Guild Wars 2 Goes Retro with the Super Adventure Box

Guild Wars 2's newest content is entertaining and adorable--and probably not what you were expecting.

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Guild Wars 2 has always focused on jumping and hopping about far more than the average online role-playing game. But with the its newest content update, the Super Adventure Box, the game finally takes a final leap into the realm of 3D platforming--but perhaps not quite in the way you may have expected. For within this box of fantastical but finite wonder, you find not a typical Tyrian landscape, but a level seemingly ripped from an old-school platformer.

Of course, this old-fashioned platformer is played in three dimensions, and stars you and your party’s fully-modeled characters. A haughty Asuran named Moto introduces you to the virtual-world-within-a-virtual-world contained within his marvelous Adventure Box, and once inside, you can’t help but momentarily gawk at the fully formed pixelated world within. The jagged grass textures, blocky character models, and adorable chiptune music recall Super Mario World or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s no surprise, then, when the evil Lord Vanquish arrives, and steals away the peaceful princess from the picnic to which she invited you. But the road to her rescue is not paved with typical MMOG combat. No--you will do most of your damage with an extra-special pointy stick granted just for the occasion.

You use that stick to beat up on dog-faced bees, breakdancing spiders, and other block-headed foes that threaten your journey. Bunnies, too, supply some surprising danger: should you slay enough, a tornado made up entirely of rabbits rises from the ground and spins after you, leaving clouds of pixelated dust in its wake. (And yes, it’s as adorably frightening as it sounds.) Combat isn’t the Super Adventure Box’s focus, however; the majority of this three-level trek consists of platforming--platforming across bouncy mushrooms, winding branches, and snapping alligators (which require a swift blow with your pointy stick to keep them in line).

Like the rest of Guild Wars 2, the Super Adventure Box requires you to leap onto ledges so narrow they wouldn’t seem to be platforms at all, but if you give such ledges your complete trust, you shouldn’t find most of the jumping to be a hassle. Yet some of the level design will test your hand-eye coordination. Sinking lily pads and hungry venus flytraps ensure that you time your leaps properly and avoid the poisonous miasma that flows at the bottom of the final level. Your rewards for navigating through such treacherous paths are the box’s final bosses, which aren’t that challenging, but require that you pay attention to their tells, lest you die and be forced to use a continue coin or respawn at the level’s beginning.

If you aren’t into Guild Wars 2’s platforming, that’s fine: just play on Infantile mode, which bridges gaps with rainbows and smiling baby clouds, creating lots of bright smiles on your face, and little of the frustration that could arise from jumping. Sadly, playing on Infantile also means fewer rewards during your journey. Most everything you do nets you baubles, which you can spend in the box’s little shops on items like keys (open up treasure chests!), torches (burn dangerous foliage!), shovels (dig in random spots, and you might find something cool!), and the like. But you can also turn those baubles in for bauble bubbles (get it?), which you can cash in with Moto to receive solid-holographic weapon skins to show off in Guild Wars 2’s ever-excellent player-versus-player combat.

The Super Adventure Box will be available, free of charge, all through April, and it’s just as charming as can be. The chirpy hoots of monkeys, the pixelated interface elements, and the way you can pick up a shopkeeper’s table and use it to bash snakes wearing sailor hats--they're just too alluring to ignore. Guild Wars 2’s latest content may not be what you thought you wanted, but once you experience it, you just may change your chiptune.

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