Review by EOrizzonte

Reviewed: 09/04/02 | Updated: 09/04/02

And you thought Ghosts 'n Goblins was difficult

Old games were expensive, but they also had a few kilobytes memory to deliver you entertainment. Therefore, in order to last you long enough not to make you regret the money you'd spent on them, they had to be either RPGs, or difficult action games. Since RPGs were scarce in the '80s, action games were the majority, and especially platform games, given the world-wide success of Nintendo's seminal Super Mario Bros.. All this means that Adventure Island is a platform game made in the '80s, and that it's a difficult game.

The game has you as Master Higgins, a fat, wide-eyed boy with a white cap and no shirt, and with a very stupid look on his face. His goal is to save his girlfriend, kidnapped by aliens. Yes, it's a cheesy plot, but many great games are based on a similar scenario, so the story isn't the problem here. The game, unfortunately, is.

Adventure Island is unforgiving. And I can't forgive a game that won't forgive the slightest mistake, the most justifiable drop of concentration; a game that requires you to constantly act in advance to avoid premature death, and that will mostly test your skills by having you face millimetric jumps that, more often than not, will have you landing right on a lurking enemy. And a single touch from just any hostile being will kill you, no matter what.

You'll find items in eggs that are scattered here and there. The fact that most eggs are invisible, and that to make them appear you have to jump at unsuspected locations, is further proof of the game's cruelty. Your only weapon is a throwing axe. If you survive long enough, you may be able to upgrade it to a fireball that will destroy just anything in your path, with the sole exception of bonfires. Needless to say, having the fireball is practically a must, since soon enough enemies and obstacles will be just too many to cope with if there's an indestructible rock on your way, limiting your feeble jumping skills. But as I said, one hit from anything will kill you. And then you'll have to restart from the last section of the level you've reached - weaponless. That's right, if you die, you lose everything you had. And in some levels, you won't find an axe until you're far into the stage - and in some cases, you won't find anything until the next level.

But, as Hudson Soft must have thought, that wouldn't be hard enough. Even if there's no actual timer, you have an energy bar. This bar decreases as time passes, and to replete it you have to collect fruits. Fruits are rather common, but there are levels where you have to pass a significantly long - and enemy-filled, of course - section that contains no fruits at all. If you're good, you'll reach the next fruit with a single energy unit left. If you're not, you'll simply die.
Speaking of the energy bar, there are only two things that can deplete it, apart from the passing of time. The first is contact with one of the many rocks that are scattered on the ground. Touch a rock, and you'll lose energy - but that's rarely going to make any difference. In fact, when you stumble upon a rock, you'll bounce left or right and, more often than not, land on an enemy or a bonfire, losing a life. Not only that, but if you're so unlucky to crack an egg and find an eggplant, you can kiss another life goodbye. The eggplant will stay with you for a while, sapping your energy away, and while you're desperately running to find fruits to keep yourself alive until the eggplant leaves you alone, chances are that you'll be touched by an enemy, or fall into a pit (the latter is unbelievably easy, due to the inertia that plagues Master Higgins' movements).

Anyway, this could still be tolerable. Unfortunately, the game has it that if you don't find a cleverly-hidden bonus in the very first stage, you'll have no chance whatsoever to continue your game when you hit game over. That's right, no continues. And extra lives pop in every 50,000 points - given that it takes you about 12 stages to get so many points, it's unlikely that you'll get more than one extra life in the same game. This is ludicrously unfair, because the game's difficulty increases according to the old formula - same level, more monsters. Halfway through the game you'll have to shoot before you take a step ahead, because when you actually see an enemy, it's usually too late to react. This is no challenge - it's an eternal source of tremendous frustration. And there are no passwords, so you have to complete the game in one sitting.

Now, consider something. This game came out in 1987, meaning that Super Mario Bros. had been out for a while. This game apes many features of Nintendo's masterpiece, mainly the game's structure itself - 8 worlds, each divided in 4 areas, with a boss fight at the end of the fourth area. How comes, then, that it's technically inferior to SMB, both in graphics and sound? How comes that a single hit will kill you, while Mario had already introduced power-ups to help you sustain more than one hit? How comes that Adventure Island is so unfair that's practically impossible to conquer without an emulator, so evidently unplayable, so terrifyingly unrewarding? It's no wonder that, even though it's not too different from the original, Adventure Island 2 is considerably easier, to the point that's almost unbelievable they come from the same developer.

So yes, games had to be difficult. But there are various degrees of difficulty, and Adventure Island's errs on the wrong side of the scale. A game like this is simply inexcusable two years after Super Mario Bros, and will make you change your mind about Capcom's Ghosts 'n Goblins's unforgivingness. If you're a self-respecting player, avoid this game. Please.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

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