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Adventure Island II (NES) artwork

Adventure Island II (NES) review

"Adventure Island II is the game Adventure Island wanted to be. The first game was only worth playing for the novelty of its unreasonable difficulty, but this one is worth playing because itís actually good."

Adventure Island II is the game Adventure Island wanted to be. The original was actually a port of another game called Wonder Boy, but it was successful enough to allow Hudson Soft to make an entirely original sequel. The developers left the solid gameplay intact but made it much more forgiving, added more interesting levels and new power-ups, and subtly tweaked dozens of other little things. Even the graphics and music were slightly improved upon. The first game was only worth playing for the novelty of its unreasonable difficulty, but this one is worth playing because itís actually good.

The basic mechanics found in the two titles are nearly identical. Here as before, youíll run, jump, crack open eggs, and occasionally throw tomahawks at little animals. Itís as though Master Higgins just decided to visit a much less dangerous island this time. Even the most challenging levels rarely have enemy ambushes or sudden pitfalls; when you die, itís because you screwed up, not because the game wanted you to memorize its stupid patterns. The automatically depleting health bar makes a return, but eating food restores more health than it did in the first game, and all of the levels are much shorter. A bonus round at the end of each stage can randomly yield a 1-up, as well. There are even occasional warps which let you skip entire worlds. All of this might make the game sound a bit too easy, but since itís the sequel to the notorious Adventure Island, these changes only result in a realistically manageable challenge.

The game is still divided up into 8 unique worlds, but each one has 8 levels instead of 4, and youíre required to beat at least 7 of them. The stages might be easier, but there are almost twice as many as there were before and none of them have checkpoints. The path youíll end up taking through the stages is a bit mysterious; sometimes an apparently identical second play through of a level will produce an exit to a different place. I had to do some research to learn that the deciding factor is the specific eggs you choose to break open during the stage. The pattern for this is still a bit opaque, so you canít easily manipulate which areas youíll visit; rather, this seems like a fun feature intended to add some variety to the game.

But the main source of variety in Adventure Island II is the levels themselves. On top of the standard grassland and cave scenery, youíll also get to run and jump through desert sand, over lava pits and across treetops. Some stages take place entirely underwater, while others are split evenly into land and water sections. The swimming portions are a bit boring, but their rarity makes them an interesting diversion from regular gameplay, rather than a nuisance. Other levels progress upward instead of always to the right, and many are peppered with climatic hazards like bubbles, quicksand, or (inexplicably) conveyor belts. The critics must have really bashed Adventure Island for its monotonous scenery, because thatís easily the most improved aspect of its sequel.

Another welcome addition is the ability to save power-ups. Multiple items of each type can be stored and recalled before entering a stage. Never again will you be forced to traverse a minefield of snakes and bats without the aid of projectile weapons. On the other hand, all of the stored items are lost upon Game Over, so the real challenge in Adventure Island II is endurance. Itís important to know when to stockpile your power-ups and when to just use them, especially with each of the gameís powerful dinosaur mounts.

Yes, dinosaur mounts. Friendly prehistoric creatures will hatch out of a select few eggs and allow you to ride them. Theyíre all very strong and can act as a shield to take a single hit for Master Higgins, but they also drain your health faster than normal (dinosaurs have to eat, too). The most common one is a bipedal purple theropod (not to be confused with the popular TV variety). It runs as fast as the skateboard power-up skates, and one swing of its tail will break anything except bonfires. A similar red version spits fireballs instead. The pterosaur can fly all the way up to the top of the screen and drops Ösomething on the enemies below. And the plesiosaur is best saved for water levels, though it still moves at a decent pace on land. As useful as they sometimes are, I found that my time with the dinosaurs was usually short-lived. Their unfamiliar movement speed and size made it easier to collide with enemies and fall into off-screen pits. Itís probably wisest to save them for subsequent playthroughs of a difficult level.

Bosses have been revamped as well. Most of them will teleport around in a set pattern while firing slow-moving balls of energy at you, but the rooms in which you fight them add more substance to the battles than the bosses themselves. Small platforms, spikes, and other obstacles combine with continually moving and attacking boss monsters to make for some interesting and satisfying battles. Each one is found at the end of a regular stage, but losing once will cause it to retreat to another area, forcing you to complete that level as well in order to take another stab at the creature. Thankfully, none of them are particularly difficult, so all this really does is add more tension to an already fun battle.

Adventure Island II is everything a sequel ought to be. It plays almost exactly like the original, but its level design, power-ups, and boss battles are all much more fleshed-out. Itís not easy, but neither is it as ruthless as Adventure Island. Even the music is better. This gameís only real stumbling block is that it didnít deviate even further from its predecessor. With a better soundtrack, more inspired artwork and even more work put into the level design and items, this game probably could have been a truly great NES title. As it stands, Adventure Island II is a decent game that most will enjoy, but it probably wonít form any lasting memories.


Whelk's avatar
Freelance review by Kyle Charizanis (June 06, 2013)

Lifelong gamer and unabashed nerd. Not even a little bit bashed. He was originally drawn to Honest Gamers for its overall high quality of writing. He lives inside his computer which is located in Toronto, Canada. Also, he has a Twizzler (@Whelkk).

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