Yo, Kids. Like, you know those totally awesome shows and games that you all love and revere. Well, Adventure Pals is down with the times and it aims to prove this at every turn. From well done, subtle nods towards pop culture, to blatant references that literally spell it out, the writing and humor in the game swings on a large pendulum. Mr. B, the villain of the piece who rides around on a giant mechanical bee, dadnaps your Dad at your birthday party and it falls to you, your trusted Giraffe and pet Rock, to save him and help out the various characters along the way.
The whole thing has the vibe of modern day Cartoon Network animations, calling to mind Adventure Time, Gumball and the like in its crazy set ups, off the wall writing and wonderfully odd characters. Some of these genuinely had me laugh out loud (the travelling whale sticks out in my mind), but again, some are just a bit too cringe-inducing or trying too hard. Thankfully, all interactions are kept short, so this doesn’t become too much of an issue. Only a handful of interactions actually result in a quest, and while these all have different goals, getting down to the brass tacks, every single one plays out the same.
Levels are split up into 5 stages, all of which are fairly short and linear. Each level plays out the same way, start in one area and fight your way to the well at the end of the level that transports you to the next stage. Combat is very simple, just one attack button and various items such as bombs and shields to help you on the way. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t get any deeper than this. Enemy types are just palette-swapped across worlds, with the enemies with shields proving to be an absolute pain across the board. Usually these are mixed in with several big brutes and grunts, and you cannot damage them until the shields have been broken, leading to multiple occasions where I didn’t feel like I was doing any damage to anyone, as the shields were soaking it all up.
There’s a light leveling system in place, upon raising it you get to pick a random perk, from extra health, to allowing you to break the shields quicker, which is a must! I found the leveling to be slightly too slow however, it felt there was an age between even lower levels. Outside of the combat, it’s a fairly straightforward platformer. Wall jumps, traps to avoid and using your giraffes tongue to slowly hover back to the ground (as the devs put it: Giraffe. Helicopter. Tongue. – is the order of the day). If it wasn’t for the colorful visuals and somewhat catchy music, this could be just any other platformer from recent years. It’s certainly fun enough, but nothing really stands out from a gameplay perspective.
On your way to the transport well at the end of each level, there is a cupcake and sticker for your book hidden off the beaten path. By and large these aren’t too hard to find, often coming to a fork in the path and it simply being a case of guessing which way leads out, and which has the hidden collectibles. Later levels occasionally require some light puzzle solving or backtracking, but I managed to come across most of the ones I found just through playing naturally. Cupcakes allow you to get different hats for your character and pet rock, but these offer no practical use, meaning that I soon lost interest in hunting them down.
Each level ends with you collecting a rubie, and generally 5 of these are required to progress the story along. There’s a slight knowing nod when yet another character asks you to collect them 5 rubies, the whole game seemingly nudging your arm and winking at you. Collecting these doesn’t take too long, and getting past the repetitive combat, the game is a fun way to spend a few hours. It would have been nice if there was more to do, as it is each level pretty much plays the same, and once the allure of finding the collectibles wore off, it just highlighted the repetitive nature that much more.
Between the art style, the core gameplay and the humor that lands, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. It’s a little too heavy handed on the in-jokes and references at times, undermining the successes elsewhere. The lack of enemy variety and the world level layouts hurt this the most, but overall, the game is well deserving of your time.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.