The adventure islands games from the NES were some of my favourite games on the NES. My brother and I would get up early in the morning and try and beat it on the weekends regularly. When I heard about Super Adventure island as a kid, I got really excited and remember renting it – only to feel a bit disappointed. Many of my favourite parts of the series (e.g., going to different islands on a world-map, finding dinosaurs to ride) were nowhere to be found! Since it has almost been 20 years since I started
The game starts like most of the adventure island games – a disruption to Master Higgins love-life! A witch-like creature turns poor Tina into stone, which initiates the quest to hopefully turn her back to normal!
The game is a 2D platforming game similar to other games in the series. Your goal is to guide Master Higgins through a level from start to finish before the time runs out (depicted as a depleting meter at the top of the screen) all the while destroying enemies, jumping over pits, and picking up fruit (to refill that depleting meter). I really enjoy the meter because it adds a nice level of tension to help push the player to stay engaged.
Similar to past games, Master Higgins can collect items such as tomahawks to throw at enemies, but this time (instead of being able to store them between levels) he can collect more of them which allows him to throw more of them at once. He can also collect a boomerang instead of a tomahawk which he can now throw in 4 directions. While the need to change the gameplay is understandable, I still really miss the ability to save items from previous levels (it reward good players)! The lack of dinosaur friends also helped the game feel more empty to me as finding secrets didn’t really have the payoff as in previous games (now you are only finding 1-ups and more weapons).
The stages themselves also felt a lot smaller – probably because Master Higgins appeared so much bigger on the screen and the levels so much more flat. These two issues really reduced the amount of exploration (and fun) players have when adventuring through them. Having said that – there was a nice variety of different levels with various different settings that helped to make up for the lack of exploration in them.
Each world was composed of 5 levels and finishing with a boss-fight. The boss fights were challenging enough but were not as memorable as those found in the NES games.
In terms of graphics, the game has really improved over its predecessors by significantly increasing the size of Master Higgins and all the enemies that he fights. The world is also more varied and colourful with levels ranging from beaches, caverns, jungles, and caves! I found the music a significant downgrade from previous games. My favourite tune from the old games (the one that plays when travelling between islands) is nowhere to be heard, and generic upbeat techno-music plays over and over in each of the levels. There was such variety in past games that it felt like such a letdown.
In summary, Super Adventure Island is a graphic upgrade and a gameplay downgrade compared to past iterations in the series. While the game is perfectly playable and still fun to play, much of the “adventure” has been taken out of it which results in the game feeling smaller and less interesting. If you like platforming games, this is a perfectly reasonable and cheap game to pickup. Overall, I give this game a 7/10.
Final Score: 7/10