Written by  :  Nowhere Girl (3705)
Written on  :  Jan 12, 2014
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Something's missing, but it's not a bad game

The Good

The thing that really drew me towards this game was the graphics. The scenery is gorgeous, especially the purple night sky and lake. The style of this environment is closest to the one in the first Pajama Sam game ("No Need to Hide When it's Dark Outside"), but more detailed, less dark, with juicy colors and an atmosphere that is rather longing than uneasy. From the purely graphical point of view it's the best Pajama Sam game. However, it seems that the game doesn't have as many of the Humongous Entertainment trademark little animations revealed by clicking on objects, yet I wasn't able to test it very often due to a problem I will describe in "The Bad".
All Pajama Sam games feature "side quests" which are about collecting objects: the family's dirty socks in the first game, jigsaw puzzle pieces in the second, Chocamok box tops in the third and Pajama Man trading cards in this one. And this game's idea seems definitely the best. The descriptions of characters or items on these cards are often very funny (about the Portable Bad-Guy Containment Unit: "It works bests on the ones who are pretty small. But Pajama Man's strong enough that he can cram any bad guy in there if he wants to!") and offer some insight into the world of Pajama Man, which we only know through Sam trying to emulate his superhero idol. While I disagree with some Junior Adventures fans who write a separate Pajama Man game would be a great idea - in my opinion it's better when this character is deliberately vague, only known from Pajama Sam games - this still fragmentary glimpse of this comic book world is interesting and fun. It's even more funny to read that there were supposedly hundreds of Pajama Man issues...
These trading cards do of course require a bit of perceptiveness - all are visible, but some can be hard to notice - however, generally this time looking for collectables isn't too difficult. This was the problem of the first Pajama Sam game, where some of the socks were very hard to see, and, to make matters worse, some were found in the mine, on tracks where Sam and King just rushed through, so there was very little time to notice and grab them. In later games looking for these hidden objects became easier, more reasonable, and "Life is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff" continues this trend.
There are two minigames in the game - one is an extremely boring and easy game which consists of jumping on drawers to get to the top of a cabinet, however the other one is very good. It is a puzzle of the type "line up three or more objects of the same kind", Both minigames can also be accessed separately, but only after they were featured in the plot, which is an interesting idea.

The Bad

Still this game does have the "something's missing" atmosphere. The gameplay starts out quite vague and in facts remains rather boring during the whole game. In the previous Pajama Sam games there were always three or four well-defined tasks (even though in "Thunder and Lightning aren't so Frightening" Sam only learned them after he managed to get into the room where Thunder and Lightning work and accidentally pressed the red button), this time Sam starts his adventures only knowing that he has to find his comic book. He is told quickly that the comic book should be inside the mall, but only when he finds the mall he is told which items does he need to get inside. Even worse - this may be funny, but isn't too logical. The mall seems to have a kind of "decent clothes policy" and won't let someone wearing just a pajama in. However the other "kids" who want an autograph from Dr. Grime look like pieces of trash (generally, after "fear of the dark", "weather" and "food", "mess" seems to be the dominant theme of this game - anyway, the whole area looks like a cross between a beautiful landscape and a Sam's messy room magnified to huge proportions) and aren't wearing anything...
Gathering the objects requires much less tasks than for example in the second or third game, but more running around. The area, while graphically amazing, isn't very big. Looking at these lovely sceneries didn't bore me, but running around did. Generally - many objects are possible to get not through using other objects, but through "trigger events" - for example it's only possible to get the sponge from the fish tank after Sam finds the dirty horn and tries to play it.
The game's music is just boring. While Pajama Sam games aren't Humongous Entertainment's top achievement in terms of music (for example Putt-Putt games have better songs, such as "Topiary Creatures" from "Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo" or "Go, Putt-Putt, Go" from "Putt-Putt Enters the Race"), especially this time the music just falls in one ear and immediately falls out the other (I don't know if this metaphor if used in English-speaking countries, but it's graphic enough to give an idea of what it says about some music). The only exception is the dirty sock's quite emotional song.
However the biggest problems are the technical requirements, at least in case of my computer. "Life is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff", along with "Putt-Putt and Pep's Birthday Surprise", was made on a different game engine than the previous games. All SCUMM games work very well on my computer with the help of Scumm VM emulator. There is no problem with overheating even though my computer, being a laptop with quite a "crowded" disk, has a clear tendency to overheat. In case of "Life is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff" it's different. The requirements of the YAGA engine seem much higher. The game works very slowly, the computer heats up, so I repeatedly had to save and exit the game to keep my computer from overheating and shutting itself down (this is also why, as I said, I haven't been able to test the details and animations much - I rather just rushed through this game). Of course - it may be a matter of just me having a "weak" computer, however let's look at this in perspective: this game was made in 2003, my computer is younger. Isn't it an evidence of the engine's and the game's inherent flaw if the game doesn't run smoothly even on at least some modern computers?

The Bottom Line

This game, same as "Putt-Putt and Pep's Birthday Surprise", was made after the Atari takeover. Both (but especially the latter) are quite disliked among Humongous Entertainment and Junior Adventures fans. Sometimes I have the impression it's more "for principle", as if it was meant to show that "we the fans won't accept you the big company making changes to our favorite game developer". I believe this game is underrated - while it does have its flaws, its high graphical quality and the hilarious trading cards are enough to defend it as an OK game. However, the technical requirements are indeed a problem and in my case I will just look at the screenshots and play the nice minigame, any full replay will have to wait until I have a better computer (that is, not a laptop - laptops are good for me as a translator who sometimes needs to work in a library, but bad for me as a retro game fan...). The engine change - probably, unfortunately, pushed by Atari - is a typical case of "why mess with something that was working just fine?". The game would have been much better and much more enjoyable if "the missing thing" wasn't simply - the much better SCUMM engine.