Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom Review

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Title: Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom
Developer: Wayforward, Little Orbit
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 354 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Currently Unavailable
PSTV Support: Yes

How many video games have you played that are based off of TV shows?  Anime games come to mind, but what about non-anime TV shows?  There are video games for a lot of different live-action and cartoon shows out on the market, though you won’t see many of them on the PS Vita.  Games like Young Justice, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and more have gotten multiple games in the past.  How good those games are may be a different point, though.  However, how many games are there on the Vita that are based on TV shows, other than PSP games?

The answer is very few.  Invizimals could, technically, be called one of these games because it got a spin-off TV series in Europe.  But, as far as games that are based off of American Cartoons go, the list is very, very small.  However, some games are starting to come to the path of the Vita and PlayStation TV as well.  Just this week, one such game came out, that both cartoon fans and classic gamers will be able to recognize and enjoy.

There is one TV show that may translate to a game rather well.  A show about adventures, dungeons, magic, and more.  That show is Cartoon Network’s own series Adventure Time.  In the past years, Adventure Time has gotten a few video game adaptations, but none have ever released on the Vita, until now.  Join Jake, Finn, and more on a new quest as we present our official review of Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom!

Story

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The story of Adventure Time doesn’t retell any events from the show, but offers a new tale for the game, itself.  Starting off, Princess Bubble Gum has sent Finn and Jake on a quest to a kingdom, known only as the Nameless Kingdom.  Upon arriving to attend to coronation of one of the three princesses to become the ruler of said kingdom, they find that all three of them have gone missing, trapped inside their respective temples.  With only a few days until the coronation, Finn and Jake set out to rescue the three princesses and bring them to the coronation ceremony.

The plot isn’t particularly deep, but it fits what you may expect to see from an episode of Adventure Time.  There is cheeky and fun humor everywhere, as are there several cameos you will see from the show, from the Ice King, Mr. Pig, and more.  There is certainly a fair amount of fan-service for fans of the show, though the plot around the kingdom itself isn’t explained in detail until late in the game.

Gameplay

It’s hard to be able to explain what type of game Adventure Time is without thinking of another famous franchise.  All in all, this game is an action-adventure game featuring top-down gameplay, dungeons and a world map to explore, side-quests to do, and more.  Judging by the way the game plays, sounds, and more, the game is very similar to a Legend of Zelda title.

The game is set in an overworld/World Map, where you have several areas you can visit.  There is a Castle in the center, focusing as both a starting point as a place for help, where you can get subtle hints at where to go next.  There are also four main “areas” of the map, where the environments change, which could be from fields to forests to swamps to mountains and more.  Each of these big areas houses a temple, where you need to go and rescue a princess.  However, there are ways to get past obstacles to even get inside these temples and areas.  You might need a certain item to get through a door or you may need to use a certain weapon or tool to get past a gap in your path.

Your progression is somewhat linear, but at the same time, it’s not.  The main dungeons of the game must be tackled in a specific order, as tools you get in each one are required for reaching and entering the next one.  However, those tools also open up various other areas around the world map you can explore.  There are several side-quests that you can do, be it required for progression or just extra quests you can do.  Once you have the tools, you can do side-quests at any point of the game.  We had more than half the side-quests done before tackling the second dungeon.

The dungeons, themselves have several rooms in them, each with puzzles to be figured out.  As you go through them, you will be pushing crates, fighting enemies, moving bridges, and unlocking locked doors in your quest to find the Boss Room and rescue one of the princesses.  Each dungeon has a specific tool that will help with that dungeon’s puzzles, apart from the final dungeon, which will require every tool in the game to progress through.

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Finding what to do with progression is what makes the game so hard.  The game does very little to tell you where to go or what to do.  There could be a character blocking your path and the advisor in the castle may tell you as much as “find something to amuse him”.  As far as what you need to do and collect is all up to you.  With everything in your arsenal and everywhere you can explore, you have to find and figure out these puzzles completely on your own, be it finding a small character in a deserted corner of the map or capturing a monster in a bag to take to a certain character to give you a new skill.

All in all, if you look at the game, it has a very strong Legend of Zelda vibe to it.  It is so much like the Zelda series, it’s almost to the point that it feels like they yanked the gameplay engine of Link to the Past and modified it for the Adventure Time universe.  How you attack.  How dungeons are laid out.  The HUD and Map view.  Even some of the enemies and boss fights feel as if they were taken straight out of Zelda and modified to fit the Adventure Time universe.

