"You've probably heard about this game's big brothers, subtitled Monster Land and The Dragon's Trap, respectively. But this early Master System release has your character lacking a sword, armour, or any animal morphing ability. Instead, a primitive axe, grass skirt, and skateboard will all have to suffice. Even Wonderboy had to start somewhere. "
A hero's humble beginnings
You've probably heard about this game's big brothers, subtitled Monster Land and The Dragon's Trap, respectively. But this early Master System release has your character lacking a sword, armour, or any animal morphing ability. Instead, a primitive axe, grass skirt, and skateboard will all have to suffice. Even Wonderboy had to start somewhere.
If you've played any Adventure Island game, you'll know precisely what to expect. A blonde-haired bush boy takes the place of Master Higgins, but the clichéd mission to save your careless girlfriend remains the same.
Just like Higgins, our fair wonder boy starts off unarmed, lacking even the ever-popular cutesy game function: jumping on enemies to defeat them. The hero must find an egg, (yes, an egg) bump into it to crack it, and procure the axe weapon that lies within. Until you do this, you will be but a helpless manchild in a grass skirt, so get cracking (groan).
Once you've gotten the axe, you are empowered to slay tree spiders, snakes, wasps, and other outdoor pests. But axe or not, you'll still have to avoid certain hazards altogether, such as boulders, fires and falls, which all incur instant death. Oddly enough, bumping into static rocks doesn't kill you, but drains your energy.
Speaking of which, yes, this is one of those ‘vitality bar’ games. Even if you don’t take damage, and you’re standing around minding your own business, your energy will decrease by the second. This means you must always keep moving forward, collecting life-giving fruit that appears magically hung about the air as you proceed. You needn’t move along at break-neck speed—a decent clip will ensure a comfortable trip.
Something that will make your trip even more smooth is the skateboard. If you already have the axe, the next egg that would harbour one, will instead house a skateboard. Strap on that helmet and get ready for a Sonic-worthy ride through the forest and cavern locales, ignoring most of your foes as a matter of expediency. Without a doubt, riding the skateboard is the most attractive thing about playing this game. It's very fast, and very fun.
Run, skate, collect fruit, jump over rocks and from platform to moving platform, and toss axes at cutesy creatures. It’s all in the name of mindless fun, and it's simple, yet challenging. This goes on for eight worlds, each with four stages. Each world has a big boss creature guarding passage to the next, tucked away at the end of the fourth stage. After fighting the first two successfully, you will start to uncover a disturbing trend. They’re all the same! When you defeat one of them, he will be whisked away, his head changing as he goes, but his body remaining the same. While this is extremely lame, at least the attacks vary somewhat from boss to boss.
Wonderboy is a good action game for the Master System, and should provide at least a few days of colourful platformer fun—especially if you're an Adventure Island fan.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 12, 2004)
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