Bonk's Revenge (TurboGrafx-16) review
"Bonk’s Revenge is certainly not as charming and original as the first game, due in large part to the aforementioned omission of the ‘friend philosophy’. No longer are the bosses your hypnotized friends that you must get to ‘snap out of it’ with a few raps to the noggin. Now the bosses are just bad guys, and that’s too bad. "
Who stole the soul?
Well just what the hell is wrong with our boy, Bonk? Has he hit his head a bit too hard, a few too many times? Fans of Bonk’s Adventure, the original game, will remember Bonk royally pounding King Drool and restoring all his friends to normal (King Drool had them brainwashed by way of massive eggshells on their massive craniums). So what more does Bonk want? Apparently the little big-headed caveman is not easily avenged; he wants Drool to suffer. And Drool's descendent has somehow managed to split the wondrous world of Moonland in two. So Bonk has returned to annihilate Drool’s grandson, King Drool III, and hopefully destroy any vestige of the legacy of the giant imperial carnivores (we know this didn’t happen, Bonk was back in a third adventure).
The bald one runs from left to right in true cutesy 2-D platformer style, head-butting all manner of foes prehistoric. He can bounce on flowers; some will spring him to greater heights, some will bear fruit for vitality, some will bear meat producing a raving lunatic Bonk, (or invincible Bonk, should he consume enough) some will bear extra lives and some will become propellers after a fashion, spiriting the ancient youngster to bonus rounds. If you’ve played Bonk’s Adventure, none of this should sound new. But the bonus rounds, they’re different. And the role they play in Bonk’s Revenge is what sets this game apart from the first mission.
There are eight bonus rounds. One will have Bonk dodging flying lava from a nearby volcano, all the while attempting to navigate small platforms to collect fruit and happy faces, while another will have him 'bungie-spinning', grabbing gravity-defying items along the way. My personal favourite involves Bonk sliding and jumping through a series of slopes and platforms comprised completely of ice. It’s even harder than it sounds. Getting to the finish line in any given bonus round isn’t entirely the point; the idea is to collect as much fruit and as many happy faces as possible. The fruit obtained in the bonus rounds replenishes your ‘real world’ energy.
But the happy faces are the true, precious gems. Each bonus round offers ten in total, and there are usually at least six bonus rounds per world. Should you finish world one say, with more than fifty happy faces, (if you do the math you’ll see that many more than that are available) at the end of the round, rather than taking the ‘happy face elevator’ to the ten or twenty or even thirty happy face floors, you will make it to the fifty happy face floor (there’s no floor for forty). What’s the relevance? The lowest floor lets you ride on the least technologically advanced train you might imagine possible. Onboard, a few hearts and a piece of meat might be available. The train ride granted you should you manage to earn 30 happy faces isn’t so bad; they serve meat, an extra heart container, and an extra man on the side. But fifty puts you in first class on a supersonic train that allows you to warp. You’ve got no choice in the matter, either. If you’re finishing up level one, and want to play level two, make sure you don’t get fifty faces, or it's off to level three you go.
The bonus rounds – and the warping that doing well in them allow – are huge because Bonk plays so damn slow. He always did. We certainly don’t expect a caveman version of Sonic, but even Mario and his hold-“B”-to-run leave the Turbografx-16 mascot in the dust. As a result, both Bonk’s Adventure and Bonk’s Revenge might seem longish and may lean toward the tedious side. The first game was generally able to avoid this pitfall by providing the protagonist with a useful ‘spin jump’ move, which allowed him to effectively spin his way through most sticky spots. By having the Turbopad’s (it's a controller, nothing else) Turbo Switches on maximum, there was virtually no interruption in Bonk's silky smooth tuck and roll technique. He would careen through the air leaving smashed enemies and considerable ground in his wake.
The drawback to this exciting maneuver, was that it made the game play too easy. Can’t time a simple jump and single somersault so that you can dive-bomb, your head crashing into some other poor souls’? Just spin jump your way through him. Hudson made sure this feature was removed by actually creating an interrupt between Bonk’s revolutions, which means that should you won’t be able to soar quite as much through the beautifully coloured levels, and more often than not you’ll hit enemies feet-first rather than head-first, and consequentially, take damage. Gone also is the head-butt juggling, where you could corner a foe and hit him repeatedly after he was dead – keeping him airborne – to rack up points toward extra men. So Bonk’s second mission is quite a bit harder, but a lot less fun with these features purposely omitted.
There are still more changes that detract from the newer Bonk experience. Bonk’s Revenge is certainly not as charming and original as the first game, due in large part to the aforementioned omission of the ‘friend philosophy’. No longer are the bosses your hypnotized friends that you must get to ‘snap out of it’ with a few raps to the noggin. Now the bosses are just bad guys, and that’s too bad. Also, the primitive look of the game has been lessened somewhat, and a corny attempt to further humanize the dinosaur adversaries is at fault. We are supposed to find clothes hanging on a clothesline outside a dinosaur’s ‘apartment’ funny. Likewise, the humour to be found in a female dinosaur relaxing under an umbrella, and still others surfing, should be obvious. Shouldn’t it? Sure, once upon a time, Bonk’s Adventure introduced us to pal Punchy Pedro, a thoroughly personable dinosaur De La Hoya, but somehow the play on our emotions there seemed real, rather than the cheap, cornball comedy attempted here.
In spite of all the criticism above, the game is still a lot of fun to play. The general aspect of Bonk’s Revenge is cleaner and crisper too, facilitated by thicker, blacker, bolder cartoon outlines. And if the original was colourful, Revenge is resplendent. The bright hues seem almost overpowering, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a game – even in this genre of cuteness and colour – that could compare in this department. The tunes seem to lack force or variety, (some tracks have returned from the first Adventure) but the main theme of the game (heard in the bonus rounds and the ending sequence) is absolutely endearing. Cute and upbeat, I find myself humming it despite my best efforts not to. Why then, the relentless criticism? Is it nit-picking? Perhaps we have ourselves an anal retentive, angst-ridden virgin reviewer? No.
Bonk’s Revenge brings the scrutinizing eye upon itself by way of its namesake and wholehearted attempt to build on a legacy. Regrettably, that legacy may chronicle an amazing, innovative classic followed by two solid sequels that just aren’t on the same level of greatness. If Bonk succeeds in this, his mission of vengeance, and wins another all-is-right-in-Moonland kiss from his sweet, Princess Za (a female dinosaur - interspecies relationships yet!) he will receive more of the well-deserved love that he has craved, and has received from most fans and critics. Yet, in Bonk’s Revenge, he finds his soul withering just a little bit.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)
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