The nerdy humour and pop-culture references of Adventure Time are well suited to video game adaptations, but there hasn’t yet been a real stand out example. Having tried out numerous genres, most recently including ARPG dungeon crawling, Zelda-esque top down exploration, and point and click adventure, we now have an open world JRPG adventure. The shift does make the game itself feel like a fresh take on Finn and Jake’s adventures, but it soon becomes clear that many of the same old problems persist.
Your adventure begins with Finn the Human and Jake the Dog falling asleep in the boat that rests on top of their treehouse. They awake to find the kingdom of Ooo submerged under a mysterious sea and must venture forth to discover its origins and save the day. This is all standard fare for the wacky adventures of Finn and Jake and feels well connected to the series as a whole. The setting also allows for boat-based exploration that’s a clear tribute to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, a feeling that is emphasised by the game’s cartoon style. However, it soon becomes clear that there is very little scope for exploration and that the sailing is a simple disguise for a limited and rather linear world.
Graphically the game looks suitably like its source material and benefits from the naïve and freeform design. Characters sound like their cartoon counterparts and the whole package feels like an authentic extended episode of Adventure Time. Fans of the series will find much to enjoy here and this is perhaps the most successful adaptation in terms of fan service, aside from the sparse cast of characters. Many familiar characters are absent from the game entirely, and it seems odd that they are not included as optional party members or NPCs to bump into.
In the early stages of exploration your party is restricted to just Finn and Jake. This enables a well implemented tutorial to their various skills and the developers are to be applauded for how accessible and well communicated the various parts of the turn-based combat system are. As you progress through the land of Ooo you’ll recruit the emo vampire Marceline and the perky games console BMO in order to complete your team.
Navigating around the islands of Ooo themselves involves a functional combination of a Zelda-inspired third person view with context sensitive controls, before morphing into a standard turn-based JRPG when enemy encounters spirit you into a battle. There is a welcome degree of depth to the battle system, but there are very few encounters that require you to do much more than attack. Each character has individual skills that you can improve as you level up but many of these seem unnecessary.
Each of the four characters are designed with clear RPG classes in mind, it is a shame that there is no party customisation involved whatsoever. The main result of this imposed team is that there is little scope for improvisation in battle mechanics. Jake defends, BMO is a cleric-like support character, Marceline and Finn attack. The pattern largely remains the same throughout and so the combat soon becomes repetitive.
Even the many status changes you encounter can’t shake things up. A vast array of items to both cure and inflict status changes are included, but most of these proved pretty useless. Status effects only last for the current battle, so most of the time it is wiser to save the money for levelling up your character. The money you collect from battles and chests is the currency with which you strengthen your characters as they level up, with little explanation as to why, and who, you have to pay to get more powerful.
As you explore the various islands of Ooo you discover a number of areas only accessible when you have recruited the relevant team member. This traditional approach to padding out the game is typical of the safe game design that is found through Pirates of Enchiridion. Given the younger target audience this is not necessarily a bad thing, as this game would work well as an introduction to JRPG and Zelda-like games but it all feels far too familiar for more experienced gamers.
That said, there is a disconnect between this accessibility and the difficulty of some early battles. It is far too easy to engage in fights that are well above your level in some of the early stages and there is little chance of victory. There are plenty of opportunities to grind and these high level fights are avoidable, but it does feel like a clash of design choices.
All in all, Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion is merely okay. There is little new here, but it’s functional enough that fans of the series will find much to enjoy as they explore the land of Ooo. It is difficult to recommend to those less enamoured with the source material, however. There is an easy platinum to collect if that is your kind of thing, but the combination of overly faithful JRPG mechanics and linear exploration does not offer enough to make the title stand out. File this one under fans only.
Version tested: PlayStaton 4 – Also available on PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch