The Adventure Pals Review - Bring Your Backpack and a Buddy

Comical characters, vibrant visuals, and quirky capabilities make this repetitive adventure worth experiencing.

Adventure Pals combines platforming with beat ‘em up style combat and light RPG elements. The absurdly hilarious story follows Wilton, a boy determined to save his father and the world from Mr. B’s sinister plot to turn people into hot dogs. Wilton forms an unlikely trio of pals with Sparkles the giraffe and a rock named Mr. Rock.

Packing Your Bag and Starting the Adventure

Starting a new file sends players into a quick tutorial that sets the stage for the rest of the game. Outside of one bit where you’re told to destroy a block, the game intuitively teaches players through well-crafted level design. For example, hitting a switch at the start of one level sends a saw blade into an enemy, informing the player to be cautious. Level mechanics follow this simple pattern before increasing in complexity.

The levels themselves blend together in terms of graphics and gameplay, despite varied mechanics like toasters increasing jump height. Names like Port O’Potty are clever, but similar enemies and backgrounds in the same area make unique mechanics less memorable. Many puzzles will leave players smiling in amusement, although they might have trouble recalling the details days later.

Levels occasionally feature different objectives like collecting certain items or defeating a specific enemy. These unique missions make stages seem different on the surface, but the player still progresses through puzzles, opening chests, and defeating enemies the same way they always do, making varied objectives feel like every other level.

This repetitive feeling is also apparent in the game’s combat. Almost every enemy is easily defeated with a few quick bat swings by tapping one button. Additional abilities like dodges, shield breakers, and combo continuers make fights even more of a breeze. Bosses, on the other hand, feel far more creative and enjoyable thanks to unique arenas, animations, and attacks that take more strategy to counter.

Palling Around the World

Players ride Sparkles across a colorful overworld filled with themed areas. One standout is the wasteland filled with slippery green blocks that Wilton can slide up vertically. Various Easter eggs like the Jurassic Park gate are also amusing.

Natives ranging from toast people to an eccentric mailman help make every world feel distinct with witty quests and characters. Without spoiling too much, one involves a man hopping on a chicken to save his wife, who turns out to be a pig. Post quest text from characters and small changes to towns like the dethroning of a dictator, make the world more immersive and aid in the sense of accomplishment and progression.

Searching for Sugar and Other Collectibles

Levels are broken into five sections, each with their own hidden cupcake collectible. Many sections feature multiple paths which leave the player wondering which trail leads to the cupcake. I occasionally found myself tediously backtracking from the end of levels to take a different path that would hopefully lead me to the cupcake. Minor nitpick, although the compass remedies this.

Cupcakes are fed to a cat in exchange for new hats and costumes. I put a fez on Wilton and dressed Mr. Rock up as a slice of pizza for most of my adventure. Interestingly enough, Sparkles isn’t customizable. Every level also hides one of Wilton’s lost stickers, which serve no purpose outside of looking adorable.

Coins scattered throughout levels can be used to open treasure chests and purchase items like bombs and potions. Coins are plentiful enough that players can comfortably open most chests throughout the game without ever feeling the need to purchase any items from the shop. This ensures gathering collectibles is never a hassle and gives players the option to make the game easier or harder depending on the number of items they want to use.

Limited items like bombs kill multiple enemies almost instantly, while potions either make Wilton invincible or gradually restore health. Unique items found only in red chests grant Wilton temporary offensive powers. Most are standard fare, such as fire damage and critical hits, but the ability to throw turtles at enemies after every attack is strangely satisfying.

Progression and Charm

Whimsical jingles, fanfare, and fluid controls create a greater sense of progression and enjoyment. Despite a small selection of songs, worlds have catchy tunes that don’t get old. Mashing one button to beat up a giant hot dog feels like a job well done, until it happens too many times.

Frequent progression extends into the game’s level system. Beating enemies grants Wilton experience points that eventually fill a meter which gives him a new ability. Players can pick new abilities, but will likely max out and obtain them all before the final area of the game. Fortunately, there’s no need to grind since level ups happen often.

Pirate elections, dinosaurs taking over a town run by a pancake, and a health icon that gets sadder the more damage you take are just a few of the aspects fueling the charm at the heart of Adventure Pals. Most notably, the writing has a plethora of laugh-out-loud one liners. A personal favorite is Mr. B’s master plan to build a giant hot dog that has the power to destroy friendship.

Challenge is scarce, yet I never found myself wishing the game was more difficult. Deaths are quite common in arena battles and the final world. Thankfully, when they do happen, there isn’t much of a penalty. Wilton loses some coins, which can be recovered with a certain ability, and goes back to the nearby checkpoint.

Find a Friend

Adventure Pals works well cooperatively. The game allows a friend to easily jump in or out without interrupting gameplay. Additionally, using a single split Joy-Con is quite comfortable since the game has few buttons, and the Pro Controller is also a good fit. Simple levels and combat make the game more enjoyable for newcomers.

Adventure Pals runs smoothly both on a TV and in handheld mode, except for the occasional arena battle that slows down the game. Thankfully arena fights are infrequent and the sluggishness isn’t enough to make the game unplayable. One bug froze my game after a hot dog monster ate Wilton at the exact same time I hit him, but I lost no progress and wasn’t able to replicate it.

Nintendo is known for creative platformers with simple, yet intricate mechanics, but there’s still room on the console to laugh and enjoy Adventure Pals’ wonderfully quirky experience.

Score

Good Bad
Turtle Power Repetitive Combat
Hilarious Writing Indistinct Levels
Great Co-op Backtracking for Collectibles
Mr. B Lag During Arena Fights
Enjoyable Progression Objectives Don't Change Experience
Catchy Music

- 7.5/10 -