“Soooooo what time is it?  Top-down Adventure Time!”

A few months back I reviewed a game called Ittle Dew, and discovered that Zelda clones can be good fun.  Which is what drew me to this new Adventure Time game, despite little familiarity with its universe.  Its Adventure of Linkesque 3DS début didn’t intrigue me (nor its dungeon crawling followup) but Secrets of the Nameless Kingdom looks an awful lot like A Link to the Past – so much so that (for better or worse) it can’t escape comparisons.

The story scrolls by very fast at the start, and is built around the need to rescue three princesses.  In truth it’s fogetable (the heroes themselves can’t even remember!) but the humor wrapped around it fares much better.  This is a funny game whose dialogue, delivered with vast amounts of high quality voice acting, was incentive to proceed.Nameless Kingdom dialogue

I had some early fun exploring, battling enemies, cutting down bushes,and discovering secrets.  As someone who really enjoys overworld environments, this game satisfied, in spite of how the familiar Zelda vibe dominated.  I did find myself wandering about far too much however, and I’ll elaborate on that shortly.

I’m slightly torn on the graphics – one look at screenshots and trailers shows how this has leapt well beyond mere Zelda inspiration!  There’s no 3D either which perhaps isn’t unexpected from a multiplatform release but disappoints all the same – especially considering how it would’ve enhanced this art style!  Still, this is a solid looking game, with good color, and generally smooth flowing.  The fun atmosphere is enjoyable to take in.

Nameless Kingdom dancingThe soundtrack is fairly well composed, with the overworld theme having an optimistic and slightly retro vibe, which I think fits well for an adventure game like this.  It’s happy and upbeat, and meshes well with the great voice work.  There’s settings to adjust both music and sound effects, though you’ll likely want to mess with neither.

Control is familiar and comfortable, exactly what I’d expect for a game modeling Zelda.  Touchscreen lets you see a map or access your inventory.  I do wish the option was provided to zoom in closer on the map.  There’s also the curious choice necessitating lining up the lead character just to take stairs automatically.  The occasional missed enemy is bothersome, but has me questioning the lacking hit detection more than controls.

Loading times pop up now and then, and while they are short they definitely break the seamless transitions.  Another transition issue I noticed is that many times when moving between screens the game didn’t update quick enough.  The results are occasional jarring, empty spaces!

Nameless KingdomNow to elaborate on the overworld wandering – This game often left me questioning where I was heading next, and what my immediate goal was.  Telling was the fact that at least two of my colleagues shared similar frustrations.  For Zelda veterans to struggle, just imagine how children might fare!  The feeling of wasting time for extended lengths isn’t fun in the slightest, and seriously disrupted the flow.  And being a linear adventure, if you’re stuck you’ve little options to move on to something different.  If only one point of constructive criticism is taken from this review, please be this – know your intended audience and how to give direction so as to avoid tedium!

Adventure Time: Secrets of the Nameless Kingdom has several quality elements, but it could still use much more polish.  While actually starting off better than I expected, it didn’t have the legs to go the distance.  In fact I ended up plugging away at it not out of enjoyment, but simply to finish this review.  It’s nowhere near the game it copies so much.  Indeed, Zelda feels less of a foundation that was branched off of, and more a crutch.  It’s tough to judge this convoluted game entirely on its own merits due to the shortage of original ideas.  For me it came up well short in stimulating qualities, although fans of the Cartoon Network show will surely enjoy it more – ideally on sale, and probably for a home console.