Adventure Island 2
System: NES Publisher: Hudson Soft Developer: Hudson Soft
Genre: Action Type: Sidescrolling Platform Circa: 1991
Wheeeee!...The foliage of Adventure Island all grows at 90 degree angles

Adventure Island 2 is the sequel to Hudson's well-known game, Adventure Island, which, oddly enough, is a game I've never played. AI2 was my first venture into this game series, and the experience has "mediocre" written all over it. You play as a little fat guy in a grass skirt running around an island, bopping enemies and riding dinosaurs in Mario-like gameplay. It's not a bad game, but it's not really great, either.
The graphic style and appearance of AI2 is cartoon-like. Everything in the backgrounds is drawn really big and is quite colorful, but it also comes across as looking rather flat. There are several different background scenes, such as palm trees, forest, cave, desert, underwater, swamp, and volcanoes. As you progress, you'll occasionally come across a level that stands out from all the others, such as the rolling snow hills on the ice island. But for the most part, the same few backgrounds are repeated and palette-swapped. For example, it's the same forest everywhere you go, but on the volcano island, the sky is orange, and on the ice island, the color scheme is white and blue. The enemies look okay, but they're nothing special. Little snakes, snails, and frogs, and of all things, a killer white rabbit. Most of these enemies left me wondering why I'm even fighting them. Higgins, the main character, looks like a blob. The best thing about the game's graphics are the dinosaurs that Higgins can hitch a ride on and the bosses. The dinosaurs are drawn well, look cool, and I like their animation. The bosses are huge and well-detailed. Overall, the graphics aren't bad, just a bit bland.
That ship isn't just wrecked, it's disintegrating!...Blue dragon is sure-footed on ice, of course
SOUND: 5.5/10
The sound in this game isn't all that bad. Many of the themes are kind of catchy and upbeat, and some attempt to be dark and moody. But none of it really stands out, and it's not composed too well. It's a bouncy calypso style that's just about as basic as NES music can get. It changes quite frequently, which prevents it from becoming too annoying, but I just didn't find myself really wanting to hum these tunes. In fact, if they had stuck in my head, that would probably be a bad thing. I did particularly like the boss theme and the underwater music, though. The sound effects are nothing special and are the basic 8-bit "boings" and "bonks".
Once again, what could have been a decent gameplay experience is dragged down to "average" because of somewhat bad play control. Granted, this game's play control isn't overly bad, but there are times when it glitches up in the worst possible situations. Normally, if I run along and start jumping, Higgins will jump as far as possible without any problem. But when there comes a time when you MUST jump really far to get over an enemy or flaming pile of sticks, Higgins will come up short and land on the life-depriving object! It must be a conspiracy. You can hold down the B button to run faster, but when I tried to stop, I often lost all control of Higgins as he went skidding around. There are times when you need to make run-assisted longjumps over gaps, but Higgins keeps going when I wanted him to stop, and either careens into an enemy, or falls into another pit. The control seems to improve a bit when you ride the red and blue dinosaurs, but the momentum problem when running is still there. Also...that plesiosaurus is supposed to improve your control underwater, but all he does is make me a bigger target, and he's slow, too.
Go on, choose one!...This boss is rather crabby
After being bonked on the head by a coconut, Higgins awakens...and then proceeds to run around an island bonking animals on the head. The manual states that this game is actually about rescuing a princess from aliens, but that's not very original. Adventure Island 2 is also lacking in atmosphere. Its cut-and-paste backgrounds, simplistic music, and run-of-the-mill level designs don't exude the feeling of being on an adventure-filled island very well. Master Higgins is not really appealing as a character to me, either, and the game just seems to lack personality, despite having a few cool dinosaur friends.
Due to the cartoony graphics, many people may think this game would be quite easy just from looking at it. While it starts off easy, you'll soon find out that the game is, in fact, quite difficult. Unfortunately, rather than make tough enemies and interesting level design, it seems like the programmers took every annoying thing a game could possibly have to make it challenging, and throw it at you. First of all, don't be fooled by the "Continue" option on the title screen. You cannot continue unless you find the Hudson Bee, hidden in one of the early levels. Another pervasive problem is that you aren't automatically given a weapon. You have to find a stone axe inside an egg somewhere in the level (and they don't exist in all levels.) If you die, you lose the weapon. This is not good. If you find that guy who offers to let you skip the island, decline him, because you'll need to store up weapons and dinosaurs from the early levels in order to get through the later levels. While this may seem like whining about the way the game is designed and meant to be played, it is just far too easy to end up getting so far into the game and not be able to progress because I ran out of weapons. When that happens, I pretty much have to start all over again, which isn't a good thing when considering that the actual in-game challenge and level design is nothing spectacular. The boss fights are entertaining, but they don't excuse the multitude of lackluster areas you have to slog through to get to them.
FUN: 5/10
Even if this game's technical problems with the controls and continue system were not present, I still can't help but feel this game would be boring. There are eight islands to explore, each progressively more difficult. It seems like the designers were trying to make the game more like Super Mario Bros. 3 in this way. But unlike SMB3, you can't control where Higgins goes on the map. He may take a different route than the one you played the last time. Some may say this is "original" and makes the game feel "new" each time you play...until you realize the levels are all so similar to each other, that it really doesn't matter where he goes. And it's really annoying when you're one stage away from the boss level, and instead of going right to the boss, Higgins makes a beeline for another stage. As you move through the levels, Higgins's life meter constantly goes down. You can replenish it by collecting food along the way. But you must get to the end of the level before it runs out. This is AI2's version of a timer. I am not really fond of having to rush through levels, and in many of AI2's levels, if you hurry, make no mistakes, and collect every fruit along the way, you'll still just barely make it to the end in time. This means I often have to sacrifice dinosaurs when I would have rather stopped to fight. The dinosaurs are kind of fun to use, but they really can't save what is essentially very average gameplay. There's also this little "Choose an Egg" game at the end of each level, but all you usually get is points. Points aren't necessary in a game like this! Why not give a useful item or weapon?
I'd like to thank Mrs. Kimble's 3rd grade class for designing the graphics...Welcome to my room that looks suspiciously similar to the mushroom houses in SMB3!

Having never played Adventure Island 1, I was unable to comment on how Adventure Island 2 may have improved on or been worse than its predecessor, but it's probably just as well that I reviewed it as a game all on its own. It's really, really average. I've never finished it, because I usually get bored with it by the time I reach the third island. The boss fights are fun, but that's about the only good thing I can really say about it. The rest of the game is just an average sidescroller that tries in many ways to be like Mario, but falls short. And an average game gets an average score.



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