My wrist has recovered enough to allow me to play two-handed games again! I’m playing a few at the moment, but I’m not ready to write about them yet, so I wasn’t sure what to post about. Then I played Moustache King Adventure.

Moustache King Adventure was an entry in the latest A Game By Its Cover competition, in which developers must make a game based on a fake game cartridge (in this case, it was this cartridge). The first A Game By Its Cover competition was hosted over at Tigsource (an indie games site run by Derek Yu, of Spelunky fame), and brought us such classics as Cat Poke and Under the Garden (which is, incidentally, getting a full-blown sequel called Under the Ocean). It seems that the A Game By Its Cover competition has since spun out on its own, with a dedicated website and everything. In this second contest, entrants had one month to make their games from scratch, so most of the games are simple and short. Moustache King Adventure is no exception, but it’s an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. It also has 400% more moustaches than the average game.

While playing I was reminded of a joking comment a friend of mine made after watching a kung fu film: “That’s how it was in ancient China: the Emperor was the one with the best kung fu, and it just went down from there.” Moustache King Adventure is like that, except instead of kung fu, it’s moustaches. And also kung fu.

It opens with a young boy in an ice cream shop, being served a sumptuous scoop of ice cream. But then, a man wearing a crown and opulent robes, and sporting a magnificent moustache, enters the shop: the Moustache King. The shopkeeper immediately takes the boy’s ice cream back, and gives it to the King. You see, by the laws of the moustachracy, he who has the greatest moustache will be the Moustache King, and the Moustache king can have whatever he wants. Cut to ten years later, and the boy has become a young man who’s grown a moustache of his own. He sets off on an adventure to challenge the reigning moustache noblemen, and eventually the Moustache King himself.

The game takes the form of an exploration platformer, with an art style reminiscent of the 16-bit console era. You must traverse the countryside, traveling from town to town, fighting off the moustache jellies in the wilderness and challenging the moustache nobles in their castles. Challenges are resolved through old-fashioned fisticuffs, and eventually more varied combat moves as your moustache (and therefore your kung fu) improves.

At first, I thought the game was simpler than it is. It’s easy to miss things given the way the towns are constructed; pay careful attention to spots that you can enter (by pressing up) as these often lead to huge new areas that are quite useful to explore. It wasn’t until farther in the game that I realized the main method of increasing my dashing young man’s health, because I hadn’t fully explored the first town before I went wandering off. In fact, the opening of the game is probably the worst part, when your character has low health and only a short-range punch attack that suffers from imprecise hit-boxes on enemies. These niggles are the main evidence that the game was created in only one month, but after persevering I found a surprising depth. Despite its brevity, Moustache King Adventure manages to offer a genuine sense of exploration and a set of varied boss encounters, each with a trick to learn. At no point did I feel that sections were rushed or incomplete, and even the generic moustache jellies were much more interesting to fight after I’d amassed more combat moves.

Sure, mechanically it’s a little rough, but it condenses the exploration platformer experience down to just a few hours, has a good sense of humor, and features plenty of excellent moustaches. What more do you need?

You can download Moustache King Adventure for free here. May your moustache triumph over adversity.