Hey, guys! I don't know how it happened or who let it happen, but the team over at WayForward made a sequel to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link! But, instead of it taking place in Hyrule with Link, you play in the Land of Ooo with Jake the Dog and Finn the Human! And rather than saving Princess Zelda, you save Princess Bubblegum, Hot Dog Princess, Wildberry Princess and (OH MY GLOB!) Lumpy Space Princess! And instead of fighting Ganon or Dark Link for Zelda's life, you're trying to get your stolen garbage back from Ice King. Wait, gimme a second… Why, this Zelda game is called Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd you steal our garbage?!! I'm starting to think this is a Zelda game at all. Well, either way, this game may very well be the best Zelda title to come out in the last five years.
In Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd you steal our garbage?!! (yes, this will be referred to by its full title as many times as it needs to be), crazy-ass Ice King makes his way over to Finn and Jake's tree-fort and steals their garbage to make a series of garbage princesses for them to save. Why does he do this? You never really bother to ask. You just feel compelled to go along for the ride on this one. You play as Finn and Jake and all you want is your garbage back and for Ice King to leave you and your friends alone.
But the game has you battling more than Ice King and the odd creatures he's left around Ooo, like the bear with an ax on his back or the rabbits with daggers on their heads. From the start, Finn must also battle one of his all-time biggest foes: his buddy Jake's apathy. You see, as a way for WayForward to make sure you don't start off with the entire utility belt at your disposal, Jake just does not feel up to stretching today. It is up to Finn traveling across the Land of Ooo and helping its people to motivate Jake into using his stretchy powers. Every time Jake gains another power, a whole new section of the map opens up for you to explore.
The reason I compare this game to Zelda II is purely based on its design. You travel the different kingdoms of Ooo in a bird's-eye-view. But, when you enter a place of interest/dungeon or run into an enemy on the map, the game shifts to a side-scrolling landscape where you can use your weapons and other tools to complete your quest. The game plays like a classic role-playing game – complete with item collection, HP (hit point) deduction and stat-building – and an action-adventure platformer all rolled into one. As you travel, you will find opportunities to level up either Hearts (health), Attack or Speed. As for the Land of Ooo, it is completely open-world (with more parts opening as Jake begins using his powers) and, like in classic Zelda fashion, you will find yourself going to-and-fro from kingdom to kingdom. But, despite the back-tracking that you will inevitably need to do, the game never feels stale and you'll want nothing more than to go back and see what new area you can find.
Alas, where this game truly shines is in its story. Unlike a majority of licensed games where the developers are pretty much left to their own devices, WayForward crafted their game completely around an original story by the series creator, Pendleton Ward. Not only is Finn and Jake's dialogue with one another spot-on, but every non-playable character in Ooo's rogue's gallery delivers lines that you can hear the series' respective voice-actors saying in your head. That is, when said voice-actors are not in the game already. Because of Ward and Frederator Studios' involvement, you get a game that is very much designed for the fans of the popular cartoon. And WayForward took their time with Ooo. Every kingdom, every dungeon, every enemy, every item you pick up, all of it reminiscent of the Adventure Time series. Both story and art direction in Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd you steal our garbage?!! makes one feel like they are playing through an extended episode of the cartoon. From searching for Princess Bubblegum's stolen pantyhose to partying hard in the Cloud Kingdom, the Land of Ooo has never been a more fun place to escape to.
Also, original music tracks! If nothing else in this game will grab you (and I find that hardly possible), the music surely will.
It could be terribly simple to just make a crappy side-scroller and look forward to the cash to roll in (see most other licensed properties on the DS systems). Luckily, WayForward has never been that developer. With a game that took as much care as it did skill, Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd you steal our garbage?!! is not just one of the best licensed games out there right now, but one of the most algebraic games to come out this year! Frankly, this is the game that the DS systems were designed for. Short, simple, hilarious and mathmatical!
Pop culture geek, Nick Boisson, lives in front of his computer, where he is Section Editor of Comics Bulletin's video game appendage and shares his obsessive love of video games, comics, television and film with the Internet masses. In the physical realm, he works in Comic Guest Relations for Florida Supercon in Miami as well as a day-to-day job, which he refuses to identify to the public. We're thinking something in-between confidential informant and professional chum-scrubber.
He rants on about the things he loves (and hates) on Twitter as @nitroslick.