Friday, May 21, 2021

Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker (iOS) Review

We're in the latter half of May already, and we've yet to encounter our first review of the month. Well, that is until NOW. SuperPhillip Central continues its run through the wondrous world of Apple Arcade exclusives with this next game, a mix of Captain Toad, Super Mario Maker, and The Legend of Zelda. That's good company to keep! I'm talking about Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker, and here is the SPC review.

An Apple Arcade exclusive with a lot of heart(s of Adventure)

Take one part Captain Toad and mix with the design and creation sensibilities of a Super Mario Maker or a LittleBigPlanet game, and you have the general idea of what Aquiris Game Studio's Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker is all about. It's playing adventures, creating adventures, and sharing adventures to the world. In some regards, Wonderbox reminds me heavily of The Legend of Zelda series in its gameplay execution, and that is a rather flattering comparison in favor of  Aquiris Game Studio's title.

Fortunately, you're not simply thrust into the adventure-making side of Wonderbox immediately. There is a robust campaign of various stories and levels to play through. All of these are simple in the tales they tell, but they naturally introduce new concepts, mechanics, tools, and obstacles to play around with in levels. 

Look before you leap by spinning the camera around to survey each diorama-like room in Wonderbox.
The Captain Toad reference in my review opener deals with how levels in Wonderbox are lovely little dioramas. You can spin them around to notice hidden paths, get a better view of the area, and help guide your custom-made hero or heroine through enemy and hazard-filled levels. Unlike Captain Toad, however, Wonderbox levels are generally comprised of multiple screens. Many later levels are maze-like designs with multiple pathways, multiple routes to take, and plenty of opportunities to double-back or backtrack through these areas. 

The number of environments in Wonderbox's campaign is wide and varied.
The main goal of each level is to acquire a Heart of Adventure within them. In the practical sense, these are the "goal poles" of the level, as once they're retrieved, the level is successfully completed. However, they're not always sitting out in sight. Some levels you're tasked with a trade sequence of sorts, where you must find either coins or other tradeable goods to exchange for the Heart of Adventure. These levels become engaging little scavenger hunts for the player to collect the necessary materials to eventually claim their prized Heart of Adventure.

Ah, a hero's appetite for adventure can only be satiated by the Heart of Adventure!
Wonderbox features a fair amount of tools for your avatar (of which this character earns new clothing, skins, and more upon leveling up from completing adventures). Throughout Wonderbox's campaign, you'll acquire swords and axes to slay monsters and enemies, bows to fire arrows at faraway foes, shields to block incoming attacks, bombs to blast open cracked walls and boulders, a Zelda-style Hookshot to pull yourself across chasms, and a spinning thingamajig which whirls you up into the air to gain some much needed verticality in levels. You can only carry so many tools at once, so many times in levels you'll be required to switch between tools, essentially trading them away for new ones.

Aim well and launch yourself across gaps with this Hookshot-like tool.
For someone like myself who is quite unaccustomed to playing an action-adventure game such as Wonderbox with touch controls, I originally found myself seriously struggling to move, jump, attack, change items, and move the camera around when needed. Having to do two or more of these tasks at the same time was pretty much a "forget about it" proposition for me. Fortunately, like many Apple Arcade games on the service, Wonderbox supports controller via Bluetooth, so once I made the shift over I discovered a more enjoyable game. It was still difficult at times, but generous checkpointing made sure that I was never overly frustrated while playing and enjoying Wonderbox.

Can I go a review where there's a picture of a bat without mentioning the word "batty" as a pun?
Well, technically, no, not in this review either!
As its subtitle implies, Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker is more than just an diorama-style adventure game; you can also create your own adventures. Not just create simple adventures, which by all means is quite possible, but you can also craft some rather complicated creations of your own. Essentially, the adventures created by the developers for Wonderbox's campaign are tutorial and inspiration to help players and prospective creators make their own adventures. While there are thousands of adventures made by players already--and understandably quite a few of them are less than wonderful, to put it generously--it's pretty easy to find well done adventures.

You can basically create anything that you see in the campaign, and I wouldn't be surprised if the devs used their own adventure maker tools to create the campaign in some shape or form. There's a robust toolset available, and through playing the campaign you unlock loads to enjoy to make adventure masterpieces of your own. The process is relatively simple, though to craft something truly terrific and enjoyable, you'll need to put forth an adequate amount of effort. Essentially, your entertainment coming out of The Adventure Maker part of Wonderbox will stem from how much you put into it, as one would expect. 

Wonderbox doesn't have the most exciting art style, but there's no doubt this game is a beauty.
Thus, if you put a great deal of work into your own created adventure, you'll discover plenty of players and flattering compliments (though all of these will be generic ones from a list of choices instead of player-created ones) to make all of it worth it. And overall, it IS worth it. Wonderbox is simply put, an enjoyable creation tool to make fun and quite complex adventures. It helps that the base gameplay is rather enjoyable as well, pending you can either get a handle of the sometimes clunky touch controls or opt for a Bluetooth controller instead. With more adventures planned from the developers themselves and a seemingly endless amount of created adventures from the player base, Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker seems like a great game and creation tool to keep your Apple Arcade subscription running. 

[SPC Says: B]

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