Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: Abobo’s Big Adventure (PC/Mac/Flash)

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There have been a lot of games, especially in the indie scene, that harken back to the days of 8-bit and 16-bit systems.  Some do an incredible job of capturing that retro feel, developer Way Forward should be commended for work on titles like Contra 4, and other efforts like Capcom’s Dark Void Zero attempt to take modern game design and give it that retro flair.  Those are major companies, though, the small team indie developers are much more miss than hit, so you go into a title like Abobo’s Big Adventure with the overused term “cautiously optimistic”.  Fortunately the teams of I-Mockery (design/sound/story), Pestoforce (programming) and Pox Box (art/animation) have created exactly what was advertised: the ultimate tribute to the NES.

This screenshot best captures what we mean by “mash-up”

When I was a kid I would always dream of a game like Abobo that would fuse together aspects of every Nintendo game, intermingling the various sprites and characters.  Mind you I’m not talking about nods to the properties, like Uncle Mario in Assassin’s Creed II, I’m talking about full-blown torn from the game actual sprites in a hodgepodge.  Thanks to emulators, there have been many hacks out there (pun intended) that have been able to fuse these aspects but it’s clear that their game design is flawed.  It looks right but doesn’t feel right.  Although Abobo borrows about as heavily from gameplay aspects of the Nintendo titles it steals its sprites from – Mission 1 is from Double Dragon and the gameplay and level design are identical – it makes just the right kind of tweaks.  Make no mistake about it, although Abobo knows that things like extra lives and infinite continues assist the contemporary gamer in getting to the end, you will need pretty decent NES skills to complete it.  The reward for your hard work is completely worth it.

Abobo’s Big Adventure is like playing many of the most solid NES franchises all in one, complete with characters you know and challenges that are familiar.  Those that have played Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros., Punch-Out!!, Balloon Fight, Legend of Zelda, Mega Man and plenty others will recognize the level design and mission goals without being instructed.  This familiarity also has a ring of Scott Pilgrim mixed in – perhaps you don’t know why Abobo screams, “It’s so bad!” when he puts on the power glove, but those that get the reference to The Wizard will chuckle with delight.  It’s that type of fan nod that I appreciate, it includes everyone from the newest gamers to those like me that study video game history like it’s a college course and gives both audiences a pleasant experience.  Even the music, starting with the Mega Man 2 theme in the opening credits, will give chiptune fanatics a rush.  All sound effects and music come from classic games, I don’t think I can pinpoint a single piece of sound that didn’t originate from an NES title.  It’s Retro Game Challenge for the masses.

This game is great if you have a MAME cabinet to play it on.

Everything about this game screams NES, even the recommendation that you play it with an NES controller – unfortunately I prefer to play titles like this on an actual repro cart and don’t think highly of USB adaptors, but I was able to import it into my MAME cab and play it that way.  If you have a joystick, you can get access to the program Joy2Key and a quick and easy setup.  At the same time, it’s not an NES title.  I’m certain that some of the graphics, sounds and transitions are not possible on the NES and thus it cannot currently be used in an actual NES via a repro cart.  The game also has plenty of things that an NES game wouldn’t have, like achievements, and plenty of web-based unlockables.  As a flash game, it can be downloaded to any computer with Flash (including Macs) or simply played in a web browser.  This makes the game versatile, albeit a bit tougher to tweak – I still dream of the day that this game becomes a useable NES or SNES rom.  Make no mistake about it, regardless of how it looks or what it pays homage to, Abobo’s Big Adventure is not an NES game from a technical standpoint.  The reason it’s so significant is that unlike “neo-retro” titles like Dark Void Zero, it keeps all gameplay, difficulty and game design within the limitations of an NES game.

Abobo’s Big Adventure has nods to all of the 80s, not just NES

It really is hard to find flaws or criticisms with this game for the simple fact that it combines (some cynical will say literally rips off) many of the best NES games that ever existed and gives it a comical twist.  Therefore the entire time you’re playing it you’re bombarded with that feeling like you’ve played it before, but it’s still all new and the inside jokes harken back to the days of your youth.  It’s just a fun parody of NES as told through the very system that spawned the content.  What’s best is that it’s free and easy to run, most likely because there are so many borrowed sprites that they can’t possibly chance Nintendo’s response if they tried to sell it.  For that same reason, I recommend you download the game from the site and make a backup just in case, like other titles, it gets forced offline.  In addition you can donate to the site to show your support for the work they are doing and I highly recommend everyone donate at least $5 for this worthwhile endeavor, especially because you will get another free game out of it.  From the moment it began design docs so many years ago Abobo’s Big Adventure has looked like an amazing and hilarious title, which I am pleased to confirm is exactly what it is.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to play the Abobo on a Luck Dragon (Falcor from Neverending Story) minigame to unlock additional art.

Abobo’s Big Adventure can be found in flash and download format on its own web site where you can also get support software, donate and download the game.  In addition it can be found on New Grounds in flash.  It is completely free of charge.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

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