Normally I don't review website-based flash games. I barely have enough time to tackle console and handheld games, let alone the never-ending flood of fan-made flash games. But when a game offers me a chance to relive my favorite 8-bit memories through the eyes of Abobo, I rip up the rules and dive in.
Abobo's Big Adventure is a loving tribute to a generation of classic games on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Its star, an oversized villain from the Double Dragon franchise, is on a quest to rescue his son (fittingly named Aboboy). The hideously ugly kid has been kidnapped by a gang made up of baddies from other 8-bit brawlers, including River City Ransom and Renegade. Needless to say, this sets our hero off on an adventure unlike anything you've played in twenty years.
Although we start in Abobo's old stomping grounds (the back alleyways of Double Dragon), the game is actually split up into eight carefully crafted 8-bit parodies. Early in the game Abobo finds himself fighting Jaws in the underwater stage from the first Super Mario Bros. He has to figure out how to conquer a phallic-shaped dungeon straight out of The Legend of Zelda. In yet another stage he'll use balloons to chase after a pro wrestler wearing a jet pack. And that's just the beginning of the crazy things that happen in Abobo's Big Adventure.
There are almost too many amazing moments for one single review. This is a game where you'll have to fight off Donkey Kong, tiny exploding Lemmings and even Little Joe (from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!). You never know who you'll see next, which is half the fun of this send-up. And it's not just enemies you fight; there are minor details all throughout the eight stages, giving Abobo's Big Adventure a surprising amount of incentive for replays.
The gameplay changes wildly from one stage to the next, offering eight truly unique experiences. The Mega Man and Zelda stages feel almost exactly like the source material, which should delight fans of these classic franchises. In one stage, Abobo picks up a gun and plays through a fairly straight-forward version of Contra's first stage. With limited lives and one-hit deaths, things look hopeless for our hero. But don't worry, because you can enter the famous Konami code to earn an additional 30 lives. That's the kind of fan service you can expect from Abobo's Big Adventure.
While playing through the game I was reminded of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the 1988 Robert Zemeckis film that brought together stars from Walt Disney and Warner Brothers' biggest cartoons. As delightful as that movie is, I can't help but wonder how the producers were able to convince these giant animated rivals to work together. That had to be the licensing nightmare of the century.
Abobo's Big Adventure strives to merge all of our favorite 8-bit NES heroes into one giant unholy union. Unlike Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the makers of this game didn't bother with any of the licensing red tape that would have delayed this project well into the 22nd century. Using the guise of parody, Abobo's Big Adventure manages to skirt many of the legal issues. It's the type of thing a fans will embrace as a glowing homage to some of the greatest games of all time, while copyright holders sneer in disapproval. This is a game that feels especially relevant as we learn more about SOPA, PIPA and how major corporations are trying to change radically redesign the internet.
Yes, this is a labor of love. That in and of itself shouldn't be enough to earn a high score and a gushing review. Thankfully Abobo's Big Adventure is also a whole lot of fun to play. The mash-up feels surprisingly natural and just when you get sick of one game you're rushed off to the next. The effect is so seamless that after a while it all starts to seem natural. Is that a Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden) in Mega Man? Of course it is. What's Kirby doing in Contra? It all makes complete sense in the context of the game.
Not only have the developers captured the look of these classic games, but also the feel. The gameplay is so good that it's hard to believe that these levels weren't developed by Nintendo, Capcom and Konami. To enhance the effect, players can use their own gamepad to mimic the classic NES controller. I ran into a couple of problems with this set-up, especially when it came to controlling the Legend of Zelda and Contra portions of the game. When the gamepad doesn't work, you can always use the default keyboard controls.
The game is challenging, but certainly not punishingly difficult. The game wants you to see all of the levels, so don't go in expecting it to be as brutal as the games it parodies. I was also happy to see that my progress had been saved between play sessions, allowing me to relive some of my favorite levels. Best of all, the game offers a whole host of humorous achievements to unlock.
As good as Abobo's Big Adventure is, I will always be sad that I won't be able to legitimately own a copy of this brilliant mash-up. Instead I'll have to go to the website and deal with setting up compatible controllers and other technical issues. Still, there are enough must-see moments to warrant any hassle you might have setting it up. This is the game you'll be talking about for months to come; the type of game where you feel anything could happen next. That's a rare feature in this day and age.
(Abobo's Big Adventure is free to play and can be found at http://abobosbigadventure.com/fullgame.php.)