History has been unkind to the TurboGrafx-16. As the third system in a three-way war against the Genesis and the Super Nintendo, it didn't receive a ton of software support, and it's easy to see why it never really took hold in North America. But that's not to say that the TG-16 didn't have its high points. It even had its own mascot who was ready, willing, and able to do battle with Mario and Sonic. Bonk is a kidlike caveman with a gigantic head that he can use to bash stuff. You use that head in Bonk's Adventure, a basic 2D platformer that helped define NEC's not-quite-16-bit platform. The game's charm shines through, even after all these years. But this game is so short and simple that it's hard to justify paying the 600 Wii points it'll take to get it from Nintendo's Virtual Console service.
Bonk's your typical run-to-the-right 2D platformer, though there's not a huge focus on jumping over bottomless pits or anything like that. Instead, the game throws a lot of enemies at you, and you can take them out using your head. On the ground, hitting the attack button causes Bonk to head-butt. In the air, hitting it causes Bonk to spin around and drop head first, letting you dive onto enemies. If you hit the attack button again while in the air, Bonk will right himself and land on his feet. But all this spinning has the additional benefit of slowing your descent. So by hitting the button over and over again--or, more correctly, by using the turbo-fire functionality built into the TG-16 that's been faithfully duplicated by the Wii--you can glide in the air. You'll constantly be floating downward, but since your rapid head-spinning makes you a floating weapon, it's possible to bang into enemies, take them out, and launch off of them to gain some more air and keep on gliding. This makes many of the game's already-short levels really easy, since you can glide through 90 percent of them, avoiding contact with most enemies along the way. Bonk has a series of hearts that serve as his life meter, and it can grow if you find the proper power-ups. The other big power-up in the game is meat. Bonk, as a caveman, obviously loves meat. Finding two small meats or one big meat makes Bonk blow his top, go absolutely insane, and become totally invincible for a bit. After that, he stays in a somewhat enraged state. Inexplicably, diving into the ground head first while Bonk is in his meaty rage will cause all the enemies to freeze for a few seconds.
There are multiple worlds in Bonk's Adventure, and each one has a different number of levels in it. For some weird reason, the fourth world only has one really short level in it before you face its boss. Each world ends with a boss fight against a dinosaur that's been made evil by an eggshell that's latched onto its head. So you need to bonk their heads until the shell cracks, freeing them from their lifetime of servitude and revealing their amazing haircuts. Seriously, these dinosaurs should get together and start an indie rock band with hair like that. There are six worlds in the game, the final one pitting you against the game's boss, the evil King Drool. Nothing about the game is terribly difficult, and most players should be able to breeze through the entire game in a couple of hours. If you run out of lives, you can continue from the start of the world you were currently in.
Graphically, Bonk's Adventure didn't really look on par with the 16-bit games that were the norm at its time of release, but the game does have a real sense of charm to it that helps it a great deal. All the little dinosaurs and creatures you fight along the way look really nice, and Bonk himself is a likable character. The soundtrack is a little basic, and the sound of Bonk flipping around in the air for minutes at a time may drive you totally crazy, but it's all still OK, too. This is a pretty accurate emulation of the TG-16 original, though the game looks a little bit blurrier than the other Virtual Console releases.
Bonk's brevity and ease make it a tough sell, even for $6 bucks. But if you're curious about what the TurboGrafx-16 could do, or if you already have a soft spot for Bonk, it's still a fun little platformer.