Friday, 19 December 2014

Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom

I have to be honest here, while I've seen a good amount of Adventure Time episodes, I'm by no means a die hard fan. It's a fun show, but I just don't really have any drive to keep watching. That said, when the opportunity arose to review the third main game in the Adventure Time gaming series, I jumped at it. Why? Two reasons, really. After getting a look at a few screenshots and instantly seeing the nod to The Legend of Zelda series, I had to try it for myself. And secondly, after South Park: The Stick of Truth essentially showed everyone that TV tie-in games don't have to be utter crap, I had a feeling that Adventure Time was trying to follow in its footsteps. However, while this latest Adventure Time game isn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, it's certainly not that great either. Oh well.

Developed by WayForward Technologies and out now on Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS and PC comes Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom, a game that in its attempt to riff on The Legend of Zelda, ends up merely feeling like a Zelda clone rather than an Adventure Time game that plays like Zelda. The story is simple and doesn't try and bog the player down with long conversations, in-depth plot or long cut-scenes. Basically, three princesses have been  kidnapped and are being held captive in three temples. As Finn (the human) and Jake (the dog), you must venture across the land, do battle with foes, collect all kinds of loot and save all three princesses. So yeah, it's basically Zelda but with three princesses instead of one and not nearly half as enjoyable.

From the outset until the very end, the game is a Zelda clone, namely a clone of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. From running around the colourful over-world in a top-down perspective, slicing down bushes and smashing pots to reveal gems and items, chucking bombs to break walls, solving simple puzzles and collecting hearts to increase your life gauge, there isn't an original idea to be found here. Then again, there weren't many (if any!) new ideas in South Park: The Stick of Truth, but that at least focused on the world of South Park, the characters who inhabit it and references to jokes made over its 18 years on the air. The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom doesn't do this, and even seemingly tries to avoid certain locations in the series. That said, I did enjoy playing it somewhat. Gameplay is quick and fun, the visuals are pretty cute and charming and the huge array of Adventure Time characters that appear are a nice side-step from the all too familiar gameplay.

Though I'm sure it'll seem like I'm harping on about it way too much during this review, the Zelda similarities in The Secret of the Nameless King go way, way beyond parody or homage. Instead, the game literally beats you over the head with Zelda so much that it starts to become something else entirely. The worse casualty of this focus on Zelda's game structure is the Adventure Time franchise itself. It loses its identity completely, and you'll often feel that without Finn and Jake this game could be merely an original creation. Whereas South Park: The Stick of Truth felt like South Park, played like an old school turn-based RPG and looked like it was an episode from the series, The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom feels, plays and looks like a cheap Zelda clone. Though my love for the series doesn't go beyond checking it out once in awhile, I was hoping for something that stayed true to the source material.

Overall I thought Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom was fun, but ultimately kind of pointless. WayForward Technologies could have made something truly special, something that celebrated the Adventure Time universe, but instead they've created what is basically a Zelda clone that features the characters of Adventure Time. It's not done sparingly with a wink and a smile either, but rather it comes across as lazy and heavy handed. But hey, I had fun playing it, but I came away confused as to what franchise WayForward Technologies were paying respects to here- Zelda or Adventure Time? The answer should be Adventure Time, but this game has other ideas.

Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom is just an OK Zelda clone and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

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