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Level 1
Bonk's Adventure (Level 1)
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 25, 2010   |   Episode 6 (Show Archive)  


Welcome to Level 1. Every Thursday we are going to look at a random game's very first level. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what system it's for, we're here to dissect the game's first level and see what it tells us about the rest of the game. I promise you an eye-opening experience in each episode! After weeks of looking at the NES and Genesis, it's time to focus our Level 1 light on another system. This time around we're looking at Bonk's Adventure for the TurboGrafx-16. This prehistoric platformer introduced us to a loveable character with his own unique set of challenges. But I don't think I need to tell you that, instead I can show you when we play through the first level of Bonk's Adventure!

Bonk's Adventure (Hudson)
[ Release: 1989 - Console: TurboGrafx-16 ]
Bonk's Adventure (TurboGrafx-16) Cover
Nintendo had an Italian plumber. Sega had Alex Kidd, Wonder Boy and Sonic the Hedgehog. So what kind of mascot would NEC pick for their TurboGrafx-16? It turns out that they chose a historical figure. No, not Lincoln or Caligula, but instead a prehistoric hero with a really big head. Meet Bonk, a caveman with a mission. Unfortunately, the game doesn't really make it clear what that mission is, but any excuse to use that big noggin to pound bad guys is good enough for me.

Although Bonk was never as popular as Mario or Sonic, he managed to find his way into a number of games over a wide range of systems. There were three Bonk games on the TurboGrafx-16 (Bonk's Adventure, Bonk's Revenge and Bonk's Big Adventure). The Nintendo Entertainment System and Commodore Amiga also saw ports of these games, while new entries were released for the Super NES and Game Boy. Recently Hudson released a redrawn version of Bonk's Adventure for the PlayStation 2. It's also worth mentioning that Bonk's adventures were later spun-off into an even better franchise, a series of 2D shooters with the name Air Zonk. But enough about the history, let's push the run button and see what Bonk's first level has in store for us!

Level 1-1 - Large Open Field: I don't know this for a fact, but I have to imagine that Bonk lives in an incredibly dangerous part of Prehistoric Earth. After all, there are dinosaurs roaming the jungles, no forms of communication and fire was just being invented. But
Bonk's Adventure - Large Open Field
Bonk's Adventure - Large Open Field
our hero Bonk, with his gigantic head and general lack of clothing, doesn't seem to be phased by all of the dangers surrounding him. And if he's not going to be frightened by the landlocked alligators, then what's stopping me from jumping feet first into Bonk's Adventure?

OUCH!! It turns out that these alligators have a nasty bite. Apparently I don't want to jump feet first into their chompers, but rather use my gigantic head to knock them across the level. That seems to get the job done. This gives me a chance to have a look
Bonk's Adventure - Large Open Field
Bonk's Adventure - Large Open Field
around what appears to be a large open field. In the distance are erupting volcanoes, but it doesn't look like any of the hot, hot lava will make its way down to me. Good news, because I have my hands full picking flowers avoiding alligators.

Just ahead I notice a large piece of meat. It's my favorite, a big slab of meat with a bone still attached. I take one bite and out of nowhere my body gets flung into the air. And
Bonk's Adventure - Volcano Jungle
Bonk's Adventure - Volcano Jungle
then things get weird. My head literally opens up and out comes a mini-mushroom cloud. I'm talking about a full-on nuclear bomb detonating on my head. No wonder I'm bald! Although it startles me, Bonk doesn't seem too concerned. Instead he appears to be bigger and stronger. Best of all, now I can hammer the ground with my head to freeze time.

Level 1-2 - Volcano Jungle: The clear field makes way to a thick jungle. All of a sudden I'm having to fight through overgrowth and vines. It's clear that somebody should have invented a weed whacker and taken it through this section of the game. I'm battling the same group of
Bonk's Adventure - The Dinosaur's Stomach
Bonk's Adventure - The Dinosaur's Stomach
prehistoric characters, but this time I'm also having to dodge volcano fireballs. Bonk must have a death wish, because we are walking straight into a series of erupting volcanoes. I hate to tell Bonk how to do his job, but if we come back a few weeks from now I'm sure it will be safer. He won't listen to me. Instead he chews his way up mountain sides and avoids falling in fire pits.

