Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!
System(s): DS (Also for 3DS)
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Publisher (Developer): D3Publisher (WayForward)
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for animated blood, cartoon violence, comic mischief
First off, you should understand I think Adventure Time is best show on television. I’m wrong, of course. The moment I say that, I immediately disqualify myself from any rational discussion about the quality of modern TV programming. But there it is, anyway; I’m a 40+ father of three, and even when my kids aren’t in front of the TV, you’ll still find me watching Adventure Time.
Despite this, my expectations for Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!! weren’t that high. There’s no way I wouldn’t have played it, but I still wasn’t expecting much. It’s a tie-in game, first of all, and that never goes well. Second, I’d read that it’s an homage to the old Legend of Zelda games. Okay, fun for nostalgic purposes, but nostalgia can’t carry an entire adventure game, not by the standards 3DS owners have come to expect.
After I finished Adventure Time, I found myself pretty much where I expected to be: entertained, amused, but slightly disappointed.
Who wants to play video games?
I’m not going to bother giving you the back story here. I’m not sure I could, considering how wonky the adventures of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog are. I’ll assume that if you’re into this game, you’re into the show, and you already know all of this anyway. To you, understand that the game plays out very much like an episode of the TV show. The Ice King is stealing garbage from the citizens of the Land of Ooo, and it’s up to Finn and Jake to put a stop to it.
Doing so requires them to travel to four different lands, facing various enemies along the way. The top down view of the map allows you to move Finn and Jake through Ooo as you move from one location the next, completing quests. Bump into an enemy here, and the game switches to a side scrolling action game in which you use various weapons or Jake’s morphing abilities to destroy the enemies and claim a power-up.
You’re also in this view when exploring dungeons, which is where the meat of the action is. Jake is your backpack for this game, but he can still punch, become a shield, become an umbrella, etc. to help you on your way. Finn’s attacks are more powerful, however, so you’ll mostly be using him and his power-ups to work your way towards the boss battles.
Is that what you think adventurers do?
As I played through the game, I was pleased and bummed in turn. Pleased because the story is very much fan service, including a crazy number of characters from the show (albeit mostly in very small roles). I laughed out loud quite a bit while playing, and was impressed at how spot-on the characters were with their dialogue. But the first time I turned the game off after about an hour of playing, I was told it was 18% completed. I’ve got iPhone adventure games I’ve been playing for 20 hours and I haven’t reached 18% completion. Why is this one so short?
The problem is compounded by the amount of backtracking you have to do. At numerous points in the game—be it in a dungeon or in the outer world—you’ll reach an objective only to find you need something else that requires you to travel back to another area to retrieve. This isn’t terribly frustrating, as the game makes it obvious throughout where you simply can’t access something because Jake doesn’t yet have the ability to get you there, and these areas are easy to find once you do have that ability.
Unlocking a new area was fun and provided enough incentive to keep going, but I wish there was more to do in each. Some mini-games would’ve been fantastic (a few rounds of Kompy’s Castle, for example, or a rhythm game to open the Door Lord’s door). More interaction with the main characters would’ve been great, too.
I feel redder, faster…more adquate!
And yet, Hey Ice King is still a fun game. Most everything you love about the TV show is in here, from the sense of humor to the sense of wonder. And I liked the use of 3D, which adds nice depth to the dungeons but is totally unnecessary for gameplay. What I liked best, however, was the music. From the theme song to Marceline’s boss battle to the finale, the songs were fun and distinctive and perfectly matched the gameplay. Even the ambient music throughout was fun and catchy.
The whole package, therefore, comes together to create a breezy, entertaining experience, but one that never really challenges and is over far too quickly. Fans of the show won’t mind the price tag, as the game gives you almost exactly what you love about the cartoon. Everyone else, though, may want to sit tight for a price drop or just hit the eShop for virtual console downloads of the games to which it’s paying tribute.