Format reviewed: Arcade
Publisher: Taito Corporation
Developer: Taito Corporation
Submitted by: Lee Tatlock
Armed with only his prayer beads you play a little monk at odds with Emma, ruler of the underworld, who's gone a bit mental and as such the earth is rife with spectral nasties and yokai (Japanese, monster, spirit, thingies) wanting to take a fat chomp out of your tiny holy hiney! So it's off through the layers of, a rather eastern flavoured, Hell to set things straight.
As far as mechanics go what we've got is a platform action game where flinging prayer beads, that are often imbued with various elemental powers, is the order of the day. If you dash one of these prayer beads against a surface or enemy using the down direction and fling button you will unleash any collected elemental power in a screen filling flash of flame or lightning etc. However once this power is used up your beads will return to just that, simple beads to fling at the bad guys – so make sure you're in mortal peril before unleashing the beast (or bead) as it where.
Controls are simple and responsive making the only thing to worry about the various (and often overwhelming) enemy patterns coupled with some rather devious platform acrobatics – no one said travelling through hell would be a bottle of rainbows, unicorn tails and cherub trumps – in fact no one ever said that about anything… because it's silly. However if you put all this in a bag and shake it you don't come out with an overly difficult romp and it shouldn't be too much trouble for veterans of the genre.
Now i' m making this game sound like a rather bland affair but what makes Bonze Adventure truly shine, for me at least, is seeing what every area on the rather cool opening map is like. Taito have done a bang up job of crossing over creepy and cute and the levels and enemies are great fun. So, sure, you get your typical fire and brimstone efforts, but you also get giant ice caverns, haunted graveyards and one level consisting of pools of churning blood complete with floating body chunks and squelchy noises – nice! The whole experience is rather like a trip on a neat little ghost train where the thrills and scares are more kooky and spooky than genuinely frightening, and this adds a Halloween flavour to Bonze Adventure that the kid inside of us all will be more than smitten with.
Now onto sound – Well there's not much to say really other than it fits the creepy hijinks well and the sound effects are satisfying enough to keep you clouting ghoulies en masse for the duration. One stand out bit of sound however is on the afore mentioned blood and body bits level where instead of spooky background ditties you're treated to the sound of squelching guts and bubbling blood, sure it's an icky repetitive little loop but the level isn't overly long and as such it makes it an interesting curiosity for when the game was made rather than a nails-on-a-chalkboard experience.
So in conclusion I suppose Bonze Adventure is one of those games that doesn't do anything particularly new or innovative (it was 1988 for Geoff's sake! Leave it alone!) but it has a charm and feel all its own that makes it a game that I enjoy having a crack on whenever I dig out my Taito Legends 2.