For one reason or another, it seems like video game characters never really have time to smile. Most of them are either heading off to war, saving the world, or righting a grave injustice, and these stressful situations lead to plenty of world-weary bald men fighting for a better life. Thankfully, some characters just seem happy to be here. Simon from Adventure Lamp seems like one of those. Sure, he was stranded by a cave-in, and he does have to traverse through five worlds with only a particularly resilient hat to aid him, but at least he seems excited about going on an adventure. Once you play through the first few stages of Simon's game, you'll probably share in that excitement too.
Adventure Lamp is a simple puzzle platformer where you have to press buttons and hold off enemies using only your miner's helmet. The hat has physics, meaning that it can fly off your head if you jump too high and you can bank it off walls with a toss to reach tight spaces. Each level is a single screen, and the game ramps up difficulty pretty well. This isn't on the level of Super Meat Boy, but the game does get challenging as it goes. This is why I was glad that this game borrowed Meat Boy's quick restarts whenever you fall off a cliff or dive into lava. It's not perfect, as the game holds over inputs between lives, which makes it easy to spring jump or run off a cliff right as you spawn. Still, it's better than having any downtime when you respawn.
Pacing is definitely one of this game's strongest components. Adventure Lamp isn't a long game, and it will probably take even the most tenuous players no more than a few hours to conquer the first time around. That being said, I was never bored throughout my playtime, and I was always propelled forward to keep jumping and avoiding enemies. When I loaded up the game for the first time, it was one of several I was sampling for my look at the Jump service. However, Adventure Lamp hooked me deep, and I ended up seeing it through to its end in one sitting. That's not something that happens too often for a critic, so it's definitely worth celebrating.
Of course, players will have to be forgiving, as any game based on a physics system is bound to introduce a little jank here and there. More than a few times during the adventure, I found myself knowing exactly what I had to do yet unable to execute due to the inconsistency of my hat's movement. This does happen in puzzle platformers often, and I commend Adventure Lamp for being forgiving enough that I never felt the need to put the controller down and walk away, but it's still an annoyance that breaks the flow of gameplay. Besides these brief hiccups, Adventure Lamp is relatively easy, which could be a sticking point for some.
As for me, I feel like this game is following in the tradition of Nintendo's Kirby games. This isn't a difficult platformer, but it doesn't play itself either. It presents just enough challenge to get players engaged without throwing up barriers that halt progression. Sure, you may have seen most of these puzzles before, but that's part of the charm with a game like this. Everything is helped along by Simon, a moving and grinning geometric shape that is content to avoid the demon slimes in his path rather than take them down. His facial expressions change with every action you take, and this was another subtle way of keeping me caring about the proceedings.
Kirby fans will also find something else to like with Adventure Lamp, as the simple initial campaign gives way to a more difficult second playthrough featuring a playable villain and a slightly different story arc. Taking away the main hat mechanics in this bonus campaign ensured that I dropped it fast, but it's a nice treat for platforming veterans. Those players may also be interested in the game's built-in speedrunning modes, as this would be the perfect obscure addition to a future GDQ event.
The graphics are uncomplicated, but there are a few nice touches hidden in the details if you care to look. For example, the light bridges in the second world light up some of their surroundings, which foreshadows a lot of light and shadow based gameplay later on. The soundtrack is a wonderfully breezy composition that brings back fond memories of Undertale's first few levels.
Really, that's what makes this game stand out. It's not the biggest or the best, but it is a nice game to enjoy in one or two sittings. In a time where games have to capture the attention of large swaths of the marketplace to get any attention, we sometimes forget about those unassuming games that might deserve it more. Adventure Lamp is cute first and foremost, and sometimes that's enough to endear a player to a world and bring them through an enjoyable experience. Sometimes, it's best just to smile.
Nothing in Adventure Lamp is going to blow you away, but this is a relaxing platforming adventure that is well worth a few hours of your time.
- Relaxing Gameplay
- Cute Main Character
- Great Soundtrack
- Annoying Physics Roadblocks
- Short Length