There is a very clear influence of Mario in the TurboGrafx-16 classic Bonk's Revenge. It doesn't play much like Mario, but the influence is there. Bonk's Revenge uses the same type of open-ended world design as most Mario games, in which you are practically encouraged by the game to use every device offered to you to explore every corner of every level. Doing so often results in rewards like new paths, bonuses, and the occasional secret. Bonk's Revenge is not a particularly long game, but trying to go through every level, uncovering every bell and whistle, can keep a hardcore gamer occupied for many happy hours.
Hardcore gamers who know Bonk, the cuddly cave-dweller of prehistory, know him as the face NEC tried to associate with their doomed effort to take the video game market away from Nintendo and Sega. He starred in a series of excellent platformers which hold their own against Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. But Sonic raced through his games like an insane cheetah on a Mountain Dew binge and Mario moved at the pace of a brisk winter wind. Bonk just kind of merrily plods along through his games, stopping to smell every rose in his path. There's a perception among many people which says that slow-paced games don't work. But Bonk's Revenge, which is likely among the slowest platformers of the Silver Era, works precisely because it moves slowly. Between the pacing and the level layouts, you're able to move around on every possible path, taking advantage of the slow pace in order to flesh everything you can out of any given level. And no matter how many times you do it, it never gets old.
Bonk's Revenge introduces us to King Drool III. Apparently the original King Drool from Bonk's Adventure was truly defeated, and there's already a King Drool III there to take up his mantle. King Drool III deserves a little bit of credit for not going after the royal family's daughter, Princess Za, like his grandpa did. Drool III has a more grandiose plan than that: He splits Moonland, Princess Za's home, in half. It's up to Bonk to wander through seven levels to the King's court and head-butt Drool III to death. Depending on whether you choose the beginner, intermediate, or hard mode, your fight against King Drool III will respectively take you through one, three, or seven levels. Each level has a handful of sub-levels.
Bonk's Revenge is considerably easier than Bonk's Adventure. The primary reason for this is because the enemies don't rush at you in a stream. Bonk's most prevalent foes this time around are the Chikkuns. While Bonk's Adventure gave us palette-swapped Chikkuns, Bonk's Revenge provides you with a whole array of Chikkuns who do different things. Many of those things are harmless. In this game, Bonk faces napping Chikkuns, fishing Chikkuns, and a whole slew of others who are only threats by merit of their inconvenient placement. Other enemies serve their purpose much more usefully, but you won't be challenged outright until later in the game. The fifth level doesn't even have a boss.
If you're the type of person who likes to play vintage games to see how far he can run up the score counter, Bonk's Revenge will be your paradise. Even though the head-juggling technique which allowed you to repeatedly bounce an enemy off your head for extra points has been axed, the replacement ways to earn an extra 50 or 100 are very prevalent and provide a virtually unlimited source of points. At various locations, flowers will rain down on Bonk with no apparent source or reason, and you'll get points for picking them up. Many spots throughout the various levels will produce items just for hitting them. There's junk food which Bonk can pick up, and fruit which will not only run up the score counter but replenish Bonk's health. All of these things are available virtually everywhere in the game. And if you do manage to collect every bonus item in a level, you still might not be done because certain spots in some levels force Bonk to head-butt his way through stacks of rocks or crates. When you do this, there is a good chance that a destroyed rock or crate will yield another bonus item – and bonus items frequently include extra lives!
The little yellow smiley faces from the first game also return, and this time they serve a higher purpose than just netting a level-end bonus. In Bonk's Revenge, if you manage to collect a certain number of smiley faces, you'll get to ride a train at the end of the level which contains power-ups to get ready for the next level. If you manage to collect 50 smilies, Princess Za will appear and warp Bonk past the next level. The train is worse than it sounds, though. First off, the game doesn't have a train for people who get between 40 and 50 smiley faces. Secondly, you don't get to choose the train you ride, no matter how many smilies you collect. This can be devastating if you get 50 smilies but don't really want to skip the following level. It makes you limit yourself, which can be tricky even though the game tells you how many smiley faces you've collected in the level so far whenever you pause it. Unlike its predecessor, Bonk's Revenge doesn't give out smiley faces from defeated foes. He has to find them lying around the levels or in bonus rounds.
Bonk's Revenge contains one of the oddest gameplay features I've ever seen. Whenever Bonk hits a wall with his head, it makes him bounce off it. I'm really not sure what to make of this. There is a move in the game, the Triangle Jump, which relies on this. But it seems a little odd to me to base something which affects the game this much around a move which you really don't use a whole lot. It means you have to be very careful in some areas to keep Bonk from flying backwards. There are a few bonuses in narrow pits which can only be gained using the Triangle Jump, but making every wall in the game out of rubber can change someone's playing style in counterproductive ways. There are some moments, in fact, where you'll head-butt a wall by accident and be surprised when Bonk is thrown back a little. This doesn't cause a huge problem, but it can be a pain sometimes.
The levels vary widely. In some, you have to swim up waterfalls. In others, you swim through pools. The last level is a gauntlet which takes you through a water tunnel, a tunnel with conveyor belts, a tunnel in which enemies pop up out of nowhere, and a rather standard tunnel. They can be tackled in any order. All of the levels contain fun secrets and goodies which ensure that those looking to gather everything will be staying in them for a good long time. Best of all is that Bonk's new arsenal includes an ability which is universally useful no matter what video game it's in – flying. With a propeller sprout, Bonk can take to the air, which opens up the game in incredible ways. Even the boss chambers have unique designs, instead of a generic chamber for every boss.
The graphics have changed from the first game. While his trademark oversized skull is still his dominant feature, Bonk looks more proportioned than he did in Bonk's Adventure. The chikkun army has some inspired new outfits instead of the generic palette swap it wore in the first game. The animation is mostly basic, but the scenery is impressive and colorful and the character designs are some of the most inspired I've ever seen.
The audio department doesn't fare as well as it did in the first game. There's a greater variety of music, but at least a third of the tracks are downright annoying. The boss music hasn't changed one bit, and Bonk's Revenge does it a great disservice by removing the pleasantly amusing elevator music you hear while descending into the boss chamber. The sounds are a real weakness. There's too much popping, exploding, and spinning going on. There effort apparent, but it's all for naught.
The gameplay is generally better than it was in the last game. Bonk can turn around easier than he did before, and his jumps come off a lot smoother. But his spin jump move has lost a lot of its speed and range. It's still useful, but you can no longer use it as a substitute for flying. The control of his spin jump isn't as tight as it originally was, and fans of the first game will quickly learn that it isn't the all-purpose way to fight when in doubt about what to do. They will also learn that Bonk doesn't quite go fast enough now to deflect every shot that flies at him. He'll be hit and knocked out of the spin jump fairly frequently.
Bonk's Revenge is a game which falls on my must-emulate-or-download list. It's a little gem from the Silver Era just begging to be dug up.