: : : : : : : Monterey Jack's Review

Wonder Boy review
Join the quest for booty


Earth. Fire.
Wonder Boy... wow, what a classic this is. Seriously, if you’re a Master System owner without this game, what are you smoking? This is one fine game you’ll have on your hands! Now, it isn’t Super Mario Bros 3, this isn’t the holy grail of gaming, BUT it’s still pretty good. In fact, if you feel you're shy a few classics that sport impressive visuals, a pretty sweet musical score and, above all else, some fun platforming goodness with a little extra, you're probably missing this game.

Quest for caveman booty.
The basic story is that Tom Tom's girlfriend, Tanya, gets kidnapped by a shapeshifting alien. Actually, that's pretty much the entire story. Kind of reminds me of Mario in the stone ages, only you don't have a mushroom flipping you off (both figuratively and literally), and you're not controlling somebody a few kilos overweight. Definitely does its job of not getting in the way, that's for sure.

Tom Tom run. Tom Tom smash.
I guess like many other games in the mid-80's, you have to sidescroll and jump around from left to right, avoiding obstacles and collecting stuff on the way to the goal line. Pretty standard stuff, but I guess that just tells you that it works. It's been working since Super Mario Bros, what else is there to say!?

I guess there's this - be a little wary of the jumping. It's a bit unforgiving in the sense that you can't really change your momentum or direction in midair (although you can face the other way in midair), meaning you should be a bit definite with your jumps, and make sure it doesn't end with you landing guts first into an enemy... well, without your trusty weapons, that is! This also makes platforming a little trickier than it has to be, since you may miss the platform because you overshot a little, and couldn't slow down the momentum. It gets pretty annoying, until you learn the timing of the jumps and whatnot, which shouldn't take too long.

Even so, the odd thing is that if you're not holding the run button, you can't really jump as high as you would if you were. It doesn't make any sense... I guess if it has to do with realism, then it's still not coming through to me as sensible, because when you're running, you only get extended forward momentum, not any further upward momentum... Sorry, it just kind of bugged me as a kid when I died heaps because I undershot a jump due to not holding the run button before jumping.

Tom Tom power up!
Before you jump in, thinking you can flatten enemies with your backside and whatnot, well... you can't really jump on enemies to kill them, mostly because they kill you! Instead, as you travel along, you find eggs. Crack them or just run over them to get some items. From tommahawks to skateboards and even to pixies that grant you temporary invincibility, you won't be defenseless for too long in the harsh, tyrannical environment. If you're unsure what the hammers and skateboards are, the hammers damage the enemies, and one or two kill them, while the skateboard not only increases your speed, but is basically like a mushroom from Super Mario Bros; guaranteed one free hit, because everything in this game kills you in one hit. Be careful, though, because if you crack that spotted egg, you may see that vitality bar decrease a lot quicker because some little reaper is slowly draining your life away!

Hey, the fruit just increased that bar up top!
The one main difference between Wonder Boy and Alex Kidd In Miracle World or Super Mario Bros is that Tom Tom has a vitality bar. See, unlike Mario or Alex, Tom Tom dies not just from enemies, hazards and pitfalls; he also dies from starvation. Fruit is fairly common throughout each of the levels, even where it shouldn't be (caves, seriously, wouldn't it be like millions of years old?!)

Up, up, and away... Wait, what are cavemen doing in the air!?
If you manage to find a handbag randomly hiding in a level, you get sent to the clouds, where you collect hearts, and it ends when you either collect a handbag or when you fall off. These are basically bonus stages, allowing for bonus points, and if you get far enough, allow you to skip to the next checkpoint or even the checkpoint after that one. Always enjoyed these, since if you're lucky enough to find the item, it can really save your ass in the later levels from getting it capped by enemies.

Speaking of bonus points, each level also has a doll lying around somewhere. At the end of a level when the points are tallied up, if you get the doll, you may end up with a few extra points, which may head you on your way towards an extra life. You don't see your score up until the end of each level, which makes the game look a little cleaner, since it only focuses on the backgrounds, foregrounds, vitality bar and sprites; no numbers to distract you for any longer than a couple of seconds when you collect things.

I always imagined the stone ages to be... stoned?
Way to boast some colorful visuals! The visuals won’t exactly force your jaw to drop in an awkward position out of amazement, but it definitely gives the NES’s visual processors a run for their money. Tom Tom and Tanya aren’t all that detailed, but the alien sure is. His different heads have immense amounts of detail to them, as does its body, which looks pretty good. The foregrounds are also fairly detailed and attractive while sporting some rich color schemes. If there’s any faults, it’s that the animation for Tom Tom is a bit weird. Only his legs move, which kind of looks funny when you think about it... You have to see it to believe it.

When rocks, sticks and clubs go through the motions:
Much like with other earlier titles (Alex Kid In Miracle World and Super Mario Bros), there aren’t that many songs, and one song is quite prominent, as it plays through most of the levels, and although it’s middle-of-the-road in comparison to the best 1 or 2 songs in the soundtrack, it’s still pretty nice to listen to and pretty damn catchy (although not remembering Wonder Boy’s or Alex Kidd’s is excusable; it’s off with your head if you don’t know Super Mario Bros’s main song!).

Caveman classic, or better off back in the stone ages?
Wonder Boy... It's definitely one of those timeless classics you can go back to again and again, due to how fun it is to play through. Colorful visuals, excellent (if limited) soundtrack, and some pretty intense and fun as hell gameplay. Oh, sure, the jumping takes a bit of getting used to since it doesn't allow for a change of momentum in air and operates a little oddly, but everything else puts the problem to shame and makes the game extra tender... Definitely worth going through.

Ug ug:
Gameplay: 8/10
Basic platforming structure, but plays pretty well. The vitality meter makes for a neat addition to keep you on your toes a bit.
Controls: 8/10
Kind of weird how, to jump higher, you have to hold the run/attack button. Not really a fan of the more "realistic" jumping, since it gets you killed a bit too often. Other controls work pretty well, responding at least, mapped out finely at best.
Graphics: 9/10
Pretty damn colorful and good looking. Animation is okay enough, though only the legs on the humans move. Kind of funny looking when you think about. Kind of glad you don't see the scores or amounts of lives left; makes it look cleaner.
Sound: 8/10
Good music, if one tune out of four is repeated too much. Seriously, the level tune is one you'll never forget. Might be a bit repetitious. Nonetheless, the other tunes, especially the boss tune for its 8-bit eeriness, are pretty good.

Overall: 8.5/10

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