Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Let's Meet Bonk's Adventure: Part 1

at 10:43 PM
In Part 1 of each Let's Meet, you'll find an introduction to a game's history and gameplay. In Part 2, you'll come away with something neat about the game.

Bonk's Adventure (US)/PC Genjin (JP)
Developer: Hudson
Publisher: NEC (US)/Hudson (JP)
TurboGrafx-16 – 1990 (US)/PC Engine – 1989 (JP)

On a console where platformers are uncommon, Bonk's Adventure stands out as a quality title with a nifty powerup system.

Bonk's Adventure has a pretty simple concept. You play as a little cave guy that goes around headbutting dinosaurs. You can headbutt enemies from the ground, but more interestingly, you can land on them with an airborne headbutt, essentially mimmicking Mario's stomp maneuver, only with your noggin instead of your feet.

Bonk's diving headbutt speaks for itself. 
And it plays pretty simply, too. You start with three hearts of health, but it takes quite a few hits from enemies to knock out just one of them. The enemy AI is up to snuff, but Bonk is a walking tank, so foes won't give you much trouble.

That's not to say it's entirely straightforward. If you're willing to look around, you'll find plenty of items to pick up, especially in the game's numerous hidden bonus rooms.

One of the several types of bonus rooms you'll come across in Bonk's Adventure.
Overall, it's a laid-back and happy game, much different from the other notable TurboGrafx-16 games that had been released in the US by that point.

In the US, the launch of the Turbo relied in part on Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, the console's first pack-in game. It's an action-platformer with some neat aspects, but ultimately Keith Courage is just mediocre. Although console-defining classics such as Blazing Lazers and Alien Crush had been released by the time Bonk reared his bald head, Bonk's Adventure was the first platformer that the TurboGrafx-16 could call a classic.

Granted, that's ignoring The Legendary Axe, but you could argue that's not much of a platformer.

Bonk's Adventure had a decent number of offspring, spawning two sequels on the Turbo in addition to sequels and rereleases on other consoles. In Japan, Bonk's Adventure even saw a remake on the Gamecube.

Out of the whole family, Bonk's Revenge seems to be the fan favorite. And there's a good reason-—it took the point-hoarding gameplay of Bonk's Adventure and refined it; levels in Revenge are fairly large and provide a good number of nooks and crannies to unearth.

As you might expect, something was lost in the refinement. By focusing on exploration, Bonk's Revenge lost an element of speed found in Bonk's Adventure.

In any Bonk platformer, meat will grant Bonk strength. If he eats a large piece of meat, he becomes invincible for a short period. If he eats a small piece, his attacks will become stronger for a short period, and if he eats another piece before time runs out, he'll go invincible. This might make more sense with a picture:

Plus, once invincibility runs out, you'll go to the powered up state for a short time before returning to normal Bonk.

Given this setup, it's possible to chain invincibility. So long as you can find a piece of small meat before time runs out and you return to normal Bonk, you can continually enter the invincible state. Luckily, invincible Bonk runs faster than normal, making it easier to reach the next piece of meat.

Of course, if you're on a meat-based time limit, you can't take your time to explore and find all of the fruit that's hidden in each level. That means there are two ways of playing through any given stage.

First: you explore the levels and pick up every item. This means stopping to open flowers and checking suspicious walls to see if they can be broken. This method earns more points, and as a result, it's the safer way to go, since these points will earn you lives.

Second: you charge ahead as fast as possible, stopping only to pick up pieces of meat. Orange flowers and pink enemies always yield some kind of meat, so it's easy to tell where meat is, at least for the most part.

In this sense, Bonk's Adventure offers some choice in how you play it. You can take your time, or you can blaze through; both are satisfying methods of playing in their own ways. The slow way rewards you with the satisfaction of uncovering goodies (not to mention tons of lives to make the trek easier), and the quick way rewards you with fast gameplay.

I'm fairly sure the quick way of playing was unintentional on the designers' part, since later entries in the Bonk series never have stages designed around continual invincibility. Still, I find it a neat way to approach Bonk's Adventure.

Next time, I'll look at a few stages with this perspective. See you then!

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