Hudson's hard-headed hero hits heavily on the handheld, and it's heaven. Ho-ho!
The last we saw of Hudson Soft's hard-headed caveman hero Bonk, he was advertising cheap sales over at Turbo Zone Direct, while people were wondering when he would be back in a platforming adventure. Indeed, Bonk's noggin has been retired since he tried his luck (and failed) with Super Bonk for the SNES many years ago. Now, it seems that the ol' Bonker is primed for a comeback, making an appearance in the Virtual Console service and now getting a revamped new game for play on cell phones. Bonk's Return isn't the most momentous thing out there, but it's good to have the big guy back.
As usual, an evil king is causing chaos all over the land, and it's up to Bonk and his trusty head to get people back to normalcy. Bonk can use his head to knock an enemy into next week with a simple head-butt, or can launch a diving head-butt from the air. Bonk can also swim around underwater and even scale walls, although one has to wonder why he prefers to use his teeth instead of his hands. (You know that the dentist is going to give him a lot of crap for that - "what the hell have you been eating?!") Bonk can also pick up collectible items along the way, including numerous fruit items and meat. By collecting a nice juicy piece of beef, Bonk becomes a little hot-headed, making his attacks more powerful and eventually giving him temporary invincibility.
The gameplay seems to come across as relatively easy to grasp, as players move around from platform to platform while chasing after the dreaded lizard king. However, the controls haven't been fully optimized for portable play. Sometimes jumping can be a real pain in the ass, especially when you're trying to scale off walls or just get a good jump attack going against an enemy on another level. That's not to say that the problems can't be resolved, but they shouldn't have been presented to begin with. Otherwise, the game plays just as well as it did back on the TG-16, even though a joypad may be preferred to a telephone keypad any day.
Where Bonk's Return really excels is with its design. The graphics are bright and colorful, with the developers taking a different turn instead of just doing a port of an older game. A lot of the backdrops and levels look completely different, but still fit very nicely to the true nature of Bonk. The sound's pretty nice as well, even if it seems relatively simple - Bonk's never really been one for kind words. But you know he means well.
It's how Bonk's Return carries over its old-school vibe that will really win gamers over. The game has several levels in which to complete, along with new challenges that pop up and some fun moments that feel right at home in Bonk's universe. The jumping controls could've been made better, and it wouldn't have hurt to have the original Bonk's Adventure or Bonk's Revenge available as an unlockable item. Regardless, Bonk probably could've just stayed locked up in Hudson Soft's gaming storage and never been heard from again. Here's to them for giving him a chance to make an impact on the scene with a fulfilling, worthwhile mobile game. Now if we can just get him to make the jump to other platforms...
What's Hot: Excellent level design and bright, colorful graphics; terrific throwback to the ol' Turbo-Grafx game.
What's Not: Jumping can be awkward at times.