Game Review

Adventure Island Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Conor McMahon

Skate and die

Adventure Island started life as the SEGA-produced arcade title Wonder Boy, which itself was ported to several different home consoles and spawned a popular series of sequels with show-stealing box art. NES-owners missed out on the title, and would have to wait until Hudson Soft teamed up with original developer Escape to release a re-skinned adaptation for Nintendo’s console. The loose change-stealing arcade difficulty remained, but our hero underwent a portly makeover to resemble Hudson’s spokesman Takahashi Meijin – nepotism, huh? Western releases later down the line would change the character’s name to the totally normal ‘Master Higgins’, setting the tone for a bizarre and challenging little platformer.

Most should feel right at home with the tight controls and simple design of this sidescroller; it’s very straightforward, very Mario, and very NES. Running, jumping and collecting powerups is all typical fare, though the central mechanic is one that changes things up quite a bit. Fruit is scattered around every single level, and while they do award points upon collection, they aren’t purely there for decoration. On the contrary, they’re vital.

Master Higgins will be trotting around a grand total of 32 levels — broken up into eight worlds with four ‘’rounds’’ a piece — to rescue poor Princes Leilani from the clutches of the Evil Witch Doctor. It’s hungry work, represented by the surprising addition of a health or 'hunger' gauge that constantly drains. Being struck by an enemy or falling off screen will result in an instant death, but you won’t last long once that gauge reaches zero either. We foolishly dove straight in without checking the game manual, and ended up scratching our heads as Higgins collapsed several times for seemingly no reason. It’s testament to how original the idea is for such an old-school platformer, and while it isn’t anything truly groundbreaking, the additional time pressure lends some effective tension to the experience.

Every level is filled to the brim with enemies and obstacles, often arranged to maximise frustration (such as tripping over a boulder placed right next to a pitfall), and the solid difficulty is right there from the beginning. Players are given three lives with the ability to earn an additional three by scoring points, and that’s it. There are several checkpoints per level, but those seeking a less intensive or indeed repetitive experience will want to make use of the virtual console’s 'suspend' restore point feature. Purists can choose to ignore the ability to create save states entirely and play on just as Hudson intended, but it will certainly help many more see the game through to the final boss without dedicating as much time. It’s a non-intrusive way to open up a pretty challenging title; The GamePad's D-pad also works great for control, whether on or off-screen.

Though you’ll start off without a weapon, eggs are found all over each level and act as item boxes for a variety of powerups. A stone hammer serves as your primary attack and is a suitable projectile for what ends up being a vaguely caveman-esque aesthetic, reminiscent of Bonk — another Hudson hero. When you aren’t scrambling for fruit to stay alive, you can also grab a skateboard which provides a cheerfully anachronistic extra hit with the caveat that you must keep moving, or a fairy/bee-thing named Honey Girl who grants a brief period of invincibility. On the flipside, some eggs contain that most heinous of vegetables — the eggplant — and Master Higgins hates eggplant. When these blue devils pop out you’re going to want to keep moving even faster and gobble twice as many veggies, as they’ll hover around and constantly drain even more health until it decides to go bother someone else. Quirks like this help add to the game’s momentum, as you’re moving through levels at a breakneck pace and chugging powerups because your life DOES depend on it.

A boss character arrives every four stages, although it’s the exact same fight every single time. The Witch Doctor may change his head but isn’t fooling anybody, resorting to the same cycle of shooting fireballs and shifting forwards and backwards for each encounter. The levels themselves can be equally unoriginal in their visual design, cycling through jungle, cave and cloud aesthetics with a lack of memorable tunes to differentiate between them. A handful of nice effects and strange enemies do help carry across a goofier atmosphere than most however, thankfully adding to the core gameplay and excellent layout to make the roughly one and a half hour playtime a worthwhile experience.


Adventure Island is a bit like the weirder, chubbier, fruit-addicted cousin of Super Mario Bros. — but don't let that put you off. Retro veterans will find a genuine challenge here, while others can take solace in the Wii U's ability to suspend progress and create virtual checkpoints along the way. The unique hunger mechanic might seem slightly underdeveloped at first, but adds enough momentum to the platforming to make this a solid recommendation for old-school fans of the genre, in particular.

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User Comments (30)



WaveBoy said:

One of the toughest Nes games EVER
This stage will destroy you.

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This game will last you hours believe me. Calling all Masochistic gamers! This game isn't for the faint of heart.
ANd ya know, Master Higgins is 'almost' worthy of being in Super Smash Bros U/3DS's roster...But his popularity plummeted after the mid 90's, and i'm pretty sure nobody would give a hulk smash-hoot anyways.



