Here’s a name that’s been in my consciousness ever since I was in middle school! Before Cartoon Network milked Teen Titans Go for all its worth, Adventure Time was the flagship franchise for the channel since its debut in 2010. I remember watching it closely during its first few seasons…but I haven’t really paid attention to the show since. I don’t really know what’s happened in the overall story, and if I want to find out, I’d probably have to watch several seasons’ worth of episodes to get the full picture. That’s not to say that stopped me from checking out the tie-in video games that came out over the years.
Here’s a rundown:
Hey Ice King, Why’d You Steal Our Garbage was a pretty good action-platformer; imagine if Zelda II had tolerable difficulty and jokes to tell. Escape the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know is a poor man’s Gauntlet, especially if you’re playing the 3DS version due to its baffling lack of multiplayer. Secret of the Nameless Kingdom would’ve been a fun Zelda clone to play if it weren’t so cryptic. Lastly, Finn & Jake Investigations would have been enjoyable if it weren’t for its repetitive, shoehorned combat sequences and sometimes bland puzzle design.
So where does Pirates of the Enchiridion fit into this scale? Well…
The story in this game can sort of be seen as its own episode, with no real connection to any existing arc that may have occurred in the show. However, it does carry over some trivial details that, if you’re like me, are rather foreign. Finn has a robot arm replacing his old human one, he and Jake casually refer to the Ice King as Simon, Marceline and Princess Bubblegum seem to not hold a grudge anymore, etc. I mean, I’m not blaming the game for lacking anything to keep up to speed; I expect that this is a game made for the Adventure Time fans that are caught up with the series. It’s just worth noting that these details are present.
Anyway, the land of Ooo has been totally flooded. The Ice Kingdom melted for some mysterious reason, and Finn and Jake venture across the waters to make sure everyone’s alright. Along the way, they partake in duties like rescuing Princess Bubblegum, keeping check on the Ice King’s penguins, and rectifying the escape of Varmints. One giant plug pulled and a cliffhanger later, the credits roll. There are also optional side quests that concern other NPCs. There isn’t too much depth to the plot overall, though. For what there is, the dialogue is entertaining enough (I even did chuckle at times). The writing in Pirates of the Enchiridion is very much what you’d expect if you’re familiar with the show.
Visually, the game at least is faithful to the cartoon’s aesthetics. Adventure Time itself has an appealing style that lends itself well to the realm of video games. For the first time in the series, you can freely roam around these abstract worlds in 3D. And they do look pretty darn good in their own right. As great as it is to see the locales and characters come to life, though, the presentation feels half-baked in the long run.
For one thing, the game runs at 30 FPS (not without some issues to maintain it, I may add) and tends to have some visual struggles on display. For example the characters emote expressively, except for instances like when Finn smiles despite whatever the dialogue may actually suggest. It’s like they initially wanted to go all-out to ensure it feels like the show, but then stopped halfway through for some reason.
The big highlight here is that all the voice actors from the cartoon are back. Everyone sounds as well as they have on the air, albeit I personally find it surreal just how much Finn’s voice deepened since the first couple seasons. All lines of dialogue in Pirates of the Enchiridion are fully voiced, right down to extra bits that don’t even need to be there but are included anyway (such as them sometimes singing during sailing trips). It’s simply charming.
As far as music and sound effects are of concern, they fall flat a lot of the time. Not so much because the actual compositions suck, but instead the sound design has them super quiet compared to the voice acting. And usually whatever piece of OST does come to mind is either ambiance or just not memorable in the slightest. Sound effects hardly have an impact, especially during battles since I never feel like any of the attacks connect properly. There’s no punch to the sound effects to tell me otherwise.
Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion is an RPG to the core. As Finn and his band of miscreants travel the land of Ooo, they can go on quests and scour for coins. Coins can be used to buy items and upgrade your party. Characters in your party have powers they could use to help get across some areas, albeit they are situational more than anything else.
Roaming around in the game’s territories are enemies that you have to battle through a turn-based combat system. It’s a very standard sort of battle setup, really. You have the regular attacks, stronger attacks that use a meter, and inventory items that could be used for the party’s benefit. However, as someone that digs the actions commands of Paper Mario and the like, I was hoping I’d have greater control over my characters than what the game allowed. As is, it feels obsolete; enemies can beat down on the party a lot more than to one’s liking. I don’t think there is any way to double down or reduce the damage you give and take respectively. That is, without involving healing items you’re bound to use up as hundreds of HP are subtracted.
Aside from the RPG elements you come to expect, you get these “interrogation” segments where Finn and Jake try to get an NPC to tell some important info. These are, at best, an obvious display of padding. No real gameplay is here – just a shoehorned attempt to implement player input by pressing A at the right time. Well…they are at least superior to the boat riding. Rarely anything special happens in these segments. The grand majority of the time on the water is spent sailing around, usually from one place to another. Nothing happens here.
Also, this game is buggy. Sometimes, the immersion gets ruined by the spotty collision among the terrain. Loading times are some of the most abysmal I’ve ever encountered on this side of Sonic 06. Good luck replaying a part you’re stuck on as the game will always take a while to get you back to where you were. Even transitions to enemy battles take way longer than they need to! I was told to consider the many issues that were fixed and improved with a day one patch, and it still very much feels like a game that needs more time in the oven. I even managed to run into a game-breaking bug where I defeated a group of enemies and the victory screen didn’t appear. This is the final product.
I’m sure there was a good amount of effort that went in Pirates of the Enchiridion, but frankly, it’s being overshadowed by a ton of problems. As the Adventure Time cartoon is coming to an end this year, this game doesn’t feel like the complementary hurrah it deserves. Instead, it’s an uninspired RPG plagued with technical and design issues left overlooked by the day one patch that supposedly fixed a lot of things.
For my money, Adventure Time: Hey Ice King, Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! is still the best one in the tie-in game lineup despite its utterly ridiculous title. It’s not an all-time classic, but it’s far better than the games that have come after it.
Review copy provided by Outright Games