Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bonk: Brink of Extinction Hands-On

Hudson Soft's booth was pretty packed at this year's New York Comic Con thanks to a solid lineup of titles such as Lost In Shadow, Deca Sports Freedom and Bomberman Live Battlefest. But it was the return of Bonk that really sent me back to the future. Bonk: Brink of Extinction was on the floor and playable from start to finish and between the massive levels, awesomely funny classic game mechanics and nifty co-op gameplay, Hudson has a real winner here. Unlike many "retro" remakes, don't expect to see movement in the 3D plane or flashy CG movies between stages. What's here is pure side-scrolling bliss that's going to put an ear-to-ear grin on your face that won't leave for weeks.

I can safely report that developer Pi Studios has hit the nail on the head and through the wall in terms of how the game looks and plays.
Everything clicks here, from the rendered visuals, the exact same gameplay and animations as the originals, the thumping tunes and of course, the trademark Bonk moves. Sure, it's a pure nostalgic trip through and through, but if you're not cracking up as you head-butt enemies, swim up huge waterfalls like a crazed salmon and take on some goofy but deadly enemies of assorted sizes, it's time for a funny bone transplant. This is one of those games where if you remember the Turbo Grafx originals and you've got kids and play games with them, it's time to introduce them to the joys of pure side-scrolling bliss.

Transformations are also a huge part of the Bonk experience. Chomping on a few hunks of meat scattered around each level sends him into a rage and he powers up to become an angry cave dude with scraggly hair, a bright red face and a rather ticked off disposition that lasts for a few seconds, allowing him to beat down smaller enemies in record time. There are also some cool power-ups to find that allow Bonk to burn or freeze enemies or don a triceratops skull to break down walls or plow through baddies.

n co-op mode, there are some tricky puzzles that demand precision timing as one player needs to activate a switch while player two needs to dash past the wall that's just moved and repeat the process for his or her buddy. These sections might be a wee bit tricky for those who are rusty on the run 'n jump, but patience as well as practice always prevails in the end. Before this preview encroaches into review-length, I'll note that fans of the 2D originals will be pleased to see Hudson using Bonk sprites in the HUD and a few other places in the game (a nice touch that got me grinning even wider).

Overall, this one looks like another winner when it hits XBLA sometime this year or so, although an actual release date hasn't been confirmed just yet. PS3 and Wii versions seem to also be in the mix, but I'm guessing Hudson will be using Live Arcade first to gauge overall interest in the game. It's too bad it's not coming out on a disc, as it would have been fantastic to see all the other Bonk games as unlockable bonuses or playable right from a menu. But hey, even without those older gems, Hudson's little prehistoric powerhouse can stand on his own as his latest adventure swings your way soon.

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