'Adventure Beaks' review: hit me as hard as you can (iOS/Android)

by Jillian Werner

March 30 2014

Adventure Beaks is a surprisingly fun combination of cutesy penguin costumes and painfully intricate platforming challenges. (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)

"Slide." From the moment Edward Norton stepped into his cave in Fight Club and revealed the Narrator's power animal to be a slippery, tuxedoed bird, the movie-going world knew that penguins were badass. This man, who beat himself up and erected an underground scene of blood and anarchy from scratch, turned to the penguin in his moment of desperation. An adorable, floppy penguin who embraced the Narrator's needs, and whose commanding yet calm advice was "Slide!"

Adventure Beaks is built on these power penguins. Disarmingly cute and fiercely determined, the penguins of Adventure Beaks have only themselves to guide, only their own needs to attend to. Those needs revolve around an obsession with ancient artifacts, mysterious black stones broken into pieces and scattered across the Antarctic.

Penguins are so desperate to encounter one of these relics in their lifetime that they're willing to lemming-dive off cliffs and into spikes just to touch one. While each penguin travels the icy, dangerous world alone, they've teamed up in an attempt to collect as many artifacts as possible: when one penguin fails, another steps in to fill his flippers.

In Adventure Beaks you will direct these "penguin explorers" across the tundra through a series of finite platforming levels. Each penguin runs automatically through the level, and it's your job to ensure he jumps, double-jumps, dives, swims, and—yes—belly slides past a barrage of unforgiving obstacles and enemies. While the only requirement for progress is making it to the igloo safehouse at the end of each level, our penguin adventurers have plenty of alternate goals for the trip itself.

Seven pieces of the aforementioned artifacts are scattered throughout each level, and collecting all seven completes the relic. These finished relics are used to unlock additional levels, missions, and even penguins—expanding your initial team of five to a potential total of ten. Treasure chests dot the landscape, containing rewards ranging from coins to clothing, and offering their own completion challenge per level. You can also snag plenty of coins, which can be used to deck out your penguin posse in hundreds of different clothing items.

The penguin customization options in Adventure Beaks are nearly endless, with dozens of hats, shirts, accessories, and even penguin skin textures—like "Slime" or "California Cow"—waiting to be discovered or purchased. If you can dream it, your penguin explorer can probably wear it: there are embarrassingly flowy hospital gowns, prison jumpsuits, "cones of shame," half-eaten cupcakes, and more. Although you can shell out real cash to snag an outfit quickly, all of the clothing items are completely accessible in-game, either via treasure chests or purchased with collected coins.

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While the clothing customization is a large draw for Adventure Beaks, and one that adds an extra level to an already jam-packed game, players with no interest in penguin fashion will still find plenty to keep them occupied. What starts out as a fairly straightforward auto-running platformer slowly builds to an intricate, devilishly fast-paced challenge that requires not only fast fingers but pre-planning.

Levels split into multi-path decision trees that often require replaying multiple times just to see and collect everything. Some levels demand penguin sacrifices before you can proceed: certain objects, like enemies and collapsible bridges, remain gone once removed, allowing the next penguin through access to a newly opened area. Locked barriers prevent entering certain split paths unless you have a key—and the willingness to use hard-to-come-by keys on that lock.

As the levels become more complex, so do the dangers. Spiked ceilings and floors demand perfect penguin maneuvering. Bouncy crabs and fish appear suddenly, forcing expertly timed double-jumps to avoid collision. Some later levels are so split-second-timed that the first penguin is almost a guaranteed death—and later penguins will survive only through Mega Man-style hazard memorization.

The saving grace in these feather-pulling moments of frustration is that every level contains four checkpoints that not only "bank" your collected artifacts and treasure chests, but allow you to restart at that location upon death. Your floppy friends will need them.

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A lot of Adventure Beaks' features—from its silky smooth platforming to its split-path levels—are reminiscent of the superb rhythm-runner BIT.TRIP RUN!  Even the costumes and tongue-in-cheek humor should appeal to fans of the dashing CommanderVideo.

Unfortunately, the area that BIT.TRIP RUN! puts so much emphasis on—its music—is Adventure Beaks' weakest. With such variety and polish everywhere else, it's disappointing to hear the same song on every single level, even in the jungle-themed second world. While it's not a bad song, in a game that demands replays, restarts, and retries of its 50 levels, that always-same beat gets old, fast.

There's also a strange lack of reward for "three-starring" levels: in order to do so, you have to complete some of the hardest challenges in the game, such as not dying a single time or playing a level on double speed (extremely hard, but also extremely fun).  And yet, in a game that awards you a great reward for collecting some black stones, you receive nothing for meeting these hefty demands.  Even a pittance like a viking helmet or strap-on chest hair would have been appreciated. 

This is probably a greedy complaint, though, in a game that gives players so much for free. Adventure Beaks is a gorgeous, polished platformer that is stuffed to the brim with gameplay and goodies. The adorable penguins and their abundant wardrobes are a deceptively cute distraction from its surprisingly challenging levels, but are also an enthusiastic reason to persevere and keep on sliding.

  • Adventure Beaks
  • Developer: GameResort
  • Platform: iOS (played), Android
  • Price: Free
  • In-app purchases? Yes

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