Old-school gaming in the Land of Ooo.
It makes sense that the Adventure Time game would be an homage to an 8-bit title, especially seeing how the Cartoon Network show makes references to the tropes and playfulness of that era of gaming. That it's specifically an homage to the second Zelda game is even better. What better game to be modeled after than one that has "Adventure" right in the title, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link? WayForward Technologies is a great choice as a developer for Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!, with their focus on old-school gaming having developed games like Contra 4, the A Boy and His Blob remake, Bloodrayne: Betrayal, and Aliens Infestation.
The game places the player in control of Finn the Human, toting around a lazy Jake the Dog in his backpack. Jake's laziness accounts for the game's Zelda-like progression, since he's unwilling to transform his shape or use other abilities until meeting certain requirements. It's clear that there are areas on the isometric top-down world map and in transitional action levels, where Jake is going to be used as a bridge, climb up cliffsides, or deal with other obstacles later in the game. Action is played in side-scrolling battles, which can be random encounters with grayed-out silhouettes from the world map, in specific cave dungeons, or in other transitional levels from area to area.
The duo fights together, with Finn providing quick mid-level attacks and Jake providing long, slower high attacks. Jumping can be used with a downward strike, and the point values for each attack are displayed with every hit. Power-ups are stored in Finn's backpack that grant temporary increases in stats and abilities, like food that replenishes Finn's health and even support characters such as a bee that flies above Finn and Jake and attacks anything along its flight path. Food items can be augmented with condiments for greater health restoration, but the wrong condiments can lower the effect or damage Finn's health. The developers from WayForward stressed that experimentation was key.
The story and dialogue in the game have been written by series creator Pendleton Ward, who met with developer WayForward for an initial brainstorming meeting, and plays the game at each monthly milestone. Make no mistake, this isn't just a random media tie-in, but the game that Ward wants for Adventure Time, and WayForward 's staff were very excited to talk about the partnership.
Because of Ward's involvement, the game features Adventure Time's trademark humor and visual style. The Ice King, upon taunting Finn and Jake with stealing their garbage, seems more interested in impressing Jake than anything else, continuously trying to come off as "cool" in the opening bit of exposition. Quick trips around the first area available in the Land of Ooo quickly involve encounters with Princess Bubblegum directing you to upgrade BMO (Finn and Jake's sentient video game console) with a "map" cartridge that gives an 8-bit overworld map, and an initial mini-quest boss fight with Donny the grass ogre.
The game is the same on the 3DS and DS versions, with the 3D pulling the 2D backgrounds into a diorama-style look on the 3DS. The graphics are clean and smooth, and feel like an HD remaster of an 8-bit or 16-bit game. There were a few areas where the game would stutter and the ability to jump would be impaired, causing Finn to fall into a pit and die instead of jumping over it. However, the game's director told me that this was due to characters further down the level loading, and that they'd already addressed this issue in the next build.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?! is shaping up to be a great throwback to 8-bit gaming with the series signature style and humor. WayForward is doing a great job of mixing the two flavors together, combining the series' penchant for gaming nostalgia with gameplay from the era it references. The build shown was in beta, with only a few map assets missing, and is due out this Fall.