They say never to judge a book by it’s cover, and to not always rely on your first impressions. Although it’s not clear at this stage who “they” are, or who “they” refer to in these matters, “they” do have a point. When looking at the back of the box of the gam being reviewed today, it is easy to write it off as another Super Mario clone. It’s not hard to see why game companies in the late 80’s and early 90’s would copy the tried and tested formula of Mario, the whole franchise of Mario games on the NES were popular, had colourful graphics and the gameplay was second to none. However, although it shares similarities with said Mario games, Adventure Island is not a game to easily be written off as a Mario 3 clone. Let’s take a look and see why it’s Adventure Island more than Celebrity Love Island (that was a bad reference – click here for info).
Adventure Island II was released in Europe in 1992, and is a side-scrolling platform game that resembles, erm, Mario 3. It was released by Hudson Soft who also developed titles such as Milon’s Secret Castle, but thankfully, is not as secret as being set on a castle. You control Master Higgins, who embarks on saving his favourite lady’s sister from the evil clutches of the Evil Witch Doctor and it’s persistent followers. Like a lot of titles on the NES at the time, when you pop the cartridge in your console, you have the option to start the game, or continue from where you left off. It is not a password based system however which is a shame, instead it is a game in which when you die, you can press continue to pick up from the stage you were at.
So you arrive on the different island’s on your raft and away you go. The idea like all side-scrolling platform games is to get from one side of the stage to the other, defeating nightmare-inducing monsters such as snails and birds and collecting not coins a la Mario but fruit. It is nice for kids playing the game not to worship currency but to worship fruit instead which gives you points. Before the level starts, you can choose to bring any weapons or animal friends you find along the way – this could be in the form of a purple mini-dinosaur that in no way resembles Barney or other creatures. I guess Mario had Yoshi but that was later in the franchise so to use animals as a companion to attack enemies is a nice touch. If you do die, you have to start at the beginning of the level, which differs from Adventure Island I where there were checkpoints in the level so you started from there when you died. At the end of the stage as a bonus you can choose from a set of spinning eggs, choose one for a points bonus. And what do points make? Never mind don’t answer that.
The controls are firm and responsive, in essence the type of controls you would want with a side-scrolling platform game. Certainly not like the stiffness of Ice Climbers. The d-pad moves the character, the A button jumps and the B-button fires your weapon should you have collected one at this point, or to make the animal you ride on fire his weapon. I say weapon like it is a dangerous projectile, but it is in fact a tomahawk-type hammer object. It does the trick however, with the majority of the puny enemies taking one hit to kill. This is good as at times you travel on a skateboard that hurtles you through the level, the last thing you want is to hammer the B button to ensure the enemy is out of your way as you do your impression of Tony Hawk. The one disadvantage of killing enemies with one hit is that they can kill you with one hit too. The music is upbeat and jolly and suits the style of the game, and it’s lush tropical surroundings. The sound effects are crisp and there is a sound effect for everything you do which matches the style well, from the simplest things such as jumping to collecting fruit. So, in that respect, turn the volume up when playing the game and leave your cassette deck empty full of the joys of Now 5 or the like.
As mentioned at the start of the game, it is very easy to write the game off as a Super Mario 3 clone, just set on a tropical island and rather than wearing overalls, the character wears nothing but a green leafy thing to cover his modesty and to wrap himself in. However, it seems clear the developers took a lot of time to craft the game, from the bold colourful graphics to the music and sound effects that compliments the game perfectly. The controls are responsive and simplistic (none of this, up button to jump and down+B button to perform a certain attack) and from a side-scrolling platform game, that’s all anyone can ask. It really is a game worthy in your collection as an alternative to the more popular mainstream games. Although not always a testament to a game’s popularity or how well it was developed, the game has been released on Virtual Console, firstly on the Wii back in April 2011 and then on the 3DS Virtual Console in November 2011. There are copies available on your favourite auction website or even perhaps at your local retro gaming store, however they are not overly cheap, they are not as frequently found as, once again Mario or Mario 3 however as always would recommend playing it on the console rather than downloading it for the Virtual Console. Not that there is anything wrong with the Virtual Console, it is a great way of playing old games you may not have access to or remember the first time round, however, there is nothing more satisfying than playing a genuinely quality game such as this on your couch with your NES controller in your hand. So get some Malibu and that tropical granola you pretend is healthy for you, pull on some safari shorts and go help Master Higgins rescue his lady’s sister on tropical islands with the heating right up – because isn’t that we all want to do? Save your partner’s sibling whilst your wearing beige safari shorts?…
Rating – 5 out of 5