Dreamz said:

Oh geez, I wish I had remembered this game for the difficult NES games thread. I remember this game being brutal and one of the few I never managed to beat back when I was younger.



unrandomsam said:

I beat both the Game Gear and Master System (50hz) versions of Wonderboy.

They probably are easier but what I want to know is if the NES version is difficulty due to being broken like so many NES games.

(Even then I remember enough about it to know if it as bad as SMB3 when it comes to the controls then its not worth me getting it. I suppose I could get it on my USA Wii and probably avoid that problem).



KingCreezy said:

@Nintenjoe64 It really is though. Do you have a favorite track? My favorite is The Island of Everlasting Summer. It starts on round 2 of the game I believe.



HK-47 said:

Played this quite a lot as a kid, yet never finished it. Might give it another shot if/when it comes to the 3DS, as I don't have a Wii U (yet)



Nintenjoe64 said:

@KingCreezy I liked them all. I just went through them on youtube and still can't pick a favourite. It's almost too good to be on a 16-Bit console.



StarBoy91 said:

Nice manboob, Master Higgins, lol

The original Adventure Island (or rather, the NES equivalent of Wonder Boy, without that game's main character) is okay imo but I consider it a much better game than Super Adventure Island, which I considered bland and average. I remember being introduced to this game when I was little when I experienced it on one of my cousins' plug-and-plays with FC and NES games, and it was the first NES title (along with six others) I got when I bought a topright NES console a decade ago.

It's very colorful but it also is very hard; haven't beat the original Adventure Island once. But hey, at least this game doesn't have a grim and depressing story like the hard SFC platformer Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai does, and I'll take it over that one any day.

Wow, that Wonder Boy in Monster Land box cover sure is .......... awkward, to say the least. The main character looks androgynous and not at all like a male to me, and the perspective is rather unusual.

To each their own



unrandomsam said:

I wish they had just put the proper version on to VC Arcade when they put Wonderboy in Monster Land on. (It can run on Sega System 2).



Kirk said:

I loved the Master System version of this game and just like Super Mario Bros it's actually one of those games you can still pick up now to play for a few minutes and before you know it you've been playing for an hour. Simple and fun.



WaveBoy said:

It took me hours to complete it. And let me tell you it was one of the most rewarding and satisfying gaming accomplishments i've had in my entire pixels. Practice makes perfect NintenZoids! I wish all or most videogames would offer this type of challenge. For the most part, these days developers are too scared to challenge the player.

Yeah, Super adventure island was a bit of a snoozer. felt like a dubbed down re-skinned version of the original. The music i found was unbearable as well. When i want to venture into the wonderful world of Higgins I will go to the original or it's surprisingly easy dinosaur riding sequel. I still haven't played A3 yet, wouldn't mind to one of these dog days!



burninmylight said:

Played this game as a kid, got my butt kicked left and right, have no desire to relive those painful memories.



Squidzilla said:

@WaveBoy If you play it legit and put effort into making it through without a single save state, this game definitely can last quite a few hours. My count was a straight run using save states and assuming some familiarity with the levels, so really for most of the hardcore it's a lengthy challenge and will test dem skillz.



Magrane said:

@AshFoxX Except for those were Nintendo IP's, and I think Master Higgins is now part of the Konami family.

That being said, we should see Simon Belmont in SSB before Master Higgins!



KingCreezy said:

@xj0462 Seems like it iirc. Admittedly I've only watched a couple of his vids as I don't find him all that funny. I did however like the Ninja Gaiden episode.



Prizm said:

Anyone else play Super Adventure Island II for SNES? That was really fun and more of an adventure than a strict platformer. Had some great music as well. I also enjoyed the first Gameboy Adventure Island.



TromaDogg said:

@unrandomsam It's difficult not because it's broken but because it much more closely follows the stage designs of the original arcade Wonder Boy, whereas Wonder Boy for the Master System/Game Gear was much easier, had missing enemies at times and the last section of the game was altered completely.

I've played through the original arcade game on MAME, Master System Wonder Boy and NES Adventure Island, and asides from the music and main character design, Adventure Island is a much more accurate port of the coin op.



sdelfin said:

I never had this game, but I did get to play it at a friend's house quite a bit. I remember it fondly. I haven't played it in a long time, but I have been playing its PC Engine follow up, New Adventure Island/Takahashi Meijin no Shin Bouken Jima, quite a bit lately and have been enjoying it as well. I'm not sure how its challenge compares to the original — I suspect it's a bit easier — but it's challenging so far. I like the overall concept and ideas in the games.



Haz said:

@WaveBoy There is actually a really weird Smash clone called DreamMix TV World Fighters where you can play as Master Higgins.



luvjungle said:

it was my first console game ever. i was like 5 year old, maybe 6. will never forget it.

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