Abobo’s Big Adventure is a risible romp through the NES era

AbobosBigAdventure001 gd impressions

I’m now at the point that I no longer remember where I download these strange little games. Could be a random website, some sort of bundle, or even just a blog post pointing me to something interesting. I just stumble across them in my “videogames” folder on my desktop days, weeks, and months later, with new names popping up left and right, often giving me pause. Maybe I accidentally fed one after midnight, and now they are spreading like wildfire, threatening to take over my time with so-called bigger games, despite many of these wee indie oddballs working a thousand times better than anything produced by an actual studio these days. Mm-hmm. Still annoyed about that.

Thankfully, Abobo’s Big Adventure helped put a smile on my face and keep me distracted while Dragon Age: Inquisition continued to fold in upon itself. And that’s surprising, because, while I appreciate the NES for what it was and still is today, I have little nostalgia for it. I never had one as a wee boy, though some neighbors did; videogaming didn’t truly happen for me until that Christmas morning when I unwrapped a Super Nintendo, which came pre-packed with a copy of Super Mario World. That said, Abobo’s Big Adventure is a loving tribute to the NES era, and I get a lot of the references and sprites and winking nods, but there’s also some more obscure elements zipping right on by. It’s an odd mix of old and new, but is thankfully a ton of fun to play, even rekindling my desire to trek through the original Legend of Zelda.

For those that don’t know–and I didn’t know upon starting up this free Flash game–Abobo comes from Double Dragon, appearing multiple times, often as a boss character. I played some Double Dragon in my early days, but this character never stood out to me; I guess the developers behind Abobo’s Big Adventure felt otherwise, thrusting him upon a quest to rescue his son, the hilariously named Aboboy. To do this, Abobo must travel through eight different levels, all themed to a classic NES title. I got as far as the one based around Mega Man, but more on that soon.

The controls are very simple, though they obviously change a bit from level to level. Basically, you move with the arrow keys and execute techniques with “A” and “S,” giving you the sensation of using an NES controller in terms of complexity. You can fill up a meter and tap both A and S together for a special move of sorts. Abobo’s actions change with each level, going from fighting goons in scummy alleyways to exploring a top-down dungeon to floating right to left thanks to some helium-pumped balloons. Abobo’s Big Adventure does a good job of mimicking how these old games looked and played, while also infusing them with modern mechanics and less-than-inspired teenage-level humor. Yup, looking at you, penis-shaped Zelda dungeon map. It’s probably silly to call this out in 2014, but the built-in Achievements system is quite flashy and reminded me of the days when Achievements were designed to be fun, rewarding, and experimental. After reading some descriptions, I went back and got a few out-of-the-way ones.

Much like their original counterparts, some parts of Abobo’s Big Adventure are tough, real challenges of skill. This mostly relates to the boss battles, such as the Old Man in the Zelda-themed one, but I found the entire Balloon Fight flight to be a tough grind, as well as the underwater level. The difficulty became too much once I hit the Mega Man level, which features everyone’s favorite off-screen laser beams to narrowly avoid. If you’ll recall, I’ve never been even mediocre at Mega Man games, and so, after multiple attempts of trying to take down the second form of the boss here, I’ve walked away. The keyboard’s not cutting it. And that’s okay. I got through most of Abobo’s Big Adventure, had a pretty good time, and saw plenty; I can’t imagine what comes later is too surprising, though I might find a Let’s Play to see what the last few levels act like.

While games like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge are obviously deeply inspired by the classics from gaming’s so-called Golden Age, Abobo’s Big Adventure is them. Just slightly warped and more accessible. If you’re itching for something kind of like an NES game, but also not, I say give this a go. Watch out for that damaging TMNT seaweed in the underwater level though.

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