Console: NES Company: Hudson Soft Release Date: December 1993 Genre: Action Number of Players: 1 Save Feature? No
Although it was nothing terribly unique or extraordinary, Bonk's Adventure was still a decent platformer. The unique head-boppin' action and the primitive caveman atmosphere worked nicely and the bonus games were a lot of fun. Besides, this game is quite the rare find nowadays.
Overview: In my opinion, Hudson Soft was always one of the more underrated NES licensees out there. For some reason, you just never seemed to hear about Hudson as often as some of the other third-party licensees like Konami and Sunsoft. The Adventure Island series, Felix the Cat, Bomberman 2, Xexyz, and Milon's Secret Castle are just a few of the games that Hudson Soft released during the illustrious NES days.
However, the Hudson Soft release that slipped through the cracks for most NES fans was the late release: Bonk's Adventure. Due to the surging popularity of the Super NES and the rapid decline in quality for most of the newer NES games, Bonk's one and only NES adventure never really got a fair shake. However, Hudson Soft's next-to-last NES release (Beauty and the Beast came out in late 1994) was actually a pretty good play. While Bonk's Adventure is probably not in the same class as Felix the Cat or Adventure Island 3, it still was a decent platformer; especially compared to a whole host of mediocre games that hit the market during this time. For those of us crazy NES fans who never got tired of platformers, Bonk's Adventure was a pleasant experience.
As most video game vets probably know, the young caveman known as Bonk actually made a name for himself on a completely different console. Remember the underrated Turbografx-16 console? This rare gem co-existed with the NES during the late 80s and early 90s and actually had quite a loyal following. I remember visiting our local Toys 'R Us in Ohio and seeing all of the new Turbografx-16 games (Yes, I'm getting old!) For some reason, there always seemed to be a new Bonk game available. I was somewhat curious about the Bonk series due to its popularity but didn't feel like investing in a new system just to play a game starring the kid with the oversized head. However, when news of an NES Bonk game hit the pages of Nintendo Power magazine, my curiousity was finally piqued. Although it wasn't until the summer of 1995 that I finally found a copy of this rare game at Blockbuster (in my native state of Tennessee of all places), the wait was definitely worth it.
Although it wasn't anything spectacular, Bonk's Adventure did end up being an enjoyable play. Of course, with "competition" like King of the Ring and Color a Dinosaur hitting the NES market around the same time, it didn't take much to impress me. The concept of literally using your head to attack enemies was hilarious and the bonus games involving jumping, flipping (by pressing the B button really fast) and climbing a mountain (with your teeth of all things...I might have known) were intuitive and fun. Even the world in Bonk's Adventure was enchanting with its tropical paradises and cascading waterfalls. It may not have been revolutionary, but it still contained that retro feel that so many gamers loved about the NES.
Graphics: The first thing that caught my eye in Bonk's Adventure was definitely the bold graphics. If you like vibrant colors with a "lushness" not unlike that found in some of Rare's NES hits (e.g. Wizards and Warriors 3 and Marble Madness), then this is the game for you! This was a nice treat too because a lot of the late NES releases didn't really live up to standards in terms of graphics (Do the words "Conan the Barbarian" mean anything to you?) From the lush greens to the bright reds, everything is just very bright and bold in Bonk's Adventure. Even some of the background graphics were quite good for the NES.
Another aspect of the game's graphics that stood out to me were the large sprites. The bosses, while somewhat silly looking, are pretty large for an NES game. However, I felt that Bonk himself was enormous! Well, not exactly Bonk...it's his megasized noggin that is really big! Maybe it's just me but for some reason, I felt that the sprites were actually a little too big. Still, not a bad job by Hudson Soft in this area.
Music: One of my favorite aspects of Bonk's Adventure has to be the surprisingly catchy soundtrack! For some reason, I just found all of the music in this game to be very pleasant and memorable. It's not uncommon for me to find myself humming some of the music to this game! It fit the caveman theme very well and gave the game its own unique feel. Although the sounds themselves reminded me of those found in Felix the Cat (another Hudson Soft game), the music is still unique.
