When it comes to licensed video games they are very much hit and miss especially those trying to cash in on a current popular trend or movie. That’s certainly been the case in the past for the various Adventure Time titles that have come out over the years. Thankfully Adventure Time: Pirates Of The Enchiridion seems to have been handled with a bit more care by the developers at Climax Studios and while it certainly has it’s share of flaws it captures the quirkiness of Adventure Time and blends it with some interesting gameplay choices to create a game that Adventure Time fans of any age will be able to find something in it to enjoy.
For the first time in an Adventure Time video game, here in Pirates of the Enchiridion you’ll have the ability to traverse the land of Ooo in a completely open world fashion. Well mostly open world as you’ll see when you play it. Due to the main premise of the game you’ll actually be sailing between the primary locations of the show doing battle with pirates on the waters as you travel.
Due to the cell shaded art direction of the game it captures the look and feel of the characters and the land of Ooo from the series really well. It’s not a video game that looks 1:1 with it’s tv counterpart like the South Park games have become but it does a great job recreating the Adventure Time universe.
The game opens with Finn, Jake and BMO falling asleep at the top of their tree-house. Upon awakening the lead duo discover that the Ice Kingdom has melted, completely flooding Ooo and BMO can’t be found. Figuring the Ice King must be behind the whole thing you’ll begin your boat driven adventure heading towards the Ice Kingdom to discover someone has stolen the Ice King’s crown. It’s your job to locate the missing crown, discover who is behind the melted ice and rid the land of Ooo of the menacing pirates that have sailed in to try and conquer the various villages of Ooo.
You’ll spend a decent amount of time sailing the waters that have flooded Ooo, travelling between the main set pieces from the show. Once you get to your destination you have the ability to disembark the vessel and freely roam around the various villages, completing quests, talking to it’s inhabitants, battling enemies and partaking in side quests if you choose.
You’re able to roam the lands playing as any of the characters currently in your party, you’ll recruit more characters as you play but from the opening of the game you’ll have the option of Finn or Jake. Switching between any of your characters can be done with a single button and each has their own unique trait that can be used while running around the villages. So you’ll be switching between them fairly frequently. Finn is able to use his sword to break items in the environment and revealing collectible items and Dosh (the game’s currency), Jake can morph into a scooter for faster travel or enlarge to reach higher area’s and Marceline is able to use her axe to break secured chests containing better rewards and loot.
One of the surprises I found with Pirates of the Enchiridion was it’s battle system and how fun it was, especially initially. When first seeing this game I thought it’s combat would be similar to a real time action RPG but instead the battles take place in a turn based RPG fashion similar to the Persona series or the old Final Fantasy games. While not the deepest of turn based systems there is enough here to keep it fun and entertaining for the course of the game and is also easy enough to learn for younger players.
Each character has the ability to perform standard attacks and block/defend when required, attacking fills a gauge that allows characters to unleash special attacks that can inflict status debuffs on the enemy but do have usage limits. Once a character has performed enough attacks to fill the meter an ultimate attack can be performed that inflicts massive damage on an opponent.
One thing you’ll need to do often is use items during battle. Thankfully doing so doesn’t use up that characters turn that is often the case in other turn based RPG’s. If you don’t keep an eye on all of your characters’ HP and consume items as needed you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed and losing characters. This occurs more towards the end of the game and during boss battles as the opening hours of the game are quite easy but can still lead to some deaths if you’re not paying attention.
The restorative items can be found by breaking items in the open world or by purchasing them from a town merchant. This is where Pirates of the Enchiridions risk/reward system comes into play. Your characters will level up with experience point earned in battle but this just unlocks new special attacks and other level based things. To increase your characters’ attributes (strength, defence etc) you need to spend Dosh meaning you’ll have little to spare if you need to restock your consumable healing items always giving you something to think about before just thoughtlessly spending all your money.
The key highlight for the game is how much it feels like an Adventure Time adventure. Which is helped massively by having all of the show’s original voice cast portraying their characters in game. The same witty writing along with the near constant banter between characters made it feel just like an interactive episode and had me chuckling quite often while wandering around Ooo. Fans of the show will also appreciate the many nods and Easter eggs referencing events from the series along their journey.
While there was plenty I liked about Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion it’s far from a perfect game. I found the movement at times when travelling on land to feel quite clunky, mainly because of the game’s use of ‘invisible walls’ as collision zones. One example I ran into was not being able to traverse up a sloped ramp from the side. Even if I tried jumping (which I had the height to get up) in from the side I was blocked by the collision wall and was forced to walk to the open face of the ramp to get up. It was a series of similar collision based issues that made the game’s movement feel quite dated as I’ve been spoiled by games of recent years that have overcome this collision detection problem in more elegant ways.
The game also has frequent and lengthy load times. When walking into a new village on the map as well as when entering and leaving some cutscenes you’ll be hit with an Enchiridion loading screen that takes you out of the experience for up to 10 seconds. There is also a noticeable hiccup in the framerate for a second or so when entering or leaving certain zones where I assume the game is loading the required assets for that area.
I also ran into some sync issues between what was happening on screen and the audio during some cutscenes. The lip sync during cutscenes also had varying levels of quality too. Sometimes the mouth flaps would match up quite nicely with the shapes of what was being said but other times looked like the mouths were just flying around haphazardly. This may be something that is being improved and fixed up in a future patch as comparing the final game to preview footage from a few months ago I could see that the lip sync had come leaps and bounds since that point so fingers crossed.
While definitely not a perfect game, Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion is the best Adventure Time game so far. It’s recreation of Ooo is faithful to the look and feel of the TV show and with the original cast on board doing the voices it feels like an interactive episode at times. It takes characters we love and puts them into a fun turn based RPG that is easy for younger players to learn but still deep and entertaining enough to keep older players engaged throughout its 8-10 hour experience.
A PS4 review code was provided by Bandai Namco Australia for the purpose of this review.