12 August 2007
Every console has its icon. This one is neither a silly plumber, nor a frenetic hedgehog. This is a caveman with an oversized cranium. "Head, Pants! Now!" Anyone get the movie reference? Moving right along, teenage girls have also been known to gush at how "adorable" Bonk it. Just how adorable? you might ask. Well, enough so that my sister's best friend was swooning to the point at which it was difficult for me to hear the game's music.
From the very first stage you can't help but become absorbed in the Bonk lifestyle, eating butterflies and flowers for snacks, and countering the force of gravity by rapidly swinging your Brobdingnagian head to and fro.
While initially you just paddle up waterfalls, soon you'll be swimming through small bodies of water and even playing the roll of a fish on the end of a fishing line—to my knowledge the only way Bonk uses stealth to close in on enemies. It may not be graceful, but it gets the job done.
If you thought that grabbing onto a fishing line was the only way Bonk can ascend ledges, then you have another think coming. No other mascot can match the frivolity that characterizes Bonk. This is the kind of stuff that define's a console's flagship character. Name one non-Bonk platformer where you chew your way up a ledge!
During a subterranean level, you can collect diamonds rather than butterflies for additional points. Bonk probably eats the diamonds just likes the butterflies. With the right power-up, Bonk can breath fire and turn surrounding enemies to stone by bonking the ground.
Bonk is a wonderfully animated and disarmingly charming hero. The backgrounds are well-rendered, albeit they are generally simplistic and characterized. Though the graphics are never stunning, they are phenomenally successful at adding humor and bringing this silly caveman to life.
Bonk is not musically inclined. Many of the levels have memorable musical scores, but there is a big difference between memorable and enjoyable. Some tracks are downright annoying. On the bright side, the sound effects, from breathing fire to leaping and smashing the ground with your oversized cranium, are quite good.
In addition to all the fantastic different ways bonk can, well, easily use his head to pound through each stage, adventuresome players will discover some great bonus levels. They begin by Bonk being lifted into the air by a flower umbrella. Challenges include bouncing across chasms and maneuvering between different ice floors. These extras are great for breaking up levels and giving you a chance to further refine Bonk's skills.
In an era that was defined by platformers and where stiff competition in the form of Mario and Sonic existed, Bonk truly carved out a niche of his own. The virtually unlimited creativity and humor injected into this game make it one of the best reasons to own a TurboGrafx-16. Though Bonk does have his shortcomings, the caveman makes up for them in pure goofiness and entertainment. After all, what could be more fun than using your neanderthal head to headbutt through an entire game?
I also highly recommend checking out Chris Bucci's 12 September 2009 Review.