Bonk’s Adventure was a good first step in establishing a new franchise. It was original, had good gameplay, and certainly looked nice for the time. NEC knew this as it was one of the few games to receive an extensive amount of marketing. But there was room for improvement. A number of niggling flaws conspired to keep it from becoming the game it should have been. Bonk’s Revenge is an improvement in every single way and one of my favorite games for the system.
For the most part Bonk hasn’t changed much in terms of his abilities. Your large melon is your primary weapon, able to bash just about anything to bits. A few small tweaks have been introduced for the better. The bad hit detection on the diving head butt attack has been fixed thankfully. Spinning while airborne isn’t as fast and leaves you open to attack. Bonk can wall jump which is much faster than climbing walls with your teeth.
The meat power-ups have been improved and scaled back somewhat. One piece of small meat still causes you to become angry and freeze all enemies on screen. A second piece will make you go nuclear, granting temporary invincibility. This time however after it wears off you can breathe fire! Meat is not as abundant this time around making their appearance that much more special. It also brings the difficulty up; in Bonk’s Adventure you could spend entire levels in a powered up state. Not so here.
The level design has undergone a significant change. Where most stages in the first game were simple left to right paths the levels are considerably wide open for exploration. A good number of levels feature alternate paths as well. That is because there are a tone of secrets lying everywhere. There are a wealth of new bonus stages where you can earn extra lives and points accessed by finding pink flowers. There are also new items such as life extending hearts, flowers that allow you to fly, and more food. The smiley faces actually serve a purpose this time around: after each boss your total is used to determine which end level bonuses you’ll receive, varying between nothing to extra heart containers and lives.
Variety is the greatest strength in Bonk’s Revenge. No two levels are the same and it introduces new platforming challenges such as swinging on tree branches with your teeth and navigating through thick snow. The prehistoric setting has always oddly mixed in bits of technology and it leans on that heavier here. There are elevators, trains, helicopters, and if you can believe it a fully powered ocean liner! It’s completely absurd but adds to the series charm. For the most part the usual platforming tropes are avoided in terms of level themes; the most you’ll get is fireball field and Snow Mountain. The later stages take place on a war ship, in King Drool’s city and even the moon. How’s that for variety?
The three difficulty settings are a bit misleading. They don’t actually present more of a challenge but instead how much of the game you will see. Practice only lets you run around the first level, intermediate ends after the fourth stage and expert is the full game with all seven levels. The actual difficulty swings wildly. Extra lives can be found frequently and if you explore even a little it isn’t uncommon to visit the bonus stages four or five times per level and build up a nice stock. You’ll blow through them just as easily by the midpoint as enemies attack in greater number and the bosses become more difficult. Their hit boxes are very particular and you might waste a few men trying to figure it out. Along with the limited continues it presents a worthy challenge for a 2d platformer.
The bright and colorful graphics of the first game are even better in Bonk’s Revenge. There are a number of new animations and King Drool’s forces have been expanded and contain plenty of new enemies. The funny sense of humor that permeated the initial outing returns as you face some truly weird bosses such as a figure skating ballerina and a tribal warrior rhinoceros. The backgrounds are packed with detail and firmly plant this in the 16-bit generation. The simple art style is a deliberate choice although I will admit some disappointment that there isn’t some scrolling. This was released in 1991 and falls behind some of the technical marvels being released on rival consoles. The soundtrack is excellent all around; some of the music is recycled from Bonk’s Adventure but they fit so well tonally that it honestly doesn’t matter as much.
Take everything that made the first game good and dial it up to ten and you have Bonk’s Revenge. Literally everything but the kitchen sink was thrown in here yet it still makes complete sense. A longer quest, a wealth of secrets, and tighter design make this the best platformer on the system. A truly great game.