"I don't often randomly boast about particularly sweet things I pull off in video games, but I have to say I had an ear-to-ear grin after utterly destroying one boss with a perfectly-executed chain of attacks. The poor guy never had a chance, as I hit him with a diving attack, bounced off and repeatedly walloped him until the dude was down for the count. Sorry, Punchy Pedro, I scarcely knew ye....."
Pity poor Keith Courage. Designed to be the knight in shining armor who would lead the Turbografx-16 to the top of the video gaming world, the heroic lad suffered a wee bit of a setback when people realized his game was utterly craptastic. Making a bad game worse, Keith exhibited all the charisma of Al Gore on downers — which ensured his status as NEC’s Golden Boy was short-lived.
Fortunately, the company did a lot better job of picking a mascot the second time around. Replacing video gaming’s least-favorite red-headed stepchild was a caveman with a better headbutt than Bobo Brazil. Maybe the TG-16 never achieved the American success it deserved, but at least it had a mascot capable of starring in a number of high-quality games. Don't blame Bonk (a.k.a. P.C. Kid and a slew of other names) for the TG-16's failure to supplant the SNES and Genesis as the consoles of choice for that era — it quickly became obvious to me he did everything in his power to right the ship after the misadventures of Mr. Courage.
Of the many platformers I've played, Bonk’s Adventure most reminded me of Super Mario Brothers 2, as the individual stages don't have time limits and a few of the boss levels are pretty vast, taking Bonk through the equal of three or four regular stages. The two games are only loosely related, though. Many of the levels Bonk goes through are little more than simple left-to-right (or bottom-to-top) dashes that will only take a couple of minutes to get through.
While I'd have liked to see fewer of these tiny levels (one in particular only takes a handful of SECONDS to complete), Bonk’s Adventure did a nice job of keeping things a bit unpredictable. One world has a slew of short levels — in fact, so many that I was wondering if I'd ever get to the boss fight. The next world only consisted of one level, but it was a long, grueling test of endurance. It's the sort of thing that kept me guessing what my next challenge would be, which doesn't happen that often in this sort of game.
Bonk, himself, also offers a nice change of pace, as far as heroes go. His only noteworthy attributes are his unrealistically great jumping ability and an immense, rock-hard noggin' — two things that make him a formidable opponent for dinosaurs and other prehistoric goons. Hit the attack button when Bonk is in mid-air and watch his naturally formidable headbutt turn into a divebomb attack that is more than enough to clear out most forms of riff-raff. Allow Bonk to gnaw on a big ol' hunk of meat and (after watching a neat "powering-up" sequence that would turn Popeye green with envy) that diving attack now can turn distant foes to stone, giving you time to dash up to them and unleash a stone age walloping to their helpless hides.
As a player used to the simple attacks of Mario and Sonic, it did take me a little while to get the hang of Bonk's diving headbutt, but when I did, this game got addictive. A skilled player can quickly unleash chains of attacks while never hitting the ground, racking up huge point bonuses along the way. I don't often randomly boast about particularly sweet things I pull off in video games, but I have to say I had an ear-to-ear grin after utterly destroying one boss with a perfectly-executed chain of attacks. The poor guy never had a chance, as I hit him with a diving attack, bounced off and repeatedly walloped him until the dude was down for the count. Sorry, Punchy Pedro, I scarcely knew ye.....
Fortunately, not everything in Bonk’s Adventure was as easy to get past as that poor, lamented boss. While this game isn't one of the toughest platformers out there, a few of the game's challenges are definitely capable of costing Bonk a life or two. A few underwater areas are loaded with gigantic alligators that are tough to kill and very capable of taking off a healthy chunk of life in a hurry. The time-tested "jump-n-bonk" strategy isn't so easy to pull off when struggling to not sink into vast plains of quicksand or endeavoring to avoid magma balls spewed by volcanoes. One boss in particular can prove to be a very tough fight — not so much because of anything it does, but because Bonk will spend much of the battle careening wildly across the icy surface of its abode.
Bonk’s Adventure isn't the most challenging platformer I've ever played, nor is the longest or most varied (most of the stages fit into a tiny handful of templates). But it does have a certain amount of charm that makes it a very fun game to play. The characters and backgrounds are all vividly-drawn and cartoonish, while Bonk is well-animated — regardless of whether he's trying to scale a cliff with only the use of his teeth or struggling to extract his head from the mouth of one of those alligators. His first TG-16 game might not be the best of its kind I've played, but still provided me with a great deal of entertainment — almost enough to wash the taste of Keith Courage's exploits out of my mouth.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 02, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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