The Adventure Pals is straight up silly and adorable. Clobbering evil trees while using a giraffe’s tongue to glide around, scoring hits by throwing your best rock pal at monsters that fart and explode when they fly away. It’s pure, cute, lighthearted fun. The game’s visual charm and sense of humour, however, do start to wear a bit thin as players deal with them across repetitive action stages that steal away the game’s cheerful power.
Mr. B is kidnapping old people and turning them into sentient hotdogs. You, Sparkles the giraffe, and your pet rock Mr. Rock need to stop Mr. B’s evil (odd?) plan, fighting goofy monsters across a colourful, brilliant countryside filled with even goofier people. The Adventure Pals flat out tells you that you’re in for a ridiculous adventure, one that’s looking to provide an endless barrage of funny folks and silly locales along the way.
The Adventure Pals excels at this, always throwing some funny characters in the player’s path. Pirates will joke about software piracy, postmen will become eerily obsessed with giant stamps and eating letters they don’t want to deliver, and rock men will ask you for sand to build their home with (despite being on a beach that, instead of being made of sand, is apparently just ‘rocks painted yellow’). It makes the player excited to talk to townsfolk and NPCs for a change, as they always offer something fun to say.
Their visual designs also enhance that lighthearted mood. Each character has a bouncy, animated look to them, staying in constant motion even as they just stand around waiting to talk. They all stand out, making it easy to tell who you’ve agreed to do a quest for, and their goofy dialogue helps them stand out. These NPCs, with their vibrant looks and silly idle actions and even sillier quests, just stick out in the mind. I feel like I got to know this world better through meeting them, a real achievement considering how dull and lifeless NPCs tend to be.
You’ll get the same effect from monsters out in the field. From hot dog men who attack with elongated heads and release elderly people when defeated, the bat-like thieves who players will constantly steal rubies from, to the farting lantern things, each has a look that makes the player remember them, which makes it a snap to know how to best fight them.
That said, fighting them isn’t overly complicated, as all you’ll want to do is bash them with your sword as quick as possible. The Adventure Pals’ combat is straightforward to the point of being a little dull, with players using their sword and thrown rock buddies to hammer at enemies, leaping out of the way of their strikes to stay in the battle. Most foes telegraph their attacks a great deal, so it’s not overly challenging to deal with these creatures. The game makes up for this by throwing many enemies at the player at once at times, but it’s rarely super challenging, making for some relaxed action for those times you just want to thump baddies.
An experience system adds a little reward to beating on foes effectively. Instead of more health or damage, though, it grants the hero new powers like adding a giraffe grapple after five nonstop hits that pulls you toward foes, greater absorption of dropped money/experience orbs, or other handy little abilities.
Money, honestly, isn’t used for anything all that exciting, though. Healing potions are handy, and are used automatically when you run out of health (which is amazing), but beyond them, there are bombs, invincibility potions, and other helpful gear. They’re useful trinkets, sure, but they were mostly trivial due to the game’s simple combat, making collecting money feel a bit pointless.
Money not feeling all that useful makes some of The Adventure Pals’ sprawling levels feel a little pointless, too. While each has its own visual style based on the game’s five worlds, and this visual style is quite cute, largely, many of these levels look and feel exactly the same. They’re composed of meandering chunks of tunnels and passages that do offer multiple routes through each stage, but just don’t feel different from one another. They offer varied challenges, but lack that personality and attention to detail that the other aspects of the game show.
This isn’t a problem if the player picks at the game. Playing a few stages every day or so leaves the fun of simple combat and the game’s platforming intact. Doing several stages in a row feels like you’re slogging through variants on the same stage, over and over again, and with five stages in each area, it just felt like this aspect was full of padding.
Players can explore these levels for collectible stickers and cupcakes that give them new cosmetic bonuses, but these don’t make the levels any more fun to go through. It still feels like a chore to go through many areas, and while some NPCs can give silly quests in them, there are rarely any rewards for completing them. The end result is that most stages feel like work after playing more than three or four in a row.
The Adventure Pals, while endlessly visually appealing, funny, and enjoyable in its light combat, feels far too drawn out due to its lifeless stages. It’s missing that same personality in its levels that makes the rest of the game great, causing players to just want to get them over with. A briefer game with stages that felt more thought-out would have resulted in a stronger experience, but as something a player just picks at over time, it still provides some good, silly fun.