Approximate Release Date: April 1, 1992
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Super Adventure Island would feel like an evolutionary dead-end for the platformer genre if it weren’t for the recent resurgence of endless runners for cell phones.
It is the archaeopteryx to Canabalt‘s pidgeon.
That might seem like a strange assertion, given that you can, you know, stop moving or even move left if you want. But Super Adventure Island wants you to always be moving, going so far as having the player’s character – with the awful, awful name Master Higgins – run in place if you aren’t pressing forward. Many platforming sequences are in tune to you never pausing. If you stop for whatever reason, you need to wait for everything to sync back up together to make it safely across moving platforms.
There are a few levels that have verticality to them, but generally everything is nice and flat with some holes to jump over and enemies to avoid. The flatness of most of Super Adventure Island‘s levels gives everything a samey feel even with the variety of backgrounds and enemy types. Having only two similar power-ups doesn’t help things; neither the boomerang nor the axe had enough differentiation between them for me to develop a preference for one over the other.
Even though Super Adventure Island looks great for 1992, the music is awful. I hate the music so much. Any time there’s music with whistling in it – instrumental or human, doesn’t matter – I get so annoyed. The first few levels of this game have non-stop whistling going on and I had to listen to something else. I don’t associate whistles with stereotypical island music either, so it’s a strange decision.
Another, more minor, annoyance I found was the jumping mechanics. Like almost every platformer, running jumps give you more height than standing jumps. But the difference between the two is drastic in Super Adventure Island, and I never quite got a feel for when the standing jump turns into the running jump. I was often surprised by my jumps’ height or lack thereof. There’s also a super jump that’s done by pressing down and jump at the same time, which doesn’t seem super useful but it’s nice to know it’s there.
As far as early Super Nintendo platformers go, Super Adventure Island isn’t bad. It’s on the easy side, too, so as long as you can stomach the painful music you’ll find a breezy adventure to spend an afternoon with.
Tomorrow: Blood, guts, and glory in Contra III: The Alien Wars!