It is the flagship game of the Turbografx 16. Bonk’s Adventure is to the TG16 what Sonic is to Genesis, what Super Mario World is to the Super Nintendo. Does Bonk’s Adventure stand the test of time? Is the game still fun? And most of all, does it earn the ever coveted Malstrom Award?
My first impressions of Bonk are bad. The game seems so… odd… and very spaced out. There is much walking. The enemies, while interesting, seemed cheap at times. And I really hated the happy-faced-dancing-magma.
But then I played it some more the next day. And then the next day. And then the day after that. I do not play these games once or twice to make these reviews. It takes me at least a month to figure a game out. And, eventually, I did finish the game.
First, let us talk about the game. Bonk’s Adventure is about whimsical journey through BC…. caveman times complete with dinosaurs and other large reptiles and birds. Volcanoes will explode at you. The bad guy bosses tend to have some technology with their bone elevators.
Bonk walks and jumps like any other platformer. However, if you press the I button, Bonk will do a head butt. This gives you a horizontal attack against enemies. If you press the button in a jump, Bonk will land on his head. If the enemy is below, the enemy gets hurt while Bonk bounces off. If it is the ground, Bonk hits the ground pretty hard and is stunned for half a second. Also, because Bonk’s head is hard, he can hurt enemies by jump up into them. Bonk’s moves makes the enemy interaction very bouncy. Bonk bounces off the enemies, the enemies bounce of him, and sometimes Bonk can play volleyball with the defeated enemies as he keeps bouncing them up and down.
Bonk has three hearts. Different enemies harm him differently. Most of the time, it is part of a life (it is never exactly even). Bonk can collect hearts here and there to fill up on his life.
Bonk likes eating fruits and happy faces! Both give him points in his score. If your score hits certain numbers, you get free 1-ups. You can also find 1-ups in the game.
What is REALLY clever about Bonk’s Adventure, something Sonic and Mario do not do but should, what Donkey Kong Country only does in multiplayer mode, is that when Bonk dies, the next life starts where his body is. You do not go back to a checkpoint when you start a new life. This is awesome and should be how platformers are done! you know how it sucked in Gradius to die because you would go back to some checkpoint and have no power-ups? But then you play Life Force, and you come right back to the spot where you died? It is that type of difference.
Bonk has power-ups in the form of meat. When he eats meat, he turns into Angry Bonk. Angry Bonk, if hit, turns back into normal Bonk. Angry Bonk can head dive the ground and stun all the nearby enemies. If Bonk eats meat again when he is Angry Bonk, or if he eats a giant meat, he becomes Angry Bonk The Invincible like the star in Mario. It doesn’t last long, of course.
Platforming in Bonk’s Adventure is really interesting at times and took me for complete surprise. Let me list the ways…
-Bonk can grab onto walls and slowly climb them with his teeth (like in Ninja Gaiden).
-If Bonk is climbing a tree trunk, he can swing around to the other side. Must use in one level.
-Bonk can swim like Mario by ‘jumping’ underwater. However, Bonk is better because he can use the D-pad to swim like Frog Mario in Super Mario Brothers 3.
-Bonk can swim up waterfalls!
-I discovered this myself during my third time playing, and I am not sure if the designers intended it, but Bonk can float around like Tanooki Mario from Super Mario Brothers 3. Turn on turbo for I (turbo is available on ALL Turbografx 16 controllers). When you jump, hold it down. Bonk is constantly twirling in the air as he floats to the ground. Doing this made the game much easier for me and made me complete jumps I shouldn’t. Sometimes Bonk can still get hurt doing this, but most likely he just bounces off of enemies like a pinball.
My favorite level is the one with the gigantic trees that you have to climb with your teeth, swirl around to the other side of the trunk, climb more that way. I do not think I’ve seen such a level done in a platforming game. The rest of the stages are what you have seen before. There is an ice level where Bonk slides all over. There is an ‘air’ level where Bonk bounces off clouds like a trampoline.
Overall, Bonk’s Adventure is a short game. The gameplay is nothing impressive of a platformer. Some may even say it is a mediocre platformer. But come on, this is the system that had Keith Courage as a pack in. Bonk’s Adventure is so much more fun than that Keith Courage game. However, Bonk’s Adventure will not stand up to Mario or Sonic.
But where Bonk’s Adventure does stand up to Mario and Sonic is the fantastic personality. The personality and the world-mythos of Bonk’s Adventure rivals Mario and Sonic. Bonk’s Adventure oozes charm. Bonk, himself, is a very charming character and quite lovable. The reason why Bonk’s Adventure is loved is because of this charm. The platformer gameplay is nothing special aside from the novelty of using Bonk’s head to smash enemies.
Does Bonk’s Adventure get the Malstrom Award? The answer is no. The platformer gameplay is too stuck in its time and doesn’t transcend it. It is mediocre or lame platformer. Where Bonk’s Adventure shines though is in its charm. It’s definitely one of the most charming 2d platformers ever made, and that is what makes the game fun and saves it from falling into mediocrity.
Bonk’s Adventure should be experienced. But Mario and Sonic are more fun.
-TG 16 Games Reviewed-
Malstrom Awards: (Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)
Devil’s Crush (Imaginative sound and theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)
Gradius (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and legendary.)
R-type (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)
Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)
(7) Alien Crush (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)
(6) Bonk’s Adventure (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)
Don’t bother: (Not that fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)
(5) Neutopia (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)
(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)