Release Date: 28th July 2016 (Wii U Virtual Console UK)
With the recent announcement of the Nintendo NX, and an incredibly dry E3, it seems the Wii U is pretty much dead. Paper Mario Color Splash is the only retail exclusive left, and indie releases are dropping like flies, cancelled with the possibility of being moved onto Nintendo’s next wonder machine. It seems the only way to fill these glaring release gaps is for Nintendo to go back into the past, and the Turbografx 16 has been unearthed! Kanye West recently mentioned that his favourite system was the Turbografx 16, even going as far to name his next album after said machine, so maybe that’s what pushed the system onto the Wii U eshop. Thanks Kanye! And now, onto Bonk’s Adventure…
It makes sense to delve into Bonk’s Adventure first, as this big headed caveman was the systems equivalent to Mario. Mascot games were the ultimate craze in the 90’s, so Bonk’s Adventure had an important role to fill, selling those expensive machines to kids across the world. The Turbografx 16 didn’t quite take off in the same way the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Mega Drive did, so perhaps he wasn’t as appealing as his rivals, but his game certainly holds up.
Much like the mascot series Bonk’s Adventure competed with, the game is a 2D side scrolling platformer, featuring lots of jumping, lots of collecting, and lots of enemy stomping. It doesn’t do anything too outrageously different, fruit provides health, meat provides power ups, and bosses meet Bonk at the end of each world. It does all this well though, and the gigantic cranium Bonk possesses allows for some fun.
The head is Bonk’s only weapon. He can use it to headbutt enemies out of the way, hit enemies from below, or even jump up into the air and lay down some serious damage with a head stomp. There is a level of aggression in Bonk’s Adventure that isn’t present in the likes of Mario and Sonic. Those games favour finesse and speed, whilst Bonk deals in prehistoric carnage.
The level of damage Bonk can provide is enhanced by the rare meat that is hidden throughout the stages, with a small piece provided a head stomp so powerful, surrounding enemies freeze into place! Eat some more of find a giant piece of meat, and true carnage ensues. Bonk’s head explodes like a volcano at this point and nothing is safe from your hellbent journey to the goal when in this temporary mode. Sure it’s just a different take on the power star from Mario, but it helps make Bonk’s arsenal feel whole.
Bonk’s Adventure isn’t without some dino sized issues though. Levels are generally flat, with little to jump over, and little to mix things up. There are a couple of levels which break away from the typically mundane level design, but these are often frustrating rather than refreshing. Tapping A to slowly climb, or trying to balance swimming in between spikes above, spikes below and avoiding giant killer crocodiles isn’t my idea of a fun break from the status quo. The boss battles are a much better break from the running and jumping, with the big flashing helmet each enemy wears making for a satisfying place to thump.
Bonk’s Adventure is a decent platformer, but not a great one, not in the same vein as Super Mario World or Sonic The Hedgehog. Yes, I keep saying those names, but that’s the fate of the mascot console game. You can’t stand up as your own thing because people have expectations, people like to compare. That’s just how it is, Bonk. That’s just how it is.