Commodore User1st June 1987
Published in Commodore User #46
Wonderboy is not a happy little lad, and it is not difficult to see why. You see, some evil old King has kidnapped his beloved Tina. (Tina? Come on Activision, surely you could have thought of something more exotic than Tina, Doreen, for example.)
Actually it's difficult to imagine Wonderboy rescuing anybody whatever her name is. He is a bit of a wimp. A baby-faced kid not long out of nappies.
His quest begins in the jungle - dashing from left to right across a scrolling backdrop of trees. Looks a lot like some earlier Activision titles this bit - the Pitfall series. He hasn't travelled far when he stumbles into a golden egg - which cracks when he hits it, revealing a 'battle axe'. The axe is essential if he is to survive very long in the jungle - using it to waste the snails, snakes, bees and poisonous frogs that are determined to stop him seeing his lovely Tina ever again.
To get to his girl Wonderwimp has to successfully dash through seven "bizarre and treacherous" territories. Each of these is divided up into four levels with a giant ogre at the very end whom out hero has to waste with his axe. Not easy this - as several direct hits are required.
Converted from the original coin-op the game has lots of bright colours and 'cute' graphics. It is unmistakably Sega.
The kind of touches that characterise the Sega approach are the guardian angel that flies alongside Wonderboy on the second level of the first territory protecting him for the nasties for a short time, there are also the bright red fishes jumping out of the sea, and the wisps of cotton-wool like clouds - some of which Wonderboy can ride platform style.
The overall feel of the graphics is of nice, chunky, near cartoon approach. This is also faithful to the original coin-op.
The point at which Wonderboy loses its authenticity as a conversion is in the playability. It takes that smoothness of scrolling and ease of gameplay which is another strong Sega trademark. It also adds an unnecessary element that was not in the original - you have to push the joystick up as well as pressing Fire to jump. This adds a new and unnecessary co-ordination challenge to the game.
As far as I could tell all the other elements of Wonderboy are faithfully re-created here. It includes the 'vitality meter' which Wonderboy must keep constantly topped-up by eating the fruits and other morsels dotted around the screen. Your score and the highest score of the session is also displayed at the top of the screen.
Bonus points can be earned by completing the land you are on before you run out of vitality - the remainder is converted into bonus points.
Wonderboy is a bit of mish-mash. You've got just about every game element you could want thrown in - there is running, jumping, blasting and platform capers as well.
The ubiquitous skateboard is there. Wonderboy can really start motoring when he gets on this. The only drawback is that he travels so fast on his board it is easy for him to collide with obstacles. Good fun, though, getting the board - shame there aren't more opportunities in the game to get it.
The real challenge of the game is to see how far you can get. Sure, you want to rescue the gorgeous Tina (Yawn!) but most importantly you want to see what the next level looks like - the landscape, the challenge and what future golden eggs have in store.
Activision and Sega get full marks for using the 'goals' system in Wonderboy. This is a marker system whereby when you reach a certain point in the game - a 'goal' - you only have to restart the game at this point should you lose a life.
Wonderboy is a reasonable conversion of a reasonable arcade game. In truth, the game never set the world alight in the arcades and probably won't on the C64 either.
Personally I like it - but I have to qualify that opinion by explaining that I am a great fan of this partiular type of game. Any scrolling - shoot 'n jump gizmo that challenge you to see how far you can get is fine by me.