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Video gaming has always had mascots, going as far back as Namco's Pac-Man. Even more memorable characters like Mario and Luigi, Alex Kidd, Opa Opa, Mega Man and Simon Belmont have appeared over the years. The 16-bit era saw a new trend for console manufacturers of relying on mascots to help sell their products. The NES won the last console war, but things were about to go fresh with the 16-bit era. What resulted was one of the most compelling console wars in video games' history.
Despite this connection, Mario proves to be much more later on. Yoshi's release in Super Mario World was a big moment for the company and Mario alike, Nintendo's mascot making his first foray on their new console. The game was a smash hit and became one of the best selling games of all time - it's had a major impact on other video games released in future decades.
The caveman has always been known as "Bonk" in North America. However, he's taken on a number of other names in his native country of Japan, where the initial name was "PC Genjin". This name is obviously a rhyming pun on the PC Engine, the Japanese version of the TurboGrafx-16. The "PC" stands for "Pithecanthropus Computerurus", which is just another way of saying "caveman". But his name often gets translated to either "PC Kid" or B.C. Kid, depending on the region and platforms. In porting to other systems, he gains different names too - FC Genjin (Freakthoropus Computerus) for the Famicom and GB Genjin (neither B or C have anything to do with this) for Game Boy. And then there is Super Genjin for Super Famicom.
Bonk can be very powerful with his large, powerful head. Generally, the best way to utilize this is by attacking enemies from above: jump, and then press the attack button to dive bomb them. This will send Bonk careening back into the air for you to continue your assault on other enemies. If you're feeling daring, attacking an enemy in the sky will send them skyward and allow you to keep assaulting them. The more enemies you hit consecutively with your head, the higher your scoring streak will go.
Bonk has the ability to flip in the air and jump farther, so you can explore more. He can also grab onto certain walls with his teeth and climb to the top of them. In some spots he can swim up a current, which allows him to climb over mountains all around. Bonk's not at all what he seems!
Bonk always runs out of hearts, is knocked unconscious and foams at the mouth. When you press R, Bonk will wake up from his nap and return to the game. This instant resurrection may make parts of the game pretty easy but if you die again you'll also be brought back to the beginning of the stage.
There are a couple of small quirks with the controls that can be annoying. To reach most platforms, you need to make a walking jump, or else you won't go far enough. Whenever you land from a jump, there's a split-second delay where Bonk squats on the ground - while you can still move, you can't jump until he gets back up. This can make jumping in succession a bit more difficult. The hit detection on the dive bomb attack is also a little suspect, especially during boss fights - it might seem like you hit an exposed area but instead take damage. However, considering how prolific fruit power-ups are, this isn't too big of an issue.
The world of Bonk is full of amusing creatures like dinosaurs with egg shells on their heads. These critters have huge bulbous eyes and tiny little legs that scurry back and forth. T-Rexes, Tricerotops, Pterodactyls, and others dominate the first stage. When you reach the end of the stage, you encounter a gigantic dinosaur - you need to hop inside it's mouth and swim through its stomach to get to the other side. Much like the doors on the entrance to each boss fight in MegaMan, Bonk is carried to each major enemy by using what looks like an ancient elevator made of a dinosaur skull. Each of five bosses are under some sort of mind control and they can only be set free by destroying their helmets. Once your done breaking them apart, they come to their senses and congratulate you as Bonk happily strolls his way onto the next stage which features a giant robot controlled by Princess Za who uses a remote control to pilot a giant tank with head of a T-Rex. The final level includes an epic battle against Princess Za for some unknown reason in space - these surreal elements combined with the amusing anachronistic devices make up what defines Bonk as a standout title
Even though Bonk was the mascot of both TurboGrafx-16 and Hudson Soft, he didn't stop appearing in games on competing platforms. A few years after the initial release, a port for the Nintendo Entertainment System (dubbed FC Genjin in Japan and simply called Bonk's Adventure in North America) was made. The colors are downgraded, but it still looks surprisingly good and is quite easy to control. Some levels were also cut to accommodate limited cartridge space, but it's still enjoyable.
Besides releasing Bonk’s Adventure as a standalone game, Hudson Soft also packaged it with Bonk’s Revenge and Gate of Thunder in a three-game collection. Gateway to Thunder was actually the last Bomberman game during its time, but because it wasn’t played much or advertised, it wasn’t well-known. The game is identical to its HuCard version, which has an intro sequence that stars Bonk. He steps into a spotlight, introduces the menu (complete with voices: “UGA BONK!”) and cool scaling effects.
The TurboGrafx-16, which was never released in Europe, made the game Bonk’s Adventure available to a wider audience. In this version, graphics have been significantly improved and the stage names have been translated. To make it even more fun, new music has also been added with cues from past games. And as if that weren't enough, this is probably the best rendition of Bonk's Adventure for any system! It's interesting how both versions of the game use a redrawn sprite of him instead of his original TurboGrafx-16 design.
In 2003, Hudson started the Hudson Best Selection series, which remade classic games with better graphics. It may have not been quite as big as Sega’s Sega Ages lineup of the same time (which included PC Genjin and Adventure Island), but Hudson’s game remakes are higher quality than Sega’s.
The PC Genjin remake includes gameplay mechanics that are identical to the original, as well as some changes here and there. Most of the sprites are 3D models, for better or for worse. Bonk looks great, with a lot of new expressions – he will turn into an ape when he's angry and appear to be holding his breath while swimming – but his enemies in general look rather dull and lack a lot of personality, both compared to the 2D days. They aren't nearly as interesting or funny looking as they were before. At least the animation when he eats meat is funny, where he screams and breathes fire that ricochets across the screen.
This remake of the original Game Boy game is a great nostalgia booster. All of the sound effects, like the clomps when you walk, emit onomonopia and makes words like "BONK" whenever you hit something. It takes a bit to get used to at first, but it's cutey in the end. The backgrounds are still 2D and have a cartoonish style that sets them apart from other games out there. The music consists of remastered Turbografx versions with some added drums for an updated look.
If you complete enough levels with these bonuses, you’ll eventually unlock extras like television commercials. The game has three difficulty levels and enemies inflict more damage than before. Healing items are rarer so it's important to be cautious. Some of the game's boss battles have been changed but not for the better - in the TG16 original, the first boss was huge; now he's been shrunken down and has a different attack pattern.
Despite being a low tech game with mediocre 3D graphics, it’s still a decent remake. There isn’t much new to recommend it over the TurboGrafx-16 original.