Toonstruck

From Virgin and Burst

Brief Description

You are Drew Blanc, cartoonist. In the opening movie, you get sucked into an animated world, and you are immediately confronted with the problems of that world. You were having a pretty rotten day in the real world, and things don't seem to be getting much better in this animated one.

The world is divided into three areas. There is Cutopia, where cuteness rules. Indeed, it does so with such force that this section could use a force 5 saccharine alert. There is Zanydu, which is much like any cartoon land and finally there are the Malevolands. These is where all things foul and nasty congregate.

The cast for the game is excellent. Christopher Lloyd is Drew Blanc, the only real person in the cartoon world. Count Nefarious, described in the game book as "ruling the dark and sadistic side of the world with a lethal combination of terror and sarcasm", is admirably played by Tim Curry (who makes being evil sound like so much fun). Dan Castellaneta is Drew's sidekick, Flux Wildly, and he gets some really great lines in the game. The cast is filled out with another 10 people, 8 of whom provide the bulk of the voices of the cartoon characters. They have done a most impressive job with their work. The dialogue of the game is frequently quite a lot of fun.

The cartoon world that you have been drawn into is very nice and detailed. Cut scene animations are used to show critical scenes that Drew Blanc has no control over. Otherwise, Drew (real) stands inside this animated world. You have the power to move him to any spot in a room too, the game doesn't have one or two selected areas where the characters are allowed to stand. Drew moves around a bit (rock back and forth on his heels, etc.) if you leave him standing in one place too long. I find this much more realistic than games like Gabriel Knight 2 where Gabriel stands perfectly still until you ask him to move again. This can also be very impressive, to see Drew shuffling around when he's partially hidden by a foreground cartoon object is quite a technical feat.

The music for the game must have taken some time to select. You have cute music for Cutopia, silly music (and sound effects) for Zanydu and the ominous music for the Malevolands (and places that have been hit by Nefarious.) I do wish that the computer games had more of a tendency to give credit for music. You should give credit where credit is due, and they have definitely used a bit of the William Tell Overture, I believe I noticed some Nutcracker Suite, and at least one other piece of music I know but can't name offhand. Still, the music varies from good to excellent. You can individually set the volume levels for voices, music and sound effects, which is always a good idea for a computer game.

Game play

Like many graphic adventure games, the cursor changes as you roll over certain spots. The question is what are you supposed to do with that spot when you find it. The cursor gives you some indication of what you are allowed to do, there is a magnifier for 'look', a hand for 'use' etc.

Toonstruck goes back to some old fashion adventure playing in one respect. You should travel everywhere you can get to and look around carefully. Pick up all loose items on the way. Many of the puzzles require a sequence of steps to solve, and having a good idea what items can be found where is the best way to start solving them. I have found that most puzzles are not too difficult, and the worst of the ones I have found require some time spent away from the game. By the time I get back to it, I've thought of the solution.

If you can't solve a puzzle yet, it may be that you need to solve some others things first. It is a long time into the game before you are able to redeem King Hugh's costume voucher and you need to solve a number of puzzles first.

Saved games are placed on a film strip. The current scene is reduced in size by a large factor then placed in the film strip. You can then type in a few words to describe the save. The second is a great idea, the pictures are so reduced in size that it can be a bit difficult to tell where you were.

Death is not a problem in this game. At a critical time in the game, you might have died except for something Nefarious did. Also the game doesn't have any of those critical timing puzzles where you have to be very very fast. Those times where timing is important, you usually get several tries at the puzzle. In fact, as far as I can tell, there are no penalties for failing as many times as it takes until you do get the timing right.

Gripes about the game

The game is just a bit buggy. I've had it crash at least four claiming a lack of memory problem. Given I have 16 meg. and that the game can go for hours without crashing, I suspect that occasionally there is a problem with the game not freeing up memory as it ought to. Actually, the consistent problem is that I've almost but not quite set-up the solution for a puzzle. If I try certain things before the solution is quite right, the game crashes. Save often if you aren't sure about how to solve a puzzle.

Conclusion

Great cast, good dialogue, some interesting ideas. Game play is a bit on the short side, or can be if you are attuned to the clues in the game. I finished it in 5 days, with frequent stops to play other games. Naturally, this is a 'your milage may vary' situation. I'd highly recommend it for beginning adventure game players. For people used to adventure games, this is an enjoyable bit of light fluff. I doubt the puzzles in it will give you much pause, but the game itself has many endearing moments.

Many of the cut sequences are hilarious. Christopher Lloyd gets to overact act when hypnotised by the cat. The sequence of Seedy's bowling technique, or getting Jim out of the gym are very funny. If you seriously dislike cartoon violence, you should stay well away from this.

Talk about obvious, we are thinking about making a sequel ending. This one is the most obvious yet. My question is, will it be harder or just as light and fluffy?

Some final thoughts on the game.

Perhaps next time, Virgin could double check the spelling of names on the back of the box. It is not a good idea to have mispelt someone's name in general, and having it on the outer container doesn't look terribly professional. It may just be the European version of the box, but I also don't like the picture. Spike the clown (and friends) are animations, not whatever it is they've used for the box.

Nefarious is a wonderful evil guy but his henchmen certainly leave you wondering if Nefarious is the only capable toon in Malevolands. The first guard you need to defeat in the castle is equally ridiculous.

It can be worthwhile for the silliness of it all to let guards catch you a couple of times in Nefarious's castle. Every time you end up back at the prison, Snout is taking new precautions to prevent your escape. There are at least two things he'll try if you end up back there. There may be more, I've only been caught twice.

A much harder but equally funny adventure game is Discworld based on Terry Pratchett's novels. Sam and Max Hit the Road may also appeal to you. Also Monkey Island though that one isn't as easy to find these days.

At least once in everyone's life, they should listen to the William Tell Overture. You'll recognise more of it than you think.


Last update 31 December 1996

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This review is copyright © by Lynn J. Alford (more about the author). Send mail lynn.alford@deletethis.gmail.com.


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