Pole’s Big Adventure plays like a bare bones NES game. You control a cowboy and shoot poachers that only attack by attempting to run into Pole. Sega’s WiiWare game takes a dose of inspiration from Super Mario Brothers especially because Koopa Troopers make an appearance in the beach level. Unlike a certain famous plumber Pole doesn’t bounce on the heads of his enemies. He shoots them with a rifle since Pole is, you know, a cowboy. At first the rifle only reaches a quarter of the screen. After picking up a few power up icons Pole’s gun turns into a three way spread shot that extends to the end of the screen. This also happens to be Pole’s most powerful weapon.
I originally thought Pole’s Big Adventure was going to be a nightmarish mess of deathtraps. While Pole is a frail, one hit of anything kills him, the game is a breeze. Once you upgrade the gun to the spread shot you can waste anything in your path. And Sega didn’t design Pole’s Big Adventure with puzzles or overly complicated jumps so you don’t need to worry much about falling into pits. Most boss fights are a piece of cake too.
The first major fight is against a lion that runs left then right and occasionally jumps to mix things up. Standard NES stuff, but the lion never reaches the left side of the screen. If your gun is fully charged up you can hug the left edge and win without a problem. The second boss, an anaconda that spits poachers wearing snake hats, is just as easy. Stand on the left side of the screen and shoot. The only boss you might have trouble with is the polar bear which has the invincible pattern of lunging forward with its fists and then jumping all the way to the left side of the screen. Gasp!
If you miss one aggravating joke you can beat Pole’s Big Adventure under an hour. However, the point of Pole’s Big Adventure isn’t “beating” the game’s six worlds and rescuing Sharon who starts out as a woman, but eventually morphs into other things like a dog wearing a striped sweater and a burly man. The real “goal” (and I use that term loosely) of the game is to collect 100 jokes hidden in the levels. Did you see gameplay videos where text flies on screen and an announcer steps in to explain the gag? Those segments look like they are edited into the trailer when they are really part of the game. When you reach a gag text pops on the screen and an announcer talks, in Japanese of course, out of your TV speakers or Wii Remote.
Some of the jokes are hard to find. To get one of them you have to intentionally jump into a pit. Instead of dying Pole is rescued by a rising music stage with flashing lights and a microphone. Not all of the gags will make you laugh, but they will catch your attention and maybe make you scratch your head. Another group of “gags” intentionally and temporarily change the rules of the game. Slowdown when more than five enemies show up and glitchy sprites are some examples I mentioned before.
These effects don’t even last a full level and in the case of slowdown it happens for less than thirty seconds. The ‘bugs” occur in the same place too so on your second playthrough you expect them instead of being surprised. Being surprised is what makes Pole’s Big Adventure neat to play. You know the rules of 8-bit games. Pole’s Big Adventure follows them for the most part and then suddenly breaks them once you feel comfortable. Here’s another example: Pole has no problem leaping off high platforms, but without warning one landing snaps Pole’s leg which makes him limp through the rest of the stage.
Some of other “WTF” moments include scrolling the credits during a level, placing the end of the stage right at the start of the level, and an empty level which ends up being a marathon complete with people cheering you as you reach the castle.
I picked this pun as an example since I’m sure the savvy Siliconera crowd knows a UFO Catcher is another name for a crane machine. Joe gamer may not get this and just stare at the screen baffled. Since Pole’s Big Adventure is more of an experience than a game of skill I really wonder if Sega USA will localize something where one of the highlights is a volcano that explodes with toilet paper rolls, tissue boxes, and boots instead of lava. Yeah, Pole’s Big Adventure is just that wacky.
Images courtesy of Sega.