Adventure Time has been a juggernaut series for Cartoon Network since debuting way back in 2010. Its 10-season run is about to come to an end, and over this span the escapades of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog have spawned six video game entries covering a wide variety of genres. The latest entry, Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion, sees Finn and Jake tackle the classic turn-based RPG formula.
One of the very first things that becomes apparent when playing Pirates of the Enchiridion is this is definitely a game designed with hardcore fans of the show in mind. Not only is the entire voice cast present here, but there are also many locations and characters fans will recognise, as well as many references to the lore the show has created over the past decade. While this is great fan service for those who have stuck with the series for its entire run, more casual fans or players who aren't too familiar with the show run the risk of being lost and confused by such casual mentions of significant events and backstories.
While there are bound to be some head scratching moments in regards to references for those that aren't as dedicated to the show, overall the story is rather straightforward and mostly feels like they took a regular episode and stretched it out just a little bit longer. Jake and Finn wake up to find that the entire Land of Ooo has been flooded with water, which sets them off on a journey to find out who was behind the dastardly deed. Because of the flooding predicament, you're forced to take to the high seas, bringing with it a whole world of pirate humour that surprisingly doesn't become played out.
The story feels most like an episode of the show when it comes to the game's very abrupt, and frankly anti-climatic ending. It feels like something that you would see the show's writers have to do to work around their 11-minute time limit for episodes, which is very jarring to experience when transferred from television to a video game. Outside of that, the story is an enjoyable experience. The humour and back and forth banter between the characters is brilliant, and livens up your journey when you're simply sailing from one island to the next.
Gameplay here is your stock-standard turn-based RPG fare, with very little new or innovative brought to the table. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. You'll take it in turns with your enemy opponents to slug it out in battle, choosing from a standard light attack, or heavier special attacks that are reliant on points being available in your special meter. Initially, you'll start your journey with just Finn and Jake, but along the way you'll recruit Marceline and BMO to your party. As is tradition in an RPG, each of these characters have their own strengths and weaknesses. Finn is the most well-rounded of the characters, while Jake specialises slightly more in defence, making him tougher to take down. Marceline is focused almost purely on attacking, and BMO is designed to be a support character who will constantly be using items and refilling your team's special meter. We found that all four of these character types meshed well, and the game's battle mechanics shined brightest once we had assembled the entire crew.
Each of your party members also possess an ultimate attack that requires a special ultimate bar to be filled. The requirements for filling the bar is different for each character, requiring you to adapt your play style depending on who you're currently controlling. For example, Finn simply grows his ultimate bar by dealing out damage, while BMO grows their bar by using items on other party members. This is a nifty little addition that nudges players towards exploring everything the game's battle mechanics have to offer.
Unfortunately, not everything about the battle system is a positive. The biggest thing holding it back is just how clumsily the interface is designed. When it comes to using your basic attack or an item it's relatively straightforward, but using your special attacks quickly becomes cumbersome once you start unlocking more. The choice to have the interface use the analogue stick instead of the directional pad is also a little frustrating, and often will result in you picking the wrong option. While this isn't a major issue, it is an annoying one.
Outside of the battle system there is also an L.A. Noire style interrogation system that sees Finn and Jake become detectives to try and get crucial information out of reluctant characters. Here you'll have the choice of going good cop or bad cop as either of the main characters, with picking the correct style crucial in finding out what you need to know. There's actually a surprising amount of challenge here with picking the right option, and you're forced to pay extra attention to the characters you interview, but unfortunately it doesn't have a huge impact, save for the last one or two interrogations you do at the very end of the game.
Alongside basic levelling up, Pirates of the Enchiridion also brings an upgrade system to the table. Each of your stats (attack, accuracy, dodge, health and blocking) are upgradeable, as well as your ultimate attacks and both of Marceline and BMO's unique abilities. The presence of an upgrade system is nice, but doesn't offer much in the way of depth or strategy. In-game currency is used to upgrade these stats, but you find so much money around the world by destroying items and winning battles that you'll almost always have your stats upgraded to their maximum potential before your character levels up again. Making upgrading so easy ruins a lot of the depth that could have been found here, and actually contributes to the game being quite simple to plough through.
Despite some issues, the gameplay is mostly sound. Where the game's biggest problems are found is in how rough around the edges it is. Pirates of the Enchiridion seriously lacks polish. Whether it be the serious frame rate stuttering that sometimes turns sailing around the world into a slideshow, or the insane load times when you die, it's clear this could have used some extra time in the oven. The loading is particularly egregious. For a game that is not exactly large in scope, making us wait up to 90 seconds to load back up after a death is just unacceptable. The absence of a manual save system will also be sure to drive RPG purists up the wall.
Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion is an enjoyable sail along the high seas that is ultimately hampered by being rough around the edges. The battle system and story are an enjoyable experience, but absurdly long load times, frame rate stuttering, a clunky menu system, and a poorly developed upgrade system hamper the experience. It's still an entertaining experience, and fans of the show will likely love it, but those looking for an incredible RPG experience here might be left a little disappointed in its squandered potential.