Review: Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?! (3DS)

Adventure Time’s wacky sense of humor makes its way to true video game form for the first time in this adventure for the DS and 3DS systems.  Taking the form of a 2D side scrolling platforming adventure with minor RPG elements (as well as one of the longest titles in gaming history), Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?! attempts to combine proven gameplay mechanics with the show’s sense of humor.  The result is a somewhat short-lived but mostly positive experience.

For reasons that are somewhat hard to explain — no really — The Ice King has stolen Jake and Finn’s garbage, apparently for the purpose of building a garbage princess that Jake and Finn must rescue, even if they don’t want to.  Along the way there is no shortage of foes to vanquish and poorly planned puzzles to solve.  Not poor on the developer’s side mind you; The Ice King just really sucks at riddles.  You have a pretty good idea what is in store the minute the game boots up and greets you with a power rock ballad that sings the game’s extensive title.  Odds are, you’ll wind up sitting on that start screen for a few moments.

Gameplay is very simple.  Finn does most of the fighting/jumping/etc., with Jake hanging out on his back all Yoda style.  Occasionally the shape shifting dog that is Jake will contribute with a sort of special attack or ability that allows you to better navigate the land of Ooo.  As is to be expected from an adventure game, abilities and items are picked up as the game progresses, and areas previously unreachable become accessible with the new abilities.  The game borrows from the classic Zelda II gameplay style, in that while moving from dungeon to dungeon, the gamer gets a top down view with roaming monsters, but switches to a classic 2D platformer once dungeons are entered.

Fighting a giant snake with a snake like punch… Brilliant!

Combat also chooses to not redefine boundaries, and probably for the best.  While some of Jake’s special attacks will change things up a bit, the majority of the game is spent hacking and slashing (or punching) as Finn.  Ever played pretty much any other platformer before?  Ok, then you know what you are doing for roughly 90% of Adventure Time, so we can skip further detail in that regard.  There are power-ups as well, many lack clear definitions and many more are obvious homage’s to the show.  Power-ups, including health (read: food) items, are activated by tapping their icon on the touch screen, which works well for the most part.  Adventure Time also features a very simple upgrade system, where you can find a set number of upgrades points and add them to your strength, health and speed attributes.

The game looks fantastic on the 3DS.  The 2D, more battery friendly version also looks great but doesn’t compare to the sharp, almost pulled straight from the TV quality visuals of the 3D version.  This doesn’t look like a Super Nintendo game put on a DS; this looks like a modern 2D game, with crisp, clear and colorful graphics.  The game lacks a lot of audio attributes to talk about, but what is there is equally of the same quality.  This isn’t the best looking game I’ve seen on the 3DS, but it still looks fantastic.  Fan’s of the shows style won’t be disappointed.

Dogs, is there anything they can’t do? Yes, tell time.

All is not well in the land of Ooo though.  The game has a few factors that are bound to frustrate some of the younger gamers Adventure Time is, to an extent, aimed at (as well as veterans).  Or, another way to put it, a few aspects of the game may make those who aren’t die-hard fans of the show slightly less likely to dive in and less likely to play to completion.  Undoubtedly, most reviews or comments on the game will talk of the length.  The game isn’t exceptionally long, and feels even shorter than it is.  The length is an issue, but not the real cause of the problem.  The truth is Adventure Time clocks in at around four to four and a half hours, which isn’t ridiculously short for a 3DS game, though a bit short for a game in this genre.  The real issue is that the game feels shorter than it is because of repetition.

You don’t spend four hours playing through one new level or location after another. You spend much of that time walking back and forth between various dungeons and locations looking for an item that you didn’t need the first time you went there or wasn’t there before or you simply couldn’t reach before.  There isn’t much direction in Adventure Time, meaning that while wandering the land of Ooo, it is quite easy to go to a location “before you are supposed to.”  You go to a place, explore, and find nothing that progresses the story.  So you go to another place, find someone who says, “Hey I need that thing in another place,” and then you must go back to the place you were before and explore it again to find it.  This continues for most of the game.  The map is also designed to have a lot of back tracking.  You must go all over the map once you gain a new ability to complete at least one major task in the game.  This task is not overly difficult or fun either, meaning that for the most part it just eats up time.  Replaying dungeons is made even more “pointless” since punching enemies in the face does nothing to upgrade your character.

This dude is nuts! (Sorry, lack of sleep = bad puns)

This repetition is the real issue with Adventure Time because even though the game is really a pretty decent length for a hand-held game — hell, many standard console games don’t go much over the four-hour mark these days — you don’t feel like you are doing new things in the game.  So even though the clock is ticking, it feels like it isn’t.

My last major complaint with Adventure time is that the item activation method (tapping the icon on the touch screen) is a poor way to go about getting health in the heat of battle.  The final confrontation with The Ice King took far longer than it should have because quite often I would die trying to look at the touch screen, tap the necessary icon and get slapped silly in the process.  Even something as simple as having the option to activate health items immediately upon receiving an otherwise deadly blow would have fixed this.

Overall though, Adventure Time’s first real venture into gaming is a mostly successful one and one that WayForward and D3 Publisher should be happy to have produced.  It has some genuinely funny moments, solid gameplay and looks fantastic on the 3DS.  Though repetitive in nature, the game has enough good moments to make it worth playing.  However, waiting for the $29.99 MSRP to drop just a little may be prudent.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: 3DS
Time to completion: About 4 and a half hours
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Review copy provided by D3 Publisher
Current Price: $29.95 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: $19.99 or lower is a good price range.
Why you should buy it: Charming, funny and solid gameplay
Why you shouldn’t buy it: Repetition, repetition, repetition… 

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About Tristan Rendo

I've made movies, written and performed music, and in January of 2011 got bored and started the awesome gaming site you see before you. My gaming roots began with the original NES, and endless hours spent spilling quarters into machines at the local arcade. I have a personal collection of over 200 Nintendo 64 games, and for many years it was the only system I owned. I re-entered the modern generation of gaming consoles when I decided to purchase a 360. I typically prefer the single player experience of games, so I’m usually playing through some single-player campaign, but can occasionally be found doing some damage in Halo Reach.