What makes Adventure Time so special? What needs to be in the video game based on Pen Ward's quirky and adventurous Cartoon Network series in order for it to maintain the charm and essence of the show?
For an enormously obsessive fan like myself, a lot of it has to do with the characters and the humor. So I'm curious to see if the protagonist duo—Finn and Jake—are as in tune with each other as they are in the show. And I want to know what villains they'll be up against, and how those battles will play out.
I asked Pen Ward about the most important aspects of the game that retain the feel of Adventure Time. He told me about the animation, which he promises is phenomenal. And he told me about some of the bosses in the game, that are just as silly and ridiculous as characters you'd expect to be on the show.
"I've become a real fan of Paul Robertson's animations and pixel art," Pen Ward told me in a phone interview this week. He spoke excitedly about how the game's art is unfolding. Fans will expect anything based on Adventure Time to stick with the TV show's bizarre, reality-distorting animation, so it's essential for Hey Ice King to follow suit.
Ward says these animations have directly led to one of his favorite aspects of the game: boss battles. He described one of these ridiculous fights to me:
"Paul Robertson animated one of the many bosses, who is a bear with a big chainsaw on his back. Which is super funny and good-looking to me. It reminds me of Earthworm Jim-style bosses that blew my mind when I was a kid. So many bosses are really funny-looking and weird."
But the main "villain" is Ice King, as the game's title suggests. If you're familiar with the show, though, you'll know that Ice King is barely much of a villain at all. [Vague season three/four spoilers] Especially once the show really starts fleshing out in seasons three and four, Ice King is more of Finn and Jake's annoying buddy. He wants to be their friend more than their arch nemesis. [end spoilers]
As Ward said, "He's really more of a nuisance. He does crummy stuff to Finn and Jake. He walks the line, but he never has to be the villain. Finn and Jake feel sorry for him a lot of the time. They're just trying to teach him. He's not a villain in this game, really. He's just annoying. And they're trying to tell him please knock it off. Please."
Ice King is indeed still up to some nefarious things. He's stealing all of Finn and Jake's trash to create statues of the princesses across the Land of Ooo. Ice King has an extremely weird, obsessive thing with all the princesses. And Finn and Jake's moral code refuses to let him get away with his creepy plans. Ice King, using that knowledge to his advantage, basically sets them up for a "game" (Ward's words) to come and rescue said statue princesses. It's a simple plotline, nothing too complex. But Pen Ward described Ice King as the Bowser of the Adventure Time game.
There are a lot of other bosses that you may or may not have expected to make an appearance. Marceline will cross paths with you as the big bat creature from season one. That's not entirely surprising, as she made an appearance in Cartoon Network's browser-based game. And she has definitely put up a fight in past episodes of the show itself. Donny the grass ogre, also from season one, is not much of a surprise either. He was a "boss" in the show, too.
But how about Gunter? Tiny, harmless little penguin Gunter? Pen Ward wanted to save the surprise on what kind of a boss battle that'd turn out to be, but Gunter is not an expected villain. Even if he is Ice King's pet.
However, much to my dismay, the Nightosphere—basically a hell-land ruled by Marceline's father, Hunson Abadeer—won't be making an appearance in the 3DS game. How cool would a Nightosphere level be? Maybe next time.