sluggish control system.
Much like the original Super Mario Bros. games, Bonk's Adventure is a side-scroller at heart. You'll spend the majority of your time running, jumping, and bonking anything that gets in your way. At the end of some levels you'll have the trademark "boss" fight to deal with. Many of the bosses are enormous, spanning most of the screen in some cases and require a little bit of cunning in order to beat.
The control system in Bonk's Adventure takes a little getting used to because at times it feels a little sluggish, as if Bonk were walking in molasses the entire game. Sometimes you just want to locate the run button and get the little guy moving, but it's worth noting that this control style does kind of fit in with the way the levels in the game are laid out. Those that are used to Sonic the Hedgehog flying through levels might find Bonk's Adventure a little frustrating at first because of the slower pace, but the further you get into the game the more you begin to apprecaite why the control system is the way it is.
Visually, Bonk's Adventure still holds up quite well today, and the prehistoric theme of the game is a nice change of pace for a side-scroller. Great use of the Turbografx-16's large color palette gives the game a very vibrant and detailed look. Even as good as some of the earlier levels look, the game's visuals seem to get better the further into the game you progress. It's kind of funny that Bonk's Adventure, as well as most of the other Turbografx-16 games on the Virtual Console, seem to look even better than the Genesis and Super NES games. Hudson has done a great job of bringing these classics to the Wii Virtual Console and the hard work has really paid off.
Musically Bonk's Adventure sports some of the catchiest tunes you'll likely hear in a 16-bit era game. Even as long as it had been since I had played Bonk's Adventure, the moment the music started playing it was just like old times again. The tunes are very upbeat and the sound effects are very fitting and, at times, downright hilarious. I still get a kick out of the whistle-blowing sound effect that plays every time Bonk chomps down on some spicy meat and the smoke billows out of his ears. It's little charming touches like these that make Bonk such an endearing title even all these years later. It's also a testament to just how great a sound chip the Turbografx-16 system had.
The Virtual Console is a great place for Hudson to showcase some fantastic games that many people didn't get to play the first time around. Bonk's Adventure is a shining example of a game that doesn't try to revolutionize the side-scroller genre but still manages to produce a great gaming experience. A simple control scheme and a healthy dose of humor give the game a unique appeal that still feels as fresh today as it did 15 years ago when this game first made its debut on NEC's Turbografx-16 system. If you're looking for something fun and light-hearted, give Bonk a try. It might not be Super Mario Bros. but it's a game you'll find yourself coming back to often just for the fun factor.