PC Engine Discussion/Review : Bonk’s Adventure

While I’m still writing an article lamenting my childhood ignorance of the Turbografx16 partially because of the shitty marketing and naming that went into its American console, let’s talk about one of the first games I was able to experience thanks to the wii’s virtual console, Bonk’s Adventure!

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Heellllp, I’m falling off the title screen!!!

The first in a trilogy, a spinoff and some ports here and there, Bonk was brought back into the spotlight recently with news of his revival.  We’ll probably never see that revival because Hudson went under soon after the news broke, but considering their half-assed multiplayer in the revival of Dungeon Explorer it might be for the better (More on that game in a future post).

One of the first things that sticks out is Bonk’s strange structure.  The first area is a normal 3 level set before the boss, while the second has 7, and the third depends on how well you can cross a breaking bridge (I fail every time), but the standard is 5.  Round 4 only has a single level, which really throws the pacing off, but round 5 does something awesome for a 1990 platformer.  At the climax, you walk through a hallway with statues of each previously defeated boss expecting a fight, but nothing happens.  You exit, find yourself suddenly outdoors and climb a set of waterfalls to a part of the fortress in the sky.  At the top of that area, you take a door and fall right back into the room with the statues and it’s then that they’re activated for the boss rush before the final sequences.  It’s a little disorienting (also refreshing) to go from “Yeah, let’s fuck them up” to “Wow, this outdoor area is really pretty” then back to “Finally we can fuck these guys up”.

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As bright and colorful as Bonk is, you can find some pretty dark themes lying around.  Take for example that every signpost in the game is embedded in the skull of a deceased dinosaur as seen above.  I also like to see the pictured enemies as hatchet wielding psychopaths wearing dinosaur shells over their heads.  Yes, I know they’re just stupid baby dinosaurs that haven’t removed the top half of their shell, but the hatchet wielding psychopath part still stands.

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This is a disturbing staring contest…

Creeper jokes aside, the character designs manage to capture that “totally rad” theme of the time, while still being a fun game to play.  Usually the rad design is an indication of how shitty a game is going to play, but not here.

While there’s quite a bit of detail on objects, such as rocks, grass, sprites and that scary looking moon, the (outdoor) backgrounds have less color use, sometimes sticking with one solid color.  Personally, I like the contrast between blank background and detailed objects.

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It makes that moon look so much more menacing.

The controls take a little getting used to, particularly the momentum.  This isn’t the kind of game where you can maintain running speed through entire levels (maybe there’s a few exploits I haven’t learned of yet though).  Running off a small platform causes Bonk to decelerate on the ground, and headbutting the ground causes Bonk to lose all speed and there’s a little bit of lag before he can move again making an easy target for flying enemies.  Also, Bonk’s head can be a bit of an unwieldy weapon, with the attack button rotating him in the air so to speak.  You can spam the rotate button so that he falls down at a much slower rate, but each time you hit the attack/rotate button toggles between his head in front of him and his head directly above, so if you rotate for a while, you have to be sure what position Bonk is in if he wants to hit the enemy instead of hurt himself.

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Did I mention that the character names are terrible?

Like any good classic game, there are ways to exploit Bonk’s Adventure.  My favorite is to line up an enemy with a wall and keep hitting them in the air for massive points (Extra life every 20,000 which you can easily get by juggling two enemies until they stop giving points).  In this game, you want lives, because a game over means repeating the same round from the beginning without any heart capacity upgrades you happen to find.  It’s easy to die too, especially later when enemies take out full hearts and you have to pray for either nearby fruit or a bonus room to survive a little longer.

I can’t put up any good examples (Thanks for nothing Youtube music uploaders), but the soundtrack is fantastic.  I’m tempted to get my lazy-ass to do a recording, but I know I’ll spend hours just listening to that song in the room before you fight a boss.  I’ll post a link to my award-winning playthrough at the end of this post, so check it out there =p

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It’s almost time to put this article to rest, so what better place for a nap than in the mouth of a fucking dino-skull?

For review purposes, I’ll give Bonk’s Adventure an 80/100.  It’s short, and something that every gamer should experience at least once.  Maybe not a must-play, but if you want to enrich your gaming repertoire, this is an excellent candidate.

My full playthrough, exploiting the shit out of enemies I can juggle off walls can be found here.  I’d love to chat about Bonk’s Adventure with other players, so leave a few comments if I forgot anything cool, cause it’s hard to do an awesome game justice in the timespan I had to write this article (right after beating it).

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