Thursday, 2 July 2015

Wonderboy (Adventure Island)

Run right, throw axe, save girl. Simple.

Running from the left to the right and throwing something in the progression to get past the adversaries in the way and remove the obstructions they create, to attain several goals at once be it the eradication of the blight that has caused the situation in the first place that necessitates the running and/or rescue an individual of the opposite gender being held against their will in constraints unnecessary and illegal.

Yeah I just described most of the 80s arcades and home consoles games, but oh well.

The skateboard, added shield and speed.
Wonder boy, alternatively known as Adventure Island (NOT time is it?...) particularly on the home consoles until the RPG diversion took Adventure Island down the platforming route and the Wonder boy franchise/name off into the scrolling 2D battle RPG scheme of things. Wonder boy on the arcade is strictly the former of the two involving your plucky young hero 'Paedo-Bait McGrassSkirt' trying to save 'Miss NobodyInParticular' from the supposedly evil clutches of Some Guy that changes heads more often than he changes underwear.

It makes sense later, bear with me.

These lovely enemies will just pop up and slap you if you're not careful

It's present in a light-hearted and comical manner; everything looks so cutesy and appealing on that Technicolor level that almost looks like a psychedelic saccharine approach to creature and level design that if it was any more sugar coated; legs would be falling off and eyes bursting in fountains of spectral wonder. It's bright, colourful and looks like it belongs on some kids Saturday Morning TV show. (And maybe should be with some of the shit that's broadcast these days... enough social commentary there for now though)

Snails: Lots of them, don't do much, kills on touch.

The game has a built in timer, which is designed to steadily drain and fall but gets replenished in small pieces by collecting fruit that's scattered along each level. Fruit that APPEARS in front of you (or above) when you get near it and either you remember where it is or you run past it or you have to move back and get it, which is quite likely to disappear by the time the inertia physics slows you down enough to actually turn around and then you've wasted even more time. Time spent making no progress and always dying. It's almost like the entire game is set above 26,000ft and fruit contains oxygen (or burgers contain oxygen, magic mushrooms and know...)

Cloud jumping, and octopuses...octopi? squid things.

Your items for pick up range from the axe, without which you're going to have a VERY hard time getting anywhere in the game, especially after level 1. A skateboard which makes you faster and you can survive one hit but you cannot stop moving, so expect to roll off the edge of a cliff at some point. Milk, which either boosts a lot of health or fills it up entirely depending on the small/big variety that you can collect. Bonus points symbolised by gold letters, which can be triggered to appear by doing a mixture of things such as hitting it with an axe (when you can't see it) running/jumping into a key point (no clues here either) or killing/not killing everything up to that point. Sometimes you might encounter an extra life but I'll promise you now it's under a spotted egg which summons a reaper that drains your health very quickly for a while, while sometimes you'll get a fairy from the normal eggs that will make you immortal to enemies (not holes) for a short while.

Fairy for invincibles!

The last key items are the magic mushroom which turns all fruit/food into junk food and multiplies the score of the food you collect (50 points to 500points), and a doll, which gives you a bonus of however many points your health is worth at the end of the level, and then gives you that bonus again for the doll. So finishing a level quickly while collecting everything is essential if you want to get the top score (or don't bother, just finish the game anyway). The kicker in this case is that you cannot get to level 8 if you don't get EVERY SINGLE DOLL through the game and there's one per level.

More tricks and traps, and more ways to die.

Now initially, you might think, "fair enough" and I'd make you right for the first few worlds. They're usually in places you can easily miss if you jump too high/low or if you've got the skateboard you might sail right past them, or you need to use a spring to get them but springs only really activate once and you can't exactly go back to them because the projected launch takes them outside of the left of the screen. But the real bitch of the situation, the real "I'm the programmer and I hate EVERYONE" move here (The big floppy donkey-dick move of them all) is that some of the dolls are hidden in rocks.

The more calorific, the more points it is worth.

The granddaddy cockslap to the face with the STD dick of death is the fact that some of the dolls are hidden in enemies. Sometimes it's a snail, sometimes it's a frog having to leap into a fire, other times it's a cobra. There is NO clue or indication that the things that would normally kill you, now have something you NEED to get the true final ending and area of the game. Of course, get the wrong enemy or hazard and you'll die. This is possibly the most ridiculous idea I've ever come across in a videogame aside from arbitrarily killing someone for picking the wrong doorway in a maze.

Level 4 of any world is a boss fight awaiting for you at the end.

The mechanics within the game are quite simple. Fall down a hole; dead. Get hit by ANYTHING; Dead. Run out of vitality; Dead. It's very easy in this game to die and die often, usually by the same thing. Dying results in you restarting the level or from a checkpoint in some of the levels and starting without any items in the inventory.

...and then it all went downhill.

Your enemies are a varied bunch, ranging from the slow snails, the immobile but suddenly THERE cobras, hopping frogs of 2 flavours, pelt wearing ninja-like assailants, swordfish and octopi, tribal humans/figures, bats, spiders, boulders and bosses. Each boss being a big guy that runs back and forth, hurling bouncing fireballs at you.

The boss... Same boss every time, just a new head.

Unless of course you count the rather nasty level designs when it comes to gaping chasms with platforms swaying back and forth, or platforms that drop as soon as you land on them and require you to immediately jump again, or the lift/elevator platforms of the ascending AND descending varieties. It's a game that uses up a lot of the typical things one would find in almost all future platform games and does it rather well. Making it into an interesting first step in the series by having an initially simple game that becomes fiendishly difficult within 2 worlds and outright ABUSIVELY destructive by the time you're half way through the game.

Congrats, you fucked up.

While some might throw themselves down in a pathetic display of defending this game from criticism, citing that it's an arcade game and needs to be difficult; I'll agree that arcade games are made to make money. But I shall not agree that ANY game should use the systems this game uses in order to pad out game play and deny players their lives/credits/continues by playing kamikaze egg-hunt for the dolls within the game. You wouldn't tell a kid that the Easter Bunny hid some of the eggs inside car engines on the motorway (Actually I might...) and you wouldn't start an Egg Hunt by telling kids not to go into certain places to look for the eggs AND HIDE THE EGGS THERE ANYWAY.

These guys hit you from behind, much harder to avoid if you're on the skateboard.

It's grossly unfair and unwarranted in a game and is one of the key problems that Wonder boy has. Of course, I say all this on the assumption players can GET that far to find out that the dolls are hidden, most of the time players won't get past the 2nd World anyway as the difficulty curve ramps up into a solid wall fairly quickly and then overhangs the player by that point.

Entertaining but you'd better be prepared to suffer for this one if you have any inclination at all towards beating it.

Go on, I dare you to get to this point.

In what boils down to running right, jumping and attacking if you have the axe weapon (and nothing else...) you'll have to navigate 8 worlds consisting of 4 levels (Mario anyone?) where in a boss will be found on the fourth level (Mario again?) The boss getting progressively harder and more aggressive in their movements and attacks (Mario?) while looking mostly the same apart from the head-swap issue to signify a "different" boss. The 4th level of the world is always a dark forest and is the same dark forest each time with different layouts for the enemies and traps.