For a game that was essentially a one-trick pony, Hudson's Adventure Island ended up spawning a lot of sequels on a lot of different game systems. The Nintendo Entertainment System saw four different versions of the game, and Hudson also ported the title to the Game Boy, Super NES and Turbo Grafx-16. All of these versions played pretty much exactly how the original 8-bit game played, which was pretty much exactly how Wonder Boy played in the arcade. Despite that these games are terribly shallow and can't hold a candle to the likes of Sonic or Mario, New Adventure Island proves to be an entertaining game that is worth a few minutes of your time.
New Adventure Island opens just after Master Higgins marries his beautiful bride. For whatever reason the wedding was attended exclusively by little children (perhaps it's an homage to William Golding's Lord of the Flies). But just as everything seemed perfect and Mr. and Mrs. Higgins were off to consummate their relationship, a dark character came and snatched all the kids up ... and then kidnapped the blushing bride! Obviously Master Higgins isn't going to stand for that and so he decided to set off on a journey that will take him all over the island in hopes of saving the six children and rescuing his brand new wife.
Story aside, this "new" Adventure Island plays almost exactly like the "old" Adventure Island. You control Master Higgins as he runs from left to right collecting fruit, throwing axes and jumping over fire. Apparently Higgins lives on the world's most dangerous island, because every step of the way he will have to deal with giant bugs, fish, wolves and spiders. And that's not all, he'll also be forced to dodge boulders and take on poorly designed bosses. This wasn't a great idea when the game was first released on the NES back in 1988 and it's sure not a good idea in 1992.
There are a few things that set the Adventure Island series apart from the standard Mario clones. Perhaps the biggest (and most frustrating) difference is that your character constantly loses health as he fights to save his wife (and those snot-nosed kids, too). I'm not talking about losing your heath when you get hit by enemies; I mean that he loses his health when he's left alone and just standing around. This means that you will constantly be on the hunt for fruits and vegetables.
One of the craziest aspects of the Adventure Island series has to be its use of the skateboard. Despite the fact that you are constantly on dirt, sand and grass, Master Higgins has no problem gaining speed and performing ollies over fire and giant rocks. I know, this is a video game and it's not supposed to make sense ... but when was the last time you were able to get any kind of speed from skating on dirt and grass?
The levels are split up into four different sections, each leading up to an end boss. The various areas manage to hit on just about every 2D clich? you can think of, from moving objects to water areas to a part of the island that is completely covered in ice. And just when you think you've seen it all, suddenly you're dodging fire and lava. All this is well and good, but by the time you've finished the level you will have seen these clich?s a few too many times. I can't fault Adventure Island for recycling a bunch of the 2D greatest hits, but sometimes it feels like the people behind the game didn't even attempt to be original.
Speaking of not very original, just wait until you meet the bosses. As you finish up the fourth part of every level you will meet an end boss, a character that is supposed to trip you up and make it hard for you to progress to the next area. Unfortunately these boss characters all look exactly the same ... except that they all have different heads. They all have different abilities, but that doesn't change that it just seems like lazy programming to make the same boss with a different head.
While the graphics aren't nearly as good as those found in Super Adventure Island (the Super NES version of the game), this New Adventure Island definitely looks better than its 8-bit counterpart. The levels are more colorful and the character sprites are significantly bigger and more detailed. This isn't the game that shows off the power of the TurboGrafx-16, but it's not the worst visuals I have ever seen.
There isn't much "new" about this Adventure Island, but that doesn't mean you can't have a good time running through this lengthy 2D platformer. Chances are you won't want to come back after you've beaten the game, but it's fun while it lasts. The game could have been better with a few minor game play tweaks and better bosses, but if you're looking for a good way to waste an afternoon then you could do a lot worse than New Adventure Island.