I used to love waking up as early as possible on Saturdays and watching that morning’s lineup of cartoons. It didn’t matter what channel or show was playing, all that mattered was me sitting in front of a television, eating a bowl of sugar-filled cereal until the clock would strike twelve. I get the feeling that the developers at Massive Monster had a similar experience as I did and they decided to make The Adventure Pals to pay respect to those Saturdays of yonder. Luckily, The Adventure Pals isn’t just an homage to those times but also backs the cartoon graphics with fun platforming and charming dialogue.
The story in The Adventure Pals starts when your dad surprises you on your birthday. You are gifted a giant cake that hides one of your partners throughout your adventure, a giraffe named Sparkles. Your dad is then abducted by his old friend Mr. B. in his plot to turn old people into hot dogs. It’s up to you and Sparkles to save your father and fix the unfortunate events of your birthday.
If the above synopsis sounds crazy, that’s because it is. During my play through, I was constantly laughing at the situations and character designs. All of this is backed up by clever writing. The characters will spew innuendos and one-liners throughout. One of the earliest quips came when you meet Sparkles, as your character asks your father if a stripper is going to pop out of his birthday cake. Again, I was laughing far more often than I thought I ever would. It helps the script is self-aware at times, so whenever there is a cliché, the characters will point it out. This kept every story moment fresh.
Gameplay in The Adventure Pals is a throwback to old-school platforming with a mixture of RPG elements and quests. Each world you visit has five levels of hand-crafted platforming and enemy slaying until you reach a red gem at the of the level and a boss fight every few worlds. Hidden along the way are cupcakes and sticker packets. Cupcakes are traded at a trader— a fat cat in case you were wondering— in exchange for visual costumes and hats. Stickers, on the other hand, are akin to unlocking artwork. There isn’t much for them other than filling out your journal. I loved unlocking costumes and seeing my character have a plunger or chicken atop his head was not only eye-catching but hilarious. You can also unlock costumes for your other partner, a happy-go-lucky rock, such as a pizza or a ghost inspired by Pac-Man that are equally laughable. It was a shame not being able to unlock any new costumes for Sparkles though.
The platforming in The Adventure Pals is fun and reminds me of playing old NES or SNES games. While not nearly as difficult, you can see the love and care in each level. Combat, however, I soon fell out of love with. It’s far too simple. All you need to do is hack-and-slash until the enemy’s health is reduced to zero. You’ll stumble across different types of enemies, all with their own attack styles, but taking them down is always the same. If you happen to lose all of your health, you can be saved by having potions in stock, and as long as you have plenty equipped, you’ll likely never see a Game Over screen. It doesn’t help that the frame rate struggles to keep up in combat. Boss fights are a highlight. Not only are the bosses an exciting challenge— they each have their own gimmick of attacks and weaknesses—but their character designs are eye candy. You’ll face a breakfast food monster, a tree monster, and more during your adventure.
The RPG aspects don’t feel fully fleshed out. After each encounter, you’ll gain experience points, naturally to gain new levels, and coins, to sell for items. With each level increased, you’ll choose between three upgrades. While I was initially hesitant to select an upgrade, since I wanted to make sure I was picking the best option, by the time you reach the max level, you’ll have all the possible upgrades available. During your journey, you’ll also come across a supporting cast of characters that give you different quests. Unfortunately, they all fall into the same basic ideas of go to this new level, gather a gem, and deliver this item. The characters have engaging and hilarious dialogue, but I never felt like I was discovering anything that I wasn’t already supposed to be seeing. I’m not asking for Skyrim levels of discovery, but I’d rather see games take more than a half-step measure if a system is going to be implemented.
If you haven’t noticed already, I love the way The Adventure Pals looks. The game’s graphics are stylish and whimsical. As I mentioned above, I couldn’t get over the character design of the bosses and each enemy type. This game stands out with any screenshot you see. I would love to see this property become big enough to have its own Saturday morning cartoon. While I didn’t enjoy the combat, the platforming is strong enough to have kept me interested in continuing the game. The story is charming and full of hilarious bits of dialogue that had me laughing out loud many times. I kept wanting to return to this world, and even though I’m finished, I’ll always remember my time and can’t wait to see what future adventures come next.