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Bonk's Revenge (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Bonk's Revenge (TurboGrafx-16) review

"Still wondering why it's Bonk's revenge when he was the winner in the first game."

After the folks in charge of things in Turbografx-16 Land realized they had a legitimate mascot with lovable neanderthal Bonk, who'd just starred in the high-quality platformer Bonk's Adventure, it was inevitable he'd be seeing action in a sequel. And so, two years later in 1991, Bonk's Revenge was bestowed upon the world…or at least the tiny percentage of the world's population possessing the third wheel of that era of gaming.

And for the most part, the second verse was much the same as the first. Like the original, Bonk's Revenge is a solid game that never quite reaches the heights discovered by those featuring Mario and Sonic, much like how the TG-16 never was blessed with the same popularity possessed by the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.

Don't be mistaken by that last paragraph -- I'm not dismissing this game as mediocre or anything like that. There's no shame in taking third place behind Mario and Sonic, as their games were among the highest of the high points of that time and could be considered synonymous with excellence. Bonk may not be breathing the rarified air of their level, but he's still able to look down upon the vast majority of gaming mascots, sneering in contempt at their slovenly ways.

While Bonk had dispatched the evil King Drool in the original game, that dinosaur apparently did his share of pre-demise fornication, as Bonk's Revenge concerns the efforts of King Drool III to get revenge on behalf of his predecessor. You'll control Bonk through a number of worlds, each containing three or four levels before culminating in a boss fight. As one might expect in a game of this sort, those worlds contain a number of challenges ranging from icy floors to fiery pits. You'll travel under and through a giant ship at one point and then find yourself running past volcanos, hoping that you can avoid the bursts of lava being belched from them.

As you'd expect from a notable platformer mascot, Bonk is a pretty easy guy to control. A fellow with an oversized head, his main attack is to bash foes with that cranium -- an attack that becomes all the more devastating if performed as the finale of a jump. By eating the hunks of meat offered as power-ups, he'll gain other abilities such as temporary invincibility or being able to spit fireballs. Unlike Mario and Sonic, he has an actual life bar. Upon starting a game, he'll have three hearts that get depleted upon taking damage from enemies or environmental hazards and can be replenished by eating the fruit found amongst the cornucopia of point-bestowing food items strewn throughout the game. Those three hearts can potentially be increased to as many as eight, provided you either can find the handful of blue hearts that are well-hidden in various nooks and crannies, or by collecting enough smiley-face icons to purchase a trip on one of the superior models of train used to transport Bonk from one world to the next after defeating a boss.

Bonk's Revenge screenshot Bonk's Revenge screenshot

Not surprisingly, considering I just mentioned the importance of finding well-hidden items, the levels in Bonk's Revenge don't have time limits in order to induce players to explore everywhere to find as many goodies as possible. Adding to the potential haul are a veritable onslaught of bonus levels. Upon coming into contact with flowers, you'll get teleported to one of a number of different challenges, which are loaded with massive amounts of fruit, as well as those smiley faces. In other words, if you want to boost Bonk's health to the maximum, you'll likely want to get proficient at these bonus levels, as you'll need their smiley faces to accumulate enough to gain access to a train containing a blue heart, as opposed to (at most) a couple health-restoring items.

To phrase things as simply as possible, Bonk's Revenge is a treat to play…for the most part. The bright, cartoonish graphics, as well as Bonk's animations, give this game a whimsical feel. The variety of levels ensure that you won't be getting bored by seeing the same stuff repeated constantly. Hell, this game was still throwing in new challenges and abilities in its final levels, such as crushing blocks that, if they catch Bonk, will turn him into a crab-like being capable of squeezing into narrow corridors. There's also a pretty fun difficulty curve. The first few levels are near-effortless to complete, with only a few scattered enemies to provide the lightest of opposition. However, as you progress, it gets a lot trickier to emerge unscathed from situations. You'll learn to be TERRIFIED of tiny fish, as those foes will latch onto your caveman and constantly drain his health until you're able to shake it free. You'll find that a couple levels are brutal obstacle courses where disaster awaits at every step.

And you'll also find that Bonk's Revenge is not particularly sadistic. In one of the game's latter worlds, I found myself being tested to the limit of my abilities. Even though I'd collected a number of extra hearts -- a feat that had me feeling quite confident that I'd breeze through virtually everything -- I was having a lot of trouble staying alive, as it seemed something was able to trim away a little bit of that health with stunning, soul-crushing regularity. And then I reached the end of a particularly brutal stage, started the next and was immediately greeting by a cache of fruit large enough to nearly fill all my hearts and make those moments of desperation seem like a faded memory.

Most of Bonk's Revenge is a fun game that might not possess the same addictive nature of a Mario or Sonic title, but is designed well enough to be a worthy substitute for someone looking for a similar series of reasonably comparable quality; however, some of the boss fights are a letdown. Such as in the second level, where you get dropped into its arena, immediately have to push the control pad in a particular direction to avoid falling onto a bed of damaging spikes and then get forced into confrontation with a large foe who mainly runs back-and-forth across the screen, only pausing to sporadically fire a magical beam that temporarily freezes Bonk. Nothing like a boss fight that introduces cheap hits to a game that is, more or less, free of that sort of nonsense.

Bonk's Revenge screenshot Bonk's Revenge screenshot

And the game's third boss could possibly be the victim of a glitch. Either that or my competence turns off and on like a light switch whenever I've battled it. Taking place in an icy room, you'll fight a ballerina-like creature that spins like a tornado back and forth, only to occasionally stop in the center of the room while icicles plummet from the ceiling. This also is the moment it is vulnerable to attack, so the strategy is simple: camp to the far side of the room, avoid it while it goes back-and-forth and "bonk" it when it stops. Except things don't always seem to work properly, setting up a situation where Bonk takes damage no matter when and where you hit the boss. Out of curiosity, I fought this thing multiple times and often seemed incapable of hitting it in a manner where I didn't also take damage. Only once did things progress as they should have. After looking online and discovering I'm not the only person who's had that sort of trouble, I came to the conclusion that either this fight can at times be glitched or that the area you can hit it without also taking damage is small enough to demand perfect precision. Either way, it was hard for me to look at this battle as anything other than a misstep.

A misstep that was made worse by how the final world is a collection of small levels, each ending with a rematch against a prior boss, including both of those annoying encounters. If there was a saving grace to this, it's that death does not result in any sort of penalty, unless we're talking about the loss of your final Bonk. Upon losing all your health, Bonk will hit the ground and appear to be sleeping. Hit the proper button and you'll begin your next life, with him springing back into action and being temporarily invincible. Even better, if you die during a boss, you get to keep all your progress in that battle. Therefore, if you're having the same sort of struggles I did against that ballerina, as long as you have a few lives in stock, you'll be able to outlast it in a battle of attrition.

Fortunately, Bonk's Revenge, as a whole, is not a battle of attrition. Some of the bosses annoyed me, but I did enjoy the overall product. It provides the sort of easy-to-get-into gameplay and charming worlds that one expects from this sort of game, while generally offering a fair challenge, as well as rewarding a player willing to take the time to completely explore its levels. This game might not be one of those iconic titles of yesteryear that regularly gets brought up as an example of how good games could be back in the old days, but it's still a fun game that can make a slow afternoon go by quickly.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (October 25, 2019)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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