They say there’s a first time for everything. What they weren’t specific about was that there’d be a first time for tracking down a nice pair of panties for a shy, naked whale, while on my way to save my dad, who’d just earlier been turned into a hot dog. This seems to be the norm in the world of Adventure Pals. Starting life as a wildly popular flash game before being turned into a fully-fledged multiplatform release thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Adventure Pals is the passion project of multi-national indie studio Massive Monster.
[Insert joke about wood here]
Best described as an ‘RPG-lite’ 2D platformer, The Adventure Pals doesn’t bring a tonne of depth or new ideas to the table, but it’s solid. Playing as the titular pals — a boy, his magical giraffe and his pet rock — you’ll jump, bounce, glide and slash your way through 20+ levels full of enemies, traps and collectibles. The platforming itself is decent with tight controls and a great sense of rhythm in the level design, and combat is a good combination of simple and chaotic, but the game struggles to gain momentum early on. Somewhere around the halfway point the levels start to introduce some compelling challenge and variety, but before then they feel a little toothless and pedestrian. Conversely, adding a second player via the game’s drop-in-drop-out co-op play makes the plainer levels more exciting but sucks too much of the challenge out of the later levels and boss fights. The moments where the level design allows the platforming and combat to flow effortlessly shine, but they’re spread too thin in levels that can be in excess of ten minutes in length and could easily have been tightened up.
Those hot dogs sure look like cool dawgs
In-between levels is a hub world made of several islands in which NPCs will provide lore and quests to back up the platforming action. Completing side quests that either don’t play directly into the platforming levels or augment goals in those levels is a great way to break up any existing tedium, thanks especially to the game’s sense of humour. Coming across as a mix of Adventure Time, Monty Python and internet culture, the game’s writing and visual gags definitely err on the side of ‘more is more’, but there’s a tonne of personality and heart on display. I genuinely laughed when I spoke to the citizens of the underwater ‘Crablantis’ world and was informed that their island had only sunk under the sea because their ruler had a penchant for collecting bowling balls. There are also combat arenas to participate in and plenty of unlockable costumes for you and your pals to wear. Truth be told, I’d have been happier if the ‘side’ content was more fleshed out and in greater quantity at the expense of trimming the fat of some of the more forgettable platforming sections.
The giraffe scene in The Last of Us always gets me
The Adventure Pals’ presentation perfectly matches the rest of its personality, too. Clean, sharp art and boisterous animation comes together with some truly outlandish character designs in a way that made me feel like I’d injected an extra large 7/11 Slurpee directly into my retinas. The game is essentially an irreverent flash game with high production values and that’s exactly what it looks like, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Everything is either a person, an animal, an animal person or just a happy face on an inanimate object, and everywhere you look at least one of them is bobbing along to the game’s serviceable-but-unremarkable soundtrack. I have a soft spot for the Saturday morning cartoon vibe so your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for the excessively saccharine, but it wears its style splendidly.
This guy is a shell of a snails-person, I’d better escar-go before I get slugged with a huge bill
The Adventure Pals is a great-looking, quirky and irreverent platforming RPG that unfortunately falls a bit flat thanks to levels that lack excitement and outstay their welcome. If Cartoon Network and flash games are your bag then this game will probably scratch a very specific itch, but if you’re looking for masterful design on the level of something like Celeste or Owlboy then you might have to temper your expectations.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher