It's been a long while since I've picked up a game that is decidedly for kids of my own volition. But I'm a sucker for Cartoon Network's Adventure Time series, and I just had to get my hands on 'Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?'. Finding out that WayForward was developing the game and Pen Ward was contributing to the story had me all the more jazzed to pick up this game for the 3DS. Upon playing through it I got a distinct vibe of games past, respect for one of the classics, and a lot of love. WayForward set out to make a good game out of a property intended for children, and they have certainly succeeded.
Having Pendleton Ward write the story for this game was the obvious first step in the right direction. For those unfamiliar with Adventure Time, the story revolves around a young boy named Finn, and his dog, Jake. They live in the Land of Ooo, a world full of wacky characters and princesses that constantly need saving from the Ice King. There are a number of side stories and characters, but for Hey Ice King Why'd You Steal Our Garbage, Pen Ward went back to the Ice King's common raison d'être, which is to find himself a girlfriend. What Finn and Jake's garbage has to do with any of this is revealed over the course of the adventure that takes Finn and Jake to a number of places like the Candy Kingdom, the Ice Kingdom, Lumpy Space, and Finn and Jake's Treehouse just to name a few. It's great to see that WayForward adhered to the source material so closely, and even in a video game setting Pen Ward's writing comes off as natural to the show and doesn't miss a beat. The game is a little bit shorter than most, I was able to clear it in about five hours, but those were some of the best five hours I've had in a game this short since Ico.
WayForward is known for their stellar sprite work and people expecting that of AT:HIKWYSOG will not be disappointed. The world of Adventure Time is in perfectly capable hands with WayForward, and you can see that just from watching Finn and Jake's idle animations. The sprites are incredibly detailed and animate with fluidity that is normally reserved for fighting games. The Land of Ooo also looks great and has the aesthetics that make the show such a hit, and seeing all of the characters from the first three seasons making some sort of appearance is all sorts of algebraic. The audio is all sorts of mathematical, with Jake 'Virt' Kaufman dishing out all kinds of awesome chiptune inspired tracks. That's probably the biggest departure from the show, I know that there are normally some chiptune sounding tracks used in the show, but none that just rock out like this. But it works great because it keeps the game moving along at a good clip. There's also a few vocal tracks that are both hilarious and somehow fitting of the Adventure Time universe, especially that final boss track which is downright epic. There are some limited vocal samples that are used in the show, and it's great to hear characters like Lumpy Space Princess say some of their key lines. Here's to hoping that if another game is made in the future it makes full use of the voice cast.
Playing through AT:HIKWYSOG is almost like going back in time to the NES era. You can tell a good portion of the game has been influenced by Legend of Zelda 2, which is a strange game to gather source material from, but in this case it works out really well. The side scrolling bits of platforming are reasonably challenging and also gives this game a bit of a Metroidvania vibe with the new skills that Jake is able to pick up throughout the game. Finn also acquires some new weaponry as the game progresses, and can pick up a number of items that can be used to power him up, or refill his hearts, being able to augment those items with condiments feels like a great nod to Earthbound. Also props to WayForward by really getting the source material by having Finn level up by collecting magician stars (and there are only twelve of them), little details like that go a long way toward making up for how short this game is.
Exploring the Land of Ooo also reveals a bunch of side-quests for players which helps to add a little bit of time to the game clock, some of these quests are real simple like finding wads of cash for Choose Goose or working with Party God to build a cloud girlfriend for the Snow Golem. Other quests are necessary to keep the story moving and while they aren't difficult they definitely require attention from the player. I actually got stuck early on because I didn't know I was supposed to return a parcel to one of the House People, and this is one of the first quests in the game. The game also isn't afraid to try some things that are completely out of place and I think the final boss battle is the perfect example, and I won't spoil it, but it is definitely not something you will see coming.
Really the only problem with AT:HIKWYSOG is the short amount of time it takes to get through the game. My first playthrough took me a little over five hours, and thankfully there is a new game plus mode that ramps up the difficulty a little bit, but it feels like WayForward missed an opportunity with the teasing of Fiona, Cake, and the Ice Queen when they show up. Of course there's a ton of other things I could wish for, but all I really need to do is see B-Mo's face in the lower screen of my 3DS and all is forgiven. Another small complaint is the relatively lackadaisical approach to the use of 3D. They got clouds that look pretty great on the over-world map, but other than that there isn't much reason to use that 3D slider.
For the first attempt at an Adventure Time game, the guys at WayForward did a pretty great job. They made a smart move in getting Pen Ward involved in the creation of the game, and they really nailed the aesthetics and sound for the game, the waving snail even makes and appearance. The short amount of time it takes to playthrough is the only real knock against the game, but it's an enjoyable experience from start to finish. As it stands Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why'd You Steal Our Garbage is a great starting point for what I hope is a continuing video game franchise. I can only imagine what kind of craziness could ensue if WayForward and Pen Ward team up for a sequel in the future.
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