Marsupilami Hoobadventure Is The Comeback No One Expected.
I stared at the cover, wondering what in the world this game actually was, for longer than I care to admit. I can imagine how the conversation took place in the boardroom that one day. "Hey, we need to tie a mascot character with a platformer but we can't make up one," one Ocellus Studio staff member says. "Oh, I know! Let's use a mascot character from our childhood and use him as our protagonist!" The entire board room cheers at their intellect. The project is greenlit and Marsupilami Hoobadventure is born.
There's just one major problem that the French developers, who brought back a French mascot, didn't consider. No one born in the past two decades will have any clue who a Marsupilami is. This rings exceptionally true for American fans, whose experience with the character was limited to a niche Disney cartoon. Originating as a French comic series in the 1960s, most were familiar with Marsupilami in Disney's Raw Toonage. Released in 1992 and only lasting for one season, the spinoff Marsupilami was released in 1993, also lasting one season. Aside from reruns, this is the only knowledge of the Franco-Belgian mascot making his way Stateside.
So, considering most Americans had but a very small timeframe to introduce themselves to Marsupilami, surely a video game adaptation would be a bad idea? The first and only video game the mammal had prior to Hoobadventure was 1996's Genesis game. Somehow, Ocellus Studio thought that reviving a mascot character who was only relevant for two years in the 90s was a good idea over two decades later. Surely, this couldn't be a bad idea, right?
Marsupilami Has No Relation To Hoobastank, Thankfully
The player is first introduced to the protagonist doing "protagonist things" and getting into trouble. The Marsupilami finds a mysterious obviously evil staff and begins to tamper with it. Due to his tampering, an unspeakable evil is summoned from the staff, possessing the wildlife. I don't know what is it with platforming protagonists and their penchant for mischief. Especially when said mischief is the catalyst for causing problems. Regardless, a reason to go on a "Hoobadventure" is needed so I guess that's it. Despite its silly premise, even sillier title, and the decision to use an unknown mascot, Marsupilami Hoobadventure surprised me.
It far exceeded my expectations the moment I had control over my character. Before I get into the gameplay, let's talk about visuals. The graphics are well designed for a game of its caliber. The cartoon CGI effects blend well with its vivid colors. The enemies and locations are a mix between fantasy and real-life locations. Squirrels, raccoons, birds, jungles, towns, beaches, and other backdrops expected of a platformer are all here. Even in the game's first HUB world, each level is different from the next. There's a surprising amount of variety that reflects on the gameplay.
Never Judge A Book By Its Cover, Once Again
This game isn't the first "First Take" that I prematurely judged as "bad" before playing. With the number of licensed platformers available as of late, these games carry a negative stigma. After playing countless bad movie and tv show tie-ins, I couldn't help but proceed an unknown IP with caution. However, Masupilami's gameplay was surprisingly solid, offering the same tight controls as other AAA titles. It's hard to pinpoint what games it reminds me of as it borrows elements from several titles. The ones that come to my head are Sonic, Donkey Kong Country, Klonoa, and even a sprinkle of Mega Man.
Masupilami Hoobadventure is a momentum-based platformer in which players will need to take advantage of their attack to move fast. Doubling as a dash, the player mashes the attack button while moving, increasing their traveling speed. During the attack animation, the player can also cancel into a jump, leaping and covering greater distances than usual. This is imperative to access otherwise hard-to-reach areas. Its simple controls also mean that players can access anything that's seemingly out of reach by thinking outside the box. More often than not, a hidden area needs to be discovered in order to obtain rewards, some more obvious than others.
Hoobadventure Is A Surprising Good Platformer When It Shouldn't Be
There are two game modes for each level, one being the "adventure mode" where players reach from Point A to Point B. Along the way, players can collect hidden feathers through fancy platforming. Collecting all five pieces nets the player with a gallery mode unlock and each level also has a bonus stage. The Time Trial mode is where Hoobadventure truly shines, as the player takes advantage of the Masupilami's speed. Levels that seemed to take a few minutes to complete can be conquered in less than a minute with proper pacing.
Overall, Marsupilami Hoobadventure is a peculiar game. Its level designs are impressive, everything flows together well, and the challenge is moderate. The chosen difficulties are unique to say the least. The game's "Difficult" mode simply takes a health point away from medium difficulty, from 3 to 2. Easy difficulty makes the player invulnerable to all types of damage except for bottomless pits. Perhaps there is hope for the failing "licenced game" genre that is plagued by Outright Games after all. Of course, I'm a firm believer in not being a firm believer, so I'll chalk this game up as an anomaly and nothing more.
Marsupilami Hoobadventure is available for the PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.