It might lack a little originality but The Adventure Pals is a lighthearted adventure that’s as fun and as eccentric as its obvious inspirations. The FNGR GNS review;
I think it’s safe to say that in the world of television, Adventure Time has had a profound cultural impact. The combination of absurdist humour, imaginative stories, catchy music, comic book tropes and a charm filled world full of bizarre characters have garnered the show a massive fandom and paved the way for other shows, such as Steven Universe and OK K.O., to follow in its stead. It stands to reason that the influence of the animated series would permeate other mediums over time and we’ve seen this already within the gaming space. The next game to take a page out of Jake and Finn’s adventure play book is ‘The Adventure Pals’ and while it’s unfair to say that the new 2D platformer from developers Massive Monster is trying to ride the coat tails of Adventure Time, this game certainly takes much of its inspiration from the animated series and does a good job of replicating the spirit of the Cartoon Network giant too.
The Adventure Pals begins on the birthday of the main protagonist, a young boy who’d be just as at home adventuring alongside Jake as he is here. Just as the lad is receiving his awesome birthday present – a giraffe called Sparkles – from his dad, a mad villain swoops down in his flying machine and dad-naps your old man. The villain has left a ransom demand with your mum – 3 rubies or your pops will be turned into a giant hot dog (no, seriously) – and so begins your adventure across a whimsical land filled with the bizarre such as a whale who feels naked and needs a swimsuit (no, seriously), cats that poop out new hats for you to wear when fed cake (no, seriously) and a postman that eats stamps (no, seriously). The plot to this game is ridiculous, continually moving the goal posts as the game progresses, tasking the young pal and his giraffe buddy to head off to various locations around the land to find rubies and other collectables. Missions include “find enough sand so that a rock person can rebuild their sand castle” and “help a man who loves bacon find his wife who is also a pig”. There’s this slapdash, nonsensical nature to the plot of The Adventure Pals which a) gives it that desired Adventure Time absurdity and b) makes it pretty funny and lighthearted. Massive Monster have pulled no punches with the random, off-the-wall nature to the story here and strangely, it pays off.
The absurdity of the plot is complemented by the art direction of the game too. Awash with little details, bold outlines and a colour pallet that looks like a toddler just threw up a bag of Skittles on the screen, The Adventure Pals is about as bright and as sparkly as you can get without the involvement of LSD. Even the graveyard and cave levels look like someone whacked up the contrast and gamma on the TV. The same can be said about the soundtrack which toe taps its way through the game and will likely have you humming out the tune a day later.
As for game play, The Adventure Pals is predominantly structured into groups of 5 2D platforming levels which share a theme which test you to get from A to B while picking up collectables and finding chests that contain mission items. Wall jumping aside, Sparkles the giraffe is your most helpful tool in the search for rubies. Not only can he transform his head into a wrench to activate switches but in mid-air, he sticks out his tongue and spins it like a propeller to allow you to glide slowly to the ground, spitting out confetti all the while. This is as bonkers and funny as it sounds and even after seeing it a thousand times, it still brought a smile to my face. Mr Sparkles is useless during combat however and to defeat the army of trolls, walking hotdogs that poop out mines and plenty of other odd foes, you’re going to need your trusty sword. Combat is very simplistic in The Adventure Pals – mashing the attack button performs a short combo of slashes, you can dodge enemy attacks pressing the right button at the right time and you can throw a few different types of bombs too. As you progress, enemies dutifully become more resilient with more health and can carry shields to repel your swipes but their attack patterns seem to remain static from start to end meaning that the game’s difficulty rarely gets above “mildly frustrating”. The game is even easier in co-op, becoming very family friendly as you go back to back as you hack at your attackers and if one of you dies, they respawn a few seconds later (as long as your partner is still alive that is).
The Adventure Pals breaks no new ground in terms of design and the way it plays but it’s a competently put together game. The vast majority of levels have been intuitively designed so that you know which way to go next and even when a level offers branching paths, they reward you for exploring both options. As you might expect, new mechanics are added gradually throughout the game including Mr Rock who can be thrown at ranged targets and a grappling hook to grab certain spots. There are, however, a hand full of levels that lock sections off as you progress and if you decide to re-tread through the level looking for collectables once you’ve reach the exit, it’s possible to get trapped in a section forcing you to restart. These are few and far between but worth mentioning nonetheless.
What I do appreciate about The Adventure Pals is how the game is often set up to feel very gratifying to play. An Example – during some levels, explosive balloon jellies (no, seriously) all float next to one another in a line with a tough-as-nails Troll standing on a ledge above them. If you hit the first floating jelly just right, it’ll canon into the next, then the next, then the next until it takes out the Troll in a glaze of jelly glory. There’s a plethora of these moments littered through the game that are designed to give you these short but sweet moments of brilliance that make you feel like a total badass.
The Adventure Pals wears its love for Jake and Finn like a badge of honour and while it lacks originality, it’s still a bombastic, endearingly bonkers, thoroughly enjoyable game. It’s a game designed to be make even younger gamers feel like a powerful hero in a world full of characters that feel like they were created after munching through a tube of Blue Smarties. It’s sweetness might be a little too sickly for some but for me, The Adventure Pals is the best unofficial Adventure Time game out there.
The Adventure Pals is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4 (review version – standard PS4), Xbox One and PC via Steam and GOG.
Developers: Massive Monster
Publisher: Armor Games
Disclaimer: In order to review The Adventure Pals, we recieved a copy of the game from the publishers. For more information, please see our review policy.