With "Adventure Time" having become a standout Cartoon Network hit, it was only a matter of time until the series received its own video game. Regardless of one's opinion of the show, it provides a world that is rich and deep, characters who are just as much so, and a setup for action given its two heroes' occupation — the title of the show is Adventure Time, after all. Fortunately, the license went to one of the better developers currently out there when it comes to visual appeal, accessibility and humor.
Wayforward Technologies' MO with regards to licensed games is to take a beloved old-school game, put its own spin on it — usually via some new mechanics — and drop in said license. It worked when they made a Castlevania-inspired title out of the Barbie license (and the upcoming Hotel Transylvania), and it works here, as they place Finn and Jake in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. In all seriousness, if you've played that, then you've technically already played Adventure Time: Hey, Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!
Yes, that is the full title, and that is the setup. The Ice King — who longtime "Adventure Time"watchers know has a few loose screws rattling upstairs — has stolen a good chunk of the Land of Ooo's garbage to build girlfriends. That's bad enough, but he's also scattering the garbage throughout the landscape and dirtying the world in the process. So it's time for Finn and Jake to do what they do best, and adventure until the mad king pays for his crimes.
For those who aren't Zelda-literate, this means that you'll quest across an overhead-view map screen as you journey toward towns and dungeons in several themed areas. One area might be a grasslands, and another a rocky mountain — basic stuff. Said dungeons involve slashing, bashing and platforming, all in side-scrolling 2-D. Towns, meanwhile, contain various denizens of the Land of Ooo to probe for clues about your next destination, or to learn of side-quests that can either advance the story or lead to helpful power-ups. Along the way, you'll gain items and powers that allow Finn and Jake to fight more effectively on their way to a final showdown with the Ice King.
Given the simple and easy-to-grasp nature of the mechanics, if the overall quest were dull, the game would be shallow and useless. Fortunately, all of the best parts of "Adventure Time" are allowed to shine through here, from the hilarious characters and premise to the sense of scope that the Land of Ooo possesses. Some characters only have cameos while others are more to the forefront (fans of Princess Bubblegum have a lot to look forward to, while those of Lumpy Space Princess ... not so much), but all get to drop hilarious lines and contribute to the story — created with help from series creator Pendleton Ward — in ways engineered to make the player smile.
The addition of Wayforward's design sense, aided by lessons learned from previous projects, means that the game plays smoothly and snappily, feeling fair while being very silly. It also assures a well-done soundtrack, featuring a mix of show songs and WF's in-house chiptune preference. Of note is the title screen, which plays the greatest rendition of the "Adventure Time" main theme you will ever hear, bar none.
However, as quality as this game is, there are a couple of drawbacks that aren't to the core game's detriment but might not make the title quite worth full price. The first is that it doesn't make much use of the host hardware. Turning on 3-D gives the game a nice background parallax scroll effect reminiscent of old-school games, but that's as far as it goes, and it likely explains why there was a vanilla Nintendo DS version released alongside this. The other is that it's awfully easy and short. You'll get an abundance of healing and enhancement items during your quest, to the point where you'll start throwing things away, making most fights a cinch, and the quests, while meaty, aren't very long. If you're seasoned at these types of games, you could probably blow through this one in a few nights. With that said, you'll have a barrel of laughs along the way.
Hey, Ice King! does what a good licensed game is supposed to do but few actually accomplish nowadays: It's well-crafted game that shows care and polish, but it also serves as a good gateway to the "Adventure Time" cast, world and style of humor, with fan service besides. It's also a good gateway to open-world action-adventure games a la The Legend of Zelda. I personally don't care for Zelda or "Adventure Time," and I found myself charmed by this game, which is about the highest praise I can give it. While it doesn't break any new ground, it's as solid as they come.
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