Call me isolated, but for almost two decades I had no idea the classic platformer Wonderboy for the Commodore 64 was actually ported from an arcade game. While I knew the same was licensed from Sega and written by Activision, it wasn’t until just a few years ago when I happened across a Wonder Boy cartridge for the Sega Master System that I realized the game was released for multiple systems!
Wonderboy was released during the flood of platformers that followed Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros., and while the game doesn’t contain the depth of hidden objects nor the iconic hero of the Mario games, it’s still a great platformer that I played the heck out of for many months.
The game’s mechanics should be familiar to fans of platformers. There are two basic types of enemies, those which take away from your Vitality meter (like rocks) and those which kill you instantly (most animals, rolling boulders, fire, and more). Your Vitality meter also acts as a timer and is continually being depleted, but it can be restored by eating any of the snacks (from bananas to banana splits!) you come across. There are also giant yellow eggs that can be busted open to reveal weapons, guardian angels, skateboards, tomahawks, and other goodies to help Wonderboy in his quest. Throughout the levels are hidden cupie dolls, each of which will have to eventually be collected in order to fight the final boss.
Since the C64 is limited to one joystick-button, jumping is done by pressing diagonal on the stick. Holding down your stick’s fire button makes you run faster, and after picking up throwing axes the fire button throws them too.
Wonderboy contains everything that made the classic 2D platformers of the mid-1980’s great. The Commodore 64 was designed to deliver colors, graphics, sound effects and music such as this. The whimsical enemies (from whirling natives to jumping octopi) are as cute as they are deadly, and the game’s platform designs are both challenging and entertaining.