Candy people explode when they get scared
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! feels like a lost episode—something set between when Finn met Flame Princess and fell hopelessly in crush with her and when Ice King stole parts from the various princesses of Ooo to create a Frankenstein monster princess of his own. In fact, the Adventure Time game fits quite snugly into the “Princess Monster Wife” timeframe. Perhaps this game is where Ice King got the idea to build a wife. The dude is, in a word, unhinged.
Just how unhinged Ice King has become is what drives Finn and Jake’s DS/3DS quest. The world is not at stake. The Lich is not perpetrating another apocalyptic cataclysm. Finn and Jake simply wake up one day to find their garbage gone—nay, stolen—by Ice King. Tired of this frozen monarch touching their stuff, they set out to kick his blue booty.
Sounds silly? Welcome to Adventure Time, butt chickens.
Adventure Time’s foray into interactive entertainment succeeds only if players recognize and appreciate that it is unapologetic, prepossessed fan service. It’s not trying to be something for everyone, but rather something designed specifically for the hands of Adventure Time fans. And, perhaps, any lingering lovers of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Zelda II and Adventure Time are mechanically one and the same. Like Zelda II, Adventure Time features a top-down overworld that transitions into a side-scrolling platformer. The towns scattered throughout Ooo are populated by characters from the show, and like the townsfolk in Zelda II, they send Finn and Jake on sidequests to prepare them for—and eventually lead them to—dungeons in the Grasslands, the Candy Kingdom, Red Rock Pass, and Ice Kingdom. And like Zelda II, the game is supplemented by light RPG elements—stats to be upgraded, items to be collected, powers to be gained, and so on.
The most important similarity between Zelda II and Adventure Time, however, is that like Zelda II, there really isn’t anything wrong with Adventure Time. All the gameplay elements come together well enough. Better still, they’re in dialogue with the show. Exploration, beatin’ up bullies, helping people out—these are aspects of the series that manifest in the gameplay. The end result is a quaint, undeniably fun romp through the Land of Ooo. Yet, like Zelda II, something about this formula fails to leave a lasting impression.
This may have more to do with my age than anything else.
There’s something about reviewing a game largely aimed at people one-third my age that seems largely pointless. For one, none of those 10-year-olds are reading this review. Nor, in all likelihood, are their parents. And if they are, they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be taking advice about an Adventure Time game from someone old enough to liken it to a game that came out 25 years ago.
The truth is, children are a lot more patient and a lot more determined than teen- and adult-aged gamers. A great many of us tell ourselves that the games we played when we were 10 were good—great, even. They weren’t. Return to those games now, and you’ll undoubtedly find them to be infuriating, intolerably difficult, and frustrating to control. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Kid Icarus for the NES are prime examples. As a kid, I adored these games. But I remember them being good because the yardstick with which I measured my likes and dislikes as a child wasn’t very long. What appears to be a “broken” game to us adults is viewed in the eyes of children as a challenge, an obstacle to overcome. It’s not that kids don’t have discerning tastes, it’s that they’re far less judgmental, far less likely to focus on flaws, and far more forgiving.
What does any of this have to do with an Adventure Time videogame for Nintendo DS and 3DS? Everything and nothing. It means that the score below, that 6.5, is not a bad score—I liked this game. But it means that if you don’t already love Adventure Time, you have no business playing an Adventure Time game. It means that even if you do love Adventure Time, that love is probably what will carry you through this game. It means that if we were all 10-year-old girls and boys again, it would be so much easier to like this game unquestioningly. “Good” would be good enough, and Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! would be the fan-loving intersection of media that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a quarter century ago.
SUMMARY: Adventure Time is, first and foremost, for fans. Love the show and a good platformer? This game’s for you. Expecting more, however, will only disappoint.
- THE GOOD: So long as you play Adventure Time without any unrealistic expectations, it delivers a fun platformer for fans of the show.
- THE BAD: If you aren’t a fan of the series, almost all of what makes this game charming—the writing and characters—will be lost on you.
- THE UGLY: Even as a fan of the show, I found the game wholly forgettable once I walked away from it.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! is available on the Nintendo DS and 3DS. Primary version reviewed was for the 3DS.