He may be a relic of the days of mascot-based, 16-bit platformers, but Bonk is still fondly remembered among fans of the genre. When it was revealed that the Wii's Virtual Console would be capable of playing TurboGrafx-16 titles, the Turbo's three Bonk games were some of the most anticipated to hit the service. In recent years, there have been a couple half-hearted attempts to revive the little caveman with the large cranium, including a PS2/GameCube remake of the original Bonk's Adventure (which was never released outside of Japan) and a cell phone game.
Now, Hudson Soft is done messing around. Bonk: Brink of Extinction is a full-fledged sequel that sports 30 levels spread out over three interconnected worlds. Although platformers aren't typically noted for their intricate storylines, it's worth noting that Brink of Extinction has a slightly more epic tone than its predecessors. Usually, Bonk went up against his nemesis, the evil dinosaur King Drool, to rescue a dino princess or retrieve a stolen half of a moon. This time, King Drool is merely the boss of the second world -- Bonk must instead focus his attention on the giant meteor that is speeding towards Earth. This natural threat has placed the entire planet on the, as the subtitle says, brink of extinction.
Despite the slick 3D graphics, the gameplay is purely two dimensional. There's even a cute nod to Bonk's roots on the map screen, where you move Bonk's old school sprite around to choose which level you wish to enter.
Once you begin playing, you'll find that the gameplay is suitably Bonk-ish. As always, our hero's primary weapon is his oversized noggin, which is useful for, well, bonking enemy dinosaurs into oblivion. Due to this attack's limited range (you try getting decent reach with a headbutt), it's usually more effective to jump and attack, causing Bonk to slam head first onto his enemies. Of course, Bonk retains all of his other classic moves such as the ability to swim up waterfalls and scale the sides of rocky cliffs. While playing the demo that Hudson Soft showed us, it was a bit disappointing to see Bonk climb the cliffs with his hands instead of his classic method of using his teeth. Did some prehistoric dentist convince him that biting rock is not the most effective way of hanging onto it?
As always, Bonk gets powered up by chowing down on hunks of meat that are scattered throughout his world. He can also transform by collecting Primordial Jelly, which not only alters his appearance, but grants him new abilities as well. When Bonk sprouts an icy Mohawk, his resulting ice breath freezes enemies solid. His head can also burst open like a volcano, allowing him to shoot fireballs. By wearing a triceratops skull on his head, Bonk gains the ability to ram his enemies, knocking them aside. In all, there are eight different forms that Bonk can take throughout the adventure.
One of the more exciting features in Brink of Extinction is the co-op multiplayer mode. Although this isn't the first time simultaneous play has appeared in a Bonk title, the drop in/drop out nature of the mode allows a friend to jump into your game at any time. As it stands now, the action continues to follow the first player, so if the second player falls behind, he will be teleported back onto the screen.
Perhaps the best thing that I can say about Bonk: Brink of Extinction is that it feels true to the Bonk series. The control currently feels a tad sluggish, but the mechanics are still being tweaked. If the game continues to shape up as it appear to be, Bonk fans will soon have good cause to resume head banging.