As we all anxiously await the release of the sequel to Super Mario Bros., I found myself puzzling over the virtual absence of Mario-like titles on the Nintendo. We’ve seen grandiose adventures like Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and Rygar, but none of these games remind me of or follow the style of the plumbers’ antics. Thanks to the massive computer chip shortage, Adventure Island has been able to sneak onto store shelves ahead of Super Mario Bros. 2. The box art is colorful and playful and even rivals some of Konami’s best covers, so my interest was definitely piqued.
You play as Master Higgins, a caveman who must rescue the island’s princess from the evil witch doctor. There are a total of eight worlds, with four small levels in each (sound familiar?). At the end of each world you’ll have fight the Witch Doctor. It’s fairly obvious that Hudson borrowed many of the ideas which made Mario such a magical game, but that doesn’t make Adventure Island a rip-off in my eyes, as it offers plenty of its own ideas.
Each level is full of villainous island animals such as bats, snails, frogs, cobras, and marine life. Contact with any of these beasts results in a death. Rather than jumping on them, you must dispatch them with your weapon. You will usually be armed with a stone axe that you can toss, but sometimes you’ll be able to burn them to a crisp with a powerful fireball. Aside from the bad guys, there are several hazards you must learn to avoid. There is a lot of jumping from ledge to ledge, and this controls nearly identical to Mario. If you fall into a pit, touch the water, make contact with spikes or fire – you die. Rocks are scattered throughout the levels, bumping into them doesn’t kill you, but you can trip over them – often right into a fire or a deadly cobra! Fortunately, if you’re armed with the fireball you can destroy the rocks. You begin the game with only three lives and there are no continues.
Time is a major factor in Adventure Island, and I love the way Hudson designed this. You have a time bar that is constantly ticking down and you must collect fruit, which appears throughout each stage to add seconds to your bar. There is no time for lollygagging and you must hustle through the level, as fruit becomes less abundant as you get deeper into the game. Collecting fruit, as well as killing enemies adds to your point total, which eventually nets you extra lives, which are especially crucial in this difficult game. If you accidentally pick up an eggplant, which are concealed in eggs, these rapidly run down the bar. When this runs out, you die.
Large eggs appear throughout the game. Cracking these open will get you different items, starting with the basic axe, and then the skateboard. If you already are equipped with these, eggs will yield better items, such as the fireball, extra lives, or secrets. One of the best power-ups is the skateboard as it increases your speed and doubles as armor, so if you get hit while riding it you only lose the skateboard and not a life. The downside is the increased speed make platform jumping more difficult, as the board is always going at full speed and you can’t stop it. The most effective special item is the fairy, which gifts you temporary invincibility (just like the Star in Super Mario Bros.) so you can plow through as many enemies as you can without being harmed. Finally, each level contains a hidden pot somewhere that awards 1000 points, which helps you get closer to earning an extra life.
I enjoyed the island setting of the game and there are various backgrounds to look at. Unfortunately the worlds do not differ much and some of the stages become repetitious and dull. The stages become difficult as you progress and feature more enemies, but there needed to be more variety to the worlds. Overall the graphics in Adventure Island are colorful and pleasant, but certainly don’t push any limits on the Nintendo. I do like the way the animals are animated, but these cute critters are very deadly so be careful!
The music, as you may expect, has a nice tropical flavor to it. In each of the four levels a different tune plays – all matching the setting well. Sadly, these just repeat when you move on to the next world. Adventure Island is easy to control and is certainly one of the easiest games to learn on the system. Run, jump, and throw is really all you need to know. It’s hard to describe the satisfying feel of chopping throw the deadly spiders and frogs. The game has a pretty high difficulty rate, with one hit kills, no continues, and only three lives. Completing this game would be a mighty accomplishment and should keep any gamer challenged.
There are some things that held this game back from being on the pedestal with the likes of Super Mario Bros. It lacks the breadth of secrets that are so fun to discover in Mario. Collecting the pot on every level is fun, but that doesn’t live up to discovering a hidden warp zone, secret vines, or invisible 1-Ups. I wish there were more things to do and discover in the levels, but instead you just rush through them, grabbing fruit, items, and laying waste to the villains. Like Mario, the boss at the end of each world is the same and a little more variety in these battles would have made a stronger game. Also, I’m puzzled why an alternating 2-player mode wasn’t added.
Adventure Island is easy to pick up and play and is a game the whole family can enjoy, although don’t expect to conquer it anytime soon. The theme and music add to the experience. Rather than uncovering secrets and mapping out areas, the challenge lies more in timing and skill. I believe that after Mario 2 and Zelda 2 hit stores, this game will be largely overlooked, but I had a great time playing it and would recommend giving it a go.
Adventure Island Review
Final Thoughts: GOOD
If you’re looking for a fast-paced action game similar to Super Mario Bros., Adventure Island should fit the bill nicely. It might tide you over until you can get your hands on Mario 2.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.