Personally, I thought that the Stage 1-2 and Stage 2-2 tracks were the best. Perhaps it's because of nostalgia or the weak NES competition at the time but I just really enjoyed these tracks. Upbeat in places, mysterious in others, and friendly at times (maybe a little too friendly?) The Stage 2-1 track is so quiet and repetitive yet I felt that it was a perfect fit for the night sky/cascading waterfalls level. The game's sound effects, while not bad, were pretty much your average fanfare.
Play Control: I have mixed feelings about the game's controls. When you're spinning in the air and knocking enemies around, everything feels great! However, simply walking and jumping doesn't feel nearly as clean and polished as in Felix the Cat or Adventure Island 3. It's not terrible but just doesn't feel very crisp. I imagine that it's just one of those things that can only be experienced by actually playing the game (imagine that). The intuitive method of attacking enemies (by jumping and pressing B to execute a headbop) was pulled off well and pounding the ground after eating a huge piece of meat was hilarious! Maybe I'm just too picky but I felt that the basics were somewhat neglected.
Challenge: I really hate to say this but Bonk's Adventure is nothing more than child's play in terms of the game's difficulty. I mean, phrases such as "easier than pie" and "walk in the park" come into mind here! Granted, the bonus games can make you work and the last few bosses can be tricky but still, even someone with very limited video game experience should beat this game with relative ease.
The reasons for this are twofold. First of all, Bonk is truly as tough as they say as he can take some serious punishment! Honestly, by the time you rack up six hearts on your life meter, you'll be able to take nearly 20 hits of brutal punishment before succumbing to the fates. Seriously!! That ATV boss near the end of the game would have been a nightmare had it not been for the skewered challenge level. Instead, you basically just beat the crap out of each other until "Mr. 20 Hit Points" is standing in the end.
The other reason for the game's low challenge level is the amount of life replenishing items found in the game...especially in the game's final level. Have you ever seen a game where you can receive one big heart that gives you back all of your life next to two smaller hearts that also give you life...in the SAME room? I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this. It's like giving Mario ten mushrooms when only one is needed. Weird.
Storyline: Hoo boy! Just when you thought that the whole "save the princess" plotline had been mercilessly run into the ground, along comes yet another stale storyline. Granted, it doesn't take away the fun of playing Bonk's Adventure but still, anything would have been better! Basically, Bonk is on a mission to save an alien princess from the hands of some large abomination whose name I'm too lazy to mention. Along the way, he has to fight several bosses that have evidently been brainwashed because after defeating them, they magically transform back to normal (which in most cases is actually a bad thing...isn't that second boss the ugliest thing imaginable?) It simply amazes me that professionals come up with this stuff. Ugh.
Funfactor: Although it wasn't Hudson Soft's best performance, Bonk's Adventure was still a very good game. The intuitive gameplay was a lot of fun as were the plethora of bonus games scattered throughout the game's six worlds. The unique levels and sheer variety was quite impressive for its time and the graphics and music definitely gave the game its neat atmosphere/feel. It's just too bad that Hudson Soft released this game so late in the NES' life. As a result, only a few gamers have had a chance to play this rare find. If you're lucky enough to actually find a copy of this game, snag it while you can!
Negatives: As I discussed in depth earlier, the challenge level is swayed heavily on the easy side. I will admit that a few of the bosses were challenging at first but overall, the game never really gets all that tough. This game could have been very difficult with a few minor changes.
The play control, while innovative and fun for the most part, isn't as crisp as it could be. A greater fluidity of movement and perhaps smaller sprites could have helped in this area.
Lastly, the background story is simply awful...especially for a late release game that had literally hundreds of games to look up to. It was very unoriginal and uninspired for sure. Thankfully, Bonk's Adventure is in a genre (action) that doesn't rely heavily on story.
Ratings: Graphics: 3.8 Music: 3.9 Play Control: 3.9 Challenge: 2.9 Storyline: 2.5 Funfactor: 4.0 Overall Score: 21.0 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Unsung Hero
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: May 27, 2006