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Bonk's Adventure (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Bonk's Adventure (TurboGrafx-16) review


"Hudson made a departure from their axe and boomerang throwing Higgins play mechanics, and decided that Bonk would be equipped with all his necessary weaponry right on his person. When you first play the game, and watch your onscreen character in all his cuteness bashing equally cutesy enemies with his noggin, you won’t be able to hide your smile. Much of Bonk’s appeal lies in his ability to be endearing but not nauseatingly so. "



What’s Up?

Bonk’s Adventure is 2D side-scrolling action game. It is also a mascot or cute game, as some are wont to fondly dub the genre. But this Hudson Soft (of Adventure Island fame) title represents much more than another run and jump romp in pastel colours. For NEC, the game was a godsend, a mast to help right a sinking ship. Due to poor marketing, and a dubious competitor-initiated campaign of doubt as to whether the Turbografx-16 really was a 16-bit system, the console in its incipient stages was already faltering. A big-headed, prehistoric little boy (no, not a programmer) was the system’s unlikely saviour - for the time being anyway.

What’s Good?

King Drool has kidnapped Princess Za (a little purple dinosaur girl) and Bonk must rescue her, defeating some of his brainwashed buddies along the way. The philosophy of turning your enemies into friends is a nice touch.

Hudson made a departure from their axe and boomerang throwing Higgins play mechanics, and decided that Bonk would be equipped with all his necessary weaponry right on his person. When you first play the game, and watch your onscreen character in all his cuteness bashing equally cutesy enemies with his noggin, you won’t be able to hide your smile. Much of Bonk’s appeal lies in his ability to be endearing but not nauseatingly so.

The graphics are beautiful and exorbitantly colourful - especially the plethora of prehistoric places. (Bonk can ride atop walking palm trees and even enters into a dinosaurs mouth and swims through his body!) The bosses are huge and they animate smoothly and move quickly - Punchy Pedro, the boxer, is a standout among them. Also, there is no flicker or slowdown to be noticed even when things get hectic.

Bonk sounds great too. The thunderous sounds of Bonk crushing certain foes (did the Blazing Lazers sound team work on this?) to the nice ping sounds of our hero picking up fruit are all just right. Even more impressive is the music. It is the best action game score I’ve heard since Super Mario Brothers 3. While most tracks are upbeat and lively, near the end, some somber and even haunting tracks set the scenes perfectly.

Although the game is a mascot action game along the lines of countless others that came before and after it, like the Sonics and Marios, Bonk’s Adventure does the genre its own way. Jumping on flowers that bear fruit, some that double as trampolines; playing bonus rounds that include spinning Bonk head over heels (his most effective mode of attack, favoured over the simple walk and bonk) to rack up spins for points should you manage to land on your feet; and eating meat to grow stronger, with a second piece needed for complete invincibility (after the little carnivore’s orgasmic reaction to the taste of the beef) - all help to make Bonk different, and to give his game a lasting charm.

What’s Bad?

There are few quibbles with this game. Firstly, Bonk is able to juggle enemies by jump bonking them over and over, racking up tons of points toward extra men in the process. If you exhaust the points available juggling one enemy, and then another, you will most likely earn a 1-Up. Also, the super spin that Bonk will use frequently to dispatch multiple enemies and bosses, is almost invincible and has great range. As a result, I often finish the game with thirty or so extra Bonks in stock.

You can handicap yourself by switching the Turbo fire off and negating the effectiveness of your spin, (you will be able to do a few rotations manually if your fingers are quick) but because the spin is fast and covers lots of ground, not using it will make the game slower and more tedious. Think of Sonic the Hedgehog without the fast running: the levels wouldn't pass so quickly, but the game would be crippled.

So What?

Bonk’s Adventure is a superbly fun to play action game with tons of charm. The replayability factor is high due to the hidden rooms and the skill that perfecting the bonus rounds requires. It also features one of the better climaxes and endings in an action platformer: Bonk must fight all his boss friends one more time, while memorable music plays in the background, before finally facing King Drool against a sky of flashing colours.

Hudson and NEC had a winner on their hands then, and if you’re lucky enough to own Bonk’s Adventure, you’ve got one in your hands now. Masterful.

Rating: 9/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 29, 2003)

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