By Drew D. / June 2nd, 2023
|Title||Adventure Island I and II|
|Original Release Date||I: Feb 1992
II: Feb 1993
In my previous TBT review, I cover Super Mario Land 1 and 2 for the Game Boy and I talk about the simplicity of their gameplay. To go a bit further, I’d say I appreciate this aspect the most in these kinds of games, for it makes them terribly easy to just pick up and play. There is no significant time commitment nor mental or emotional investment needed to get enjoyment out of them. Also, there is a particular charm these titles possess along with that simplicity. They may feature silly backstories to start us off, and incorporate seemingly ridiculous elements in their worlds and gameplay. And we hardly ever question it, we just accept it and enjoy the magic. Those are the feelings I look forward to presently, wanting to game, not having much time or the feeling to do so. So instead, I recently reached for the Game Boy versions of Adventure Island I and II, soon enjoying the simple and the silly, as well as the challenge and fun they offer.
Like with so many titles from the late ’80s and early ’90s, backstories and story development were glossed over in favor of gameplay, and Adventure Island I and II are no exceptions. In these cases, it’s the typical “save the princess” storyline as we play as Master Higgins to save a girl named Tina from a cohort of monsters in I, and Jeannie from aliens in II. And from there, gameplay takes center stage. Bare bones is all I can say, and although I chose to play and review these games specifically for the need to leave my mind and emotions behind, an additional plot point or two wouldn’t have hurt.
Anyway, we’re here for the gameplay, and that of Adventure Island I and II both have their strong points; however, they each have their flaws too. Starting with their basic gameplay, both titles are platformers that offer varied means of attack and movement. Both games see Higgins equipping a throw-able weapon, with II offering a variety of weapons with different behaviors. Both games also offer him opportunity to pair up with a dinosaur ally that may alter his movements, from running or swimming faster, to traversing dangerous terrain, or even flat out flying over most obstacles. The main objective of both games is to survive, as these titles implement a 1-hit sudden death style, while side-scrolling through each stage, or fighting a boss at the end in specific stages. Both games offer eight levels, or islands, with around five stages per level. Both also feature hidden bonuses in various forms. In II especially, alternate routes, hidden stages, and mini games will be rewarded to those keeping a sharp eye. And so, clearing enemies, dodging hazards, and collecting fruit to replenish a health bar styled timer, all the while keeping a lookout for hidden advantages, bonuses, and secret paths, make up the core of gameplay.
As for execution, gameplay is mostly solid in both titles. The play mechanics are simple and easy to master, and the overall degree of challenge is acceptable, as platforming, enemy variety, and layout all gradually increase the difficultly as the games progress. The item system, which allows you to stock and choose which weapons and companions to take before a stage is helpful, especially when you’re finding yourself stuck on a particularly difficult stage. Lastly, all of the hidden extras help to add diversity to a gameplay structure that may feel unduly familiar.
As I mentioned, the two titles also have their flaws; however, beginning with that familiarity, gameplay in both titles is nothing truly unique. Even when these titles were first released, there were already games that offered more unique play mechanics or were notably more impressive or innovative in their platforming. Gameplay can also come to feel repetitive quickly due to uninspired and terribly short stage designs. Most stages can be cleared within a minute or two with marginal skill or strategy. The increase in challenge, the bonuses, and the boss battles all help to stave off the feeling, yet with minimal effort or a touch of practice, any and all stages can be sped through, meaning that most play time is spent on these numerous short, familiar treks. I’d even suggest that if the health/ time bar were eliminated, I’d feel more inclined to spend additional time within each stage to explore or collect everything. Another, smaller complaint, is that Adventure Island I lacks the password system of II, meaning that the game must be completed in a single sitting. Hardly an issue for the experienced or veterans of platformers, rather I make comment of this as it may be a point of frustration for younger or less experienced players. My complaints aside, both games are, again, solid gameplay efforts, offering plenty of fun for those willing to demonstrate a bit of forgiveness.
Moving on to aesthetics, Adventure Island I has a satisfactory visual and audio effort, making the game look and sound as one may expect given its title. Visually, the designs of stages channel that island feel to an extent, with terrain and platforms having a primitive, untamed style. Backgrounds also have the island vibe, however many designs are a bit on the minimal side, with reused, repeating designs and long stretches of blankness. The strongest visual point is the pixel art, as Higgins, the enemies, and the dino buddies all look great. And as for the audio, the developers tried to adapt music from the NES predecessor, however, the tracks sound squeaky at their worst and are forgettable at their best. The music simply lacks impact, thus they serve as a basic alternative to silence. Too few tracks to begin with, they are also reused often, however, I will say each track does sound and feel fitting with the stage they’re paired with.
Adventure Island II has an overall better aesthetic presentation, featuring stronger pixel art, and a cleaner, less squeaking audio effort. Visually, the spritework is sharper and more detailed, bringing a bit more life to Higgins, the new and returning dino allies, and to the new enemies. The sharper spritework also gives an overall cleaner, more appealing look. Stage design and backgrounds possess the same strengths and shortcomings as I, as they, too, channel the primitive island style and feel in their designs, yet are also lacking detail and variation. Lastly, the audio effort is better, in that the music is less grating or squeaky, but again, too few tracks that lack memorableness are reused often to fill the game out. Overall, the aesthetics of both games have similar strengths and weaknesses, making for adequate efforts that merely serve their purposes, albeit failing to leave significant lasting impressions.
Adventure Island I and II are pleasant, straightforward romps across handfuls of short, vanilla platforming stages. With hints of charm and whispers of challenge, both titles offer short spurts of pure fun, yet offer experiences more familiar and plain than anything else. Depth and intrigue these titles have not, however, for those looking for experiences that will allow players to easily and readily turn their minds off, I can wholeheartedly recommend the simplicity of play and ease of distraction these titles can offer.
Note: As you may have guessed by now, I am using the numbering specific to the western releases on the original Game Boy.
Adventure IslandAdventure Island IIAliens in ParadiseGame BoyHudsonplatformerside-scroll