Similarity is good, but how far that can go is another story.  This game, even from its plot, feels like a straight-up copy of Legend of Zelda.  There are a ton of things in the game you will be constantly finding that function exactly the same as they do in that series.  The Heart Meter, Sword Beam, Doppleganger fight, Fairy Fountains, cracked walls, teleports near Boss Rooms, and more are in here.  Even parts of the story directly mirror some of the background story from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  Everything functions exactly like it does in Zelda.  The game feels so much like a Zelda game that there isn’t a whole lot that Adventure Time has that Zelda doesn’t.

Don’t let that shy you away, though.  While it does feel like a straight-up Zelda lookalike, it stays true to the engine it’s based on and provides a fun experience.  While this game isn’t anywhere near as long as a Zelda game is, it’s a fun little ride.  If you know where everything is, the game will likely take you about 4-5 hours to complete.  Your first try, without help or a guide, however, will likely take you 10 hours or so.  There is a lot of backtracking to do, as well as a lot of side-quests to keep you going if you get lost trying to find what to do next.

Controls

Controlling the game is no technical feat.  Since Adventure Time is a 2D game, there are only so many things you’re going to have to do with the controls.  First of all, the touch screen and rear touch pad are not used for anything in the game, nor is the Right Analog Stick.  So you don’t have to worry about using touch controls as you play through the game.

No matter where you are, controls are going to be the same.  You will keep the same view and controls whether you’re in the field or in a dungeon.  Controlling Finn (or Jake, when you can play independently as him) is done either with the D-Pad or the Left Analog Stick.  Since the controls mostly go for a left, right, up, down movement scheme, we feel that the game controls a little more smoothly when using the D-Pad.

The face buttons are the triggers will all be used as well.  The X button is used to interact with objects and characters, be it a sign or Mr. Pig.  The Square button will be used to attack with your sword, which can be a single strike or a combination attack.  Triangle and Circle will be used for equipped items, such as Bombs, Trail Mix to give you stat benefits, a Banana Boomerang, or a Ring to enable playing as Jake independent from Finn.

The two triggers are used to control Jake when you’re together.  The R button is used to turn Jake into a shield to parry enemy attacks, and the L button is used to reach his hand out to take barriers out of your way or to spin levers to ease your progression through certain areas.  Each of these controls are outlined in the main menu, in case you forgot how to do certain things.

The controls are also the same on the PlayStation TV.  While it feels a little different, all of the controls are the same.  There aren’t any special commands or controls shifted to the L2/R2 or L3/R3 buttons when using the micro-console.  Be it on a Vita or a PSTV, it’s not a hard control set to learn, especially if you’ve played similar games before.

Presentation

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Presentation is where the game gets the biggest hit from.  The game is a 2D game, much like the games it mimics.  However, the visual presentation, itself, is far from perfect.  As you play through the game, a lot of the character models look smooth and crisp.  However, Finn and Jake, themselves, look stretched.  The models have faded edges when moving, and there are jagged pixels around them in certain animations.  From a distance, it’s harder to pick up, like when you display the game on the PSTV.  But if you’re looking on a Vita, it’s pretty apparent that their models aren’t as smooth as everything else.

Another thing to note is the frame-rate.  As you play through the game, there will be some sections where the frames will drop quite a bit.  This is mostly apparent in the second and third dungeons, where many areas will almost look like they’re being shown in slow motion, nearly halving the frame-rate from what it usually is.  This doesn’t hamper you from playing the game, but those sections can get very annoying, especially when you get to another room where it speeds back up to the normal speed.
The biggest part of presentation that should be praised is its music.  The soundtrack fits the environment and scenario well, and will feel nostalgic, yet new of games like Zelda and even the older Final Fantasy games.  Every time we heard the normal over-world theme, it reminded us of the over-world theme from games like Final Fantasy.  The composition was done very well for the game, changing when appropriate, and has a very heroic theme coming in towards the end of the game.

Summary

Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom is a nostalgic adventure game that feels like it copied practically everything in it straight from The Legend of Zelda, from the enemies to dungeon design to gameplay mechanics.  On the downside, the presentation isn’t as smooth as a 2D game should and has some serious frame-rate problems in some of the dungeons.  If you can look past that, though, and are looking for a Zelda-like game for your Vita, this isn’t a bad choice. 

7/10

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