Level 1-3 - The Dinosaur's Stomach: After avoiding the volcanoes and surviving multiple alligator attacks, I'm ready to go the ultimate length to get out of level one. As Bonk enters this area I realize that I'll be carefully walking over a massive dinosaur. This is a beast so large that it takes several minutes to even make it to the
Bonk's Adventure - The Dinosaur's Stomach
Bonk's Adventure - The Dinosaur's Stomach
middle, a tough trek indeed. But I don't mind, I'm here to take on this dinosaur once and for all. Up head are retracting spikes, I know that if I get close to them I will be caveman meat (which, incidentally, does NOT make my head explode into a mushroom cloud). I carefully avoid the hazards and find the dino's head. There he is ... asleep with a cap on? I don't mind the bad fashion sense, I'm just here to slay this vile beast. I smack its head, but instead of hurting it I wake him up. He sends me barreling onto his tongue. And then he swallows me.

Oh. My. God. I'm stuck in this dinosaur's stomach. It's all red and dark, with fish swimming around in the liquids. It's really quite disgusting; I definitely don't want to stay here any longer than I need to. I swim for the exit, only
Bonk's Adventure - The Dinosaur's Stomach
Bonk's Adventure - The Dinosaur's Stomach
to find sharks and other sea life that this particular dinosaur swallowed whole. As I dig around I discover something unusual, an elevator that takes me directly to the level boss. I catch my breath and jump into the skeletal elevator.

Boss - A Big Goofy T-Rex: Apparently this particular dinosaur swallowed more than sharks and fish whole, he also swallowed a goofy looking Tyrannosaurus Rex! There I am, face to face with the most dangerous dinosaur of them all. I mean, I saw Jurassic Park, I know that this is one dino you want to avoid. But wait ... why does he have that big goofy smile on his head? And what's with that helmet?? Something is wrong here, but I clearly see that the head is his weak spot. I
Altered Beast - Boss Aggar!
Bonk's Adventure - Boss - A Big Goofy T-Rex
start hammering away at that helmet with my head, juggling myself in the air. Finally he comes off and to my surprise; the T-Rex was friendly. In fact, he's so grateful that he helps me escape this disgusting stomach and gives me a clue for my quest. I guess Jurassic Part was wrong all along.

What Have We Learned Today? Today we learned that the Bible is right and that man and dinosaurs really did roam the planet together 6,000 years ago. I guess this is what I get for doubting Pat Robertson. We also learned that not every T-Rex is a blood-hungry mass murderer. This one
Rolling Thunder cinema
This is not proof that Bonk is better than Super Mario Bros.!
was particularly friendly, enough to help me out of a tight situation. Then again, it could have been that he took one look at my giant head and decided not to eat me. Either way, it gives me hope that not all of the dinosaurs are as evil as movies make them out to be. All of a sudden I want to go hang out with an alligator. I'm not sure why.

What Did We Miss? It turns out that there are a surprising amount of dinosaurs that need your help. As you progress through this platformer you discover that a lot of friendly creatures have been brainwashed to kill you. But who would do such a thing? And why would they hide these
Rolling Thunder graphic novel
Fine, go ahead and remake Bonk's Adventure. I would rather have a next-gen sequel to Air Zonk!
villains in the stomachs of large dinosaurs? I mean, it's such a messy thing to do. It involves you catching the bosses and then taking them all the way down to the pit of the stomach. Who has time for that? And what if Bonk didn't even adventure into that stomach? There's a good chance that he could have avoided that fight all together. But no, he was too damn curious. Maybe it's all the radiation finally soaking into his brain.

A Moment of Thank You: Thank you Bonk's Adventure. Thank you for not making me watch how the T-Rex and Bonk found their way out of the dinosaur's stomach. I have a hunch it's disgusting and probably involves a part of the creature's body I don't want to think about. Also, thank you for taking the time to mark each area with a sign, because clearly a caveman has a lot of use for numbers. I also want to thank you for not trying to explain why Bonk's head explodes, I doubt I'll lose any sleep when it comes to solving this mystery. And finally, thank you for giving me something to waste my Thursday with. Playing Bonk's Adventure is a lot better than actually working.


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