WayForward has been toying with the Adventure Time property in games for a while now, and hasn’t quite managed to merge the show’s wacky personality with a compatible interactive experience up to this point. Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom finally gets the pairing right, and while it’s not without its flaws, it’s a lot better than most other TV to video game adaptations.
This release sees Finn the human and Jake the shape-shifting dog travel to a new area within the Land of Ooo for the coronation of three princesses. However, the trio have mysteriously vanished, and it’s up to the aforementioned duo to rescue them by conquering dungeons and overcoming obstacles with new items and abilities. Of course, they’ll be helped and hindered along the way by various friends and foes from the TV show.
It’s a solid companion to the bizarre and well-loved cartoon. All of your favourite characters put in an appearance, all brought to life by their respective voice actors, and the same bright, hand-drawn aesthetic further complements the authenticity. Unfortunately, the dialogue’s not quite up to the standard of the programme’s quirky humour, and subsequently it doesn’t quite capture the same tone. Moreover, animations are lacking entirely, with still images used during conversations.
The gameplay itself invokes a classic Zelda-esque top-down perspective, and although you’re free to move 360-degrees, sprites are two dimensional and only have animations for certain angles. As such, moving and swinging your sword diagonally is visually the same as doing it horizontally, which can make combat a little tricky to judge. It’s honestly a strange oversight given the generally decent production values elsewhere, and smacks of a small budget.
Still, the camera perspective isn’t the only thing borrowed from Zelda, as the entire game feels like a clone of Link’s first outing. Bushes are ripe with treasure and beg to be cut down with your sword, while multi-tier dungeons are full of puzzles and hidden goodies. Similarly, your progress through the game will be dictated by the collection of new abilities and items, which will allow you to reach different areas of the title’s small map. You’ll even earn a boomerang at one point.
While it sounds like little more than a copy cat, this format suits the experience. The show often parodies video games, so interpreting the cartoon’s silliness through the lens of an 8-bit Zelda title feels fitting. Furthermore, while the Nintendo blueprints are clear to see, it’s not entirely devoid of its own ideas.
The boss fights, for example, are terrifically designed puzzles rather than tests of combat skill, and the dungeons themselves are well conceived, varied, and abundant with little challenges. Meanwhile, the quests in the overworld often trade on the strangeness of the series, acting as self-aware nods to the show. At one point you’ll need to capture a fart in a bag in order to make the character Cinnamon Bun – a sentient, er, cinnamon bun – laugh so hard that he’ll fall off a bridge. It’s moments like these where the title unlocks its full potential.
Unfortunately, there’s just not enough of it. With only three main dungeons to complete to save the princesses, you can get through the adventure in a couple of hours. The act of actually learning the map means that your first run will take a little longer than that, but that’s because you’ll spend most of your time mindlessly wandering around trying to figure out what the game actually wants you to do next. This feels like padding in a title that’s trying to cover for its lack of content.
Adventure Time: The Nameless Kingdom doesn’t always capture the vibe of its source material, but it comes pretty darn close. The heavy Zelda influences, humorous quests, and visuals are all on the right track, with our chief complaints being the inconsistent dialogue, lack of guidance, and barebones content. Fans of the show will probably have a blast here, and even newcomers may find some value in its retro RPG structure – but don’t expect this adventure to last a very long time.