Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Let's Meet Bonk's Adventure - Part 2

at 7:00 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.

Last time, I introduced the powerup system of Bonk's Adventure. Pieces of meat grant you speed and invincibility for a limited time. If you move quickly, you can maintain invincibility. However, if you take time to stop and explore, you'll find plenty of helpful items that will restore your health and earn you lives. This offers two competing methods of play: one fast, one slow.

While the speedy approach appears to be unintentional, it adds some depth to the game. For instance, it makes world 2-2 more interesting than you might first think.

Early on, the player is given the option to go invincible.

This pink guy holds a large meat, granting you immediate invincibility. From here, it's a cinch to run ahead along the top of the falls. Homing mosquitoes (like the one at the top right of this image) are normally a pain, but invincible Bonk takes them out by merely touching them.

Plus, Invincible Bonk is helpful for navigating the terrain:

You'll come across this ledge about halfway through the stage. When invincible (top), Bonk clears it in a single bound--otherwise (bottom), he's stuck climbing up the side of it.

If you continue along the top of the waterfalls, you'll find just enough pieces of meat to keep you invincible to the very end of the stage. For instance, there's one meat-bearing orange flower about three quarters of the way through the stage which proves crucial to sustaining invincibility.

However, 2-2 doesn't let the slow player go unrewarded.

While the top of the waterfall is home to hatchet-throwing dinosaurs and relentless mosquito squads, the lower path is peaceful. If you let Bonk explore the river below the falls, he'll come across a bunch of slow-moving enemies that cough up both points and point-bearing smilies. There are also flowers full of point-yielding prizes beside the waterfall, making the trek more than a simple swim forward.

Plus, if you swim low, you'll come across an alternative to scaling that high wall around the midpoint.

This underwater passage leads straight through to the other side of the cliff.

Unfortunately, this kind of stage is rare in Bonk's Adventure. Stages tend to be biased towards one play style or the other.

For instance, 2-3 is a claustrophobic cave stage that offers quite a few passages to spelunk, forking over plenty of rewards to the curious player. However, try to play it fast, and you'll find that the hallways are too tight and the terrain is too bumpy to play with any speed. Couple that with a lack of meat, and world 2-3 offers nothing for a player who wants to go fast.

In fact, Bonk's Adventure comes up with a number of ways to slow the player. Whether it be walls to climb, tight passages, swimming through water, or something else, a stage can really take the wind out of your sails if it wants to. There's even a slight delay when Bonk starts a jump or lands, making Bonk himself a slow character.

That's not to say the entire game is like that, though. There are plenty of stages that favor speed over exploration.

Like 5-4, which lets the player run free over mostly flat terrain. The stage isn't boring, though, since it features plenty of enemies and deadly acid pits. It doesn't hurt that enemies in 5-4 frequently give up pieces of meat, making it more than possible to chain invincibility throughout the entire stage.

But then, there are also the stages which don't provide speed or exploration.

3-5 is one such stage. In the first half, meat is scarce, and the terrain is very uneven, restricting you to a slow pace. However, it's all one path forward, with all of the items and enemies directly on your path. You won't have much exploring to do.

The stage makes a change around halfway through, though.

First, the stage introduces a body of water, which gives the player access to secret passages. Soon after, it also starts offering meat, such as in the orange flower in this screenshot. The structure takes after 2-2, which also contained water for exploration and an upper path for speed.

Mid-stage changes like this are rare in Bonk's Adventure—it's much more common that a stage has one style and sticks to it, whether that style accomodates speed, exploration, both, or neither.

Although the Bonk series didn't do much with the concept of speed versus exploration, it comes naturally to many platformers. There's Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog, to name a few.

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