Toonstruck

Moby ID: 518
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Description official descriptions

Toonstruck is a point-and-click adventure in the style of Monkey Island series. It uses a one-icon system, and the protagonist is a motion-captured actor against an animated environment.

Like an adventure game in the Roger Rabbit style. Drew Blanc, the main character, is played by Christopher Lloyd, whom you may know as the professor in Back to the Future and Fester in The Addams Family movies. He ventures through the animated world consisting of very weird cartoon characters. The land is being overrun by an evil doctor, and you, as Drew, must stop him.

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Credits (DOS version)

313 People (260 developers, 53 thanks) · View all

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  • Nelvana
  • Rainbow Animation
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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 84% (based on 25 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 65 ratings with 2 reviews)

Not the classic it strives to be, but an enjoyable, great-looking game all the same

The Good
Quite possibly the most impressive voice cast ever assembled (to date) for a computer game,

There are some great characters – most notably, the wonderfully camp Carecrow; as well as the rude octopus who owns the arcade; Jim and Woof - the Wacme vendors who love to test their ultra-violent devices out on each other; and Snout the dungeon guard, who’s allergic to just about everything you’d expect to find in a dungeon! The characters are often laugh-out-loud, and the veteran performers voice them superbly.

The graphics are lovely looking, and truly haven’t dated at all. At worse, Lloyd does look a little static at times, but considering complexities of mixing live-action with a computer-generated cartoon, it’s completely forgivable. And there are some incredible, TV-quality cut-scenes at various points during the proceedings, again mixing live-action Lloyd with the cartoon world, that have to be seen to be believed.

The first disk takes you through the “cute” Cutopia, the wacky land of Zanydu, and the dark, eerie Malevolands, as you search for the various items you need. The second disk is practically a separate sequel to the first disk, with Drew separated from side-kick Flux, and trapped in Nefarious’ castle. The second disk is a smaller play-area to explore than the first, and the plot is not focused as much, but there’s still some fun to be had.

The music and in-game sound effects are excellent (actually, the majority of them are stock sounds that can be heard in many a TV cartoon). And very impressive how the music fades seamlessly from one tune to the next as you enter a different location.

Oh, and don’t be fooled by the cutesy start into thinking it’s a kid’s game, there are several “crap”s, “asshole”s, and “basterd”s thrown in, and some elements (such as the bondage-loving cow) will even make some more mature players blush!

The ending is nothing short of a blatant set-up for a sequel, which was never made. A shame really, as there was still more mileage to be had from the concept.

Technical-wise, I didn’t have any trouble running it under Windows 95, unlike similar adventure games, though it did crash out of memory on older machines.

**The Bad**
Well… how do I say this...

There’s great characters, great ideas, great just about everything. But something’s just lacking.
It’s almost as if they tried TOO hard. On hindsight, it seemed to me that there were actually TOO MANY things thrown in to the game, making it rather cramped, and not giving the better bits full space to flourish. Characters such as the aforementioned Carecrow are great, but with him and %99 of the other characters (and places) in the game, it’s a case of solving one puzzle involving them, and that’s it. Tthey’re there one minute, but as soon as you’ve solved there relevant puzzle, that’s the last you’ll see or need most of them for the entire game.

The “cutesy” bit in the early stages of the game is maybe a little TOO cutesy and childish, and may put some players off. The designers would have done better to slim this right down (or even eliminate it completely) and expand Zanydu, the “wacky” land, much more. And mid-way through the second disk, in Nefarious’ castle, things verge on feeling a little dragged (and a little empty without side-kick Flux) – they might have done better with ending the story at the end of Disk 1 and expanding the things seen in that half.

As I said, the animations are extremely well done, but a couple of them – notably the VERY long one at the start of the second disk, maybe are a little TOO long – after 6 minutes or so (yes, really!) you wish they’d just hurry up so you can get back to the game!

The game has a huge number of save slots, with a mini-screen shot and space to type a note of where you are, which is great; but the game doesn’t default to your most recent save, leaving you trawling through old saves until you find the right one.

The game runs fairly happily on my all-singing, all-dancing Pentium, but back when I originally played it on my 486, it crashed occasionally due to lack of memory.

One other thought – no dying. Now I don’t like dying every 2 footsteps in adventure games, but a cartoon land – such potential for so many gloriously cartoony gruesome deaths. A missed opportunity.

Oh, and one other thing. The US had a different cover, but here in the UK, the cover certainly did no favours in selling the game, and does it no justice at all.

**The Bottom Line**
I could never decide on my overall conclusion of this game. I had a great time playing it, but the overall feeling I got was that it tried TOO HARD to be a classic. Too many ideas crammed in, and the cutesy bit in the early stages of the game do it no real favors.
But it’s an excellent game with some amazing graphics, and some very amusing characters and dialogue. If you’re a keen adventure player who enjoys the LucasArts / Sierra adventures, then Toonstruck is well worth a play.

DOS · by Jayson Firestorm (143) · 2002

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" guest starring "Doc"

The Good
Remember "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" The movie had this sequence in which Bob Hoskins instead of dealing with cartoon characters in the real world actually travelled to the "Toon World" and had to make sense of the weird rules and stuff in there. Well, Toonstruck is the adventure-game version of exactly that. Playing as the down-on-his-luck illustrator Drew Blanc (perfectly casted as the eternal crazy scientist Christopher Lloyd) you get zapped Tron-style into the cartoon kingdom of "Cutopia" which is in dire need of a champion. Some evil force has created a machine that is twisting the nice landscapes and inhabitants of Cutopia into dark versions of themselves, and you have to put a stop to that by finding the pieces for a machine that will have the opposite effect with the help of a mostly annoying cartoon sidekick named Flux.

Divided into two separate parts, the game takes you through several varied locations filled with sight gags and obscure references, and while it initially seems that the game is far too cutie-cutie, the game manages to balance the sugar coated Cutopia with such locations as the chaotic Zanydu and the dark and twisted transformations that take place every now and then thanks to the bad guy's machine (including the famous cow that gets turned into an S&M maniac!) thus putting some adult stuff into the mix. As for the game itself, it plays as your average point 'n click adventure game in which you control a context-sensitive pointer that allows Drew to pick up, open, operate and use stuff in the gameworld. Nothing new here but considering it works as good as ever, there's no reason to bitch about.

If there is an area where the game excells at however, is in the production values. The graphics are very well made, combining really good hand-drawn backgrounds and characters with the digitized Lloyd for a particularly well made effect. This "digitized character over artificial backgrounds" stuff isn't something that always comes off nice, but Toonstruck manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of the technique (such as the overly stiff characters) and the end result is pretty good. As for the character animation the game doubles as a particularly impressive showcase of cel-animation, as you can appreciate in the spectacular cutscenes sprinkled all over the game as well as in the main game, they truly capture the style of the classic Tex Avery-inspired over-exagerated toons and are a sight to behold for anyone that loves this kind of animation (and who doesn't?). Soundwise, the game is no slouch either, with a full cast of animation veterans behind the voice acting and the most complete collection of classic "toon music" (think "Dance of the Swords", etc.) ever assembled for a game that will instantly take the player back to the days when he watched the good old WB cartoons in front of the TV.

The Bad
The comedy writing is pretty much oriented towards the "watch nasty stuff happen to small furry animals" kinda comedy, which has it's charms but gets pretty old fast. This coupled with a collection of illogical and wacky puzzles that often frustrate the player leaves you with a game that ends up being substantially less fun than it could have been.

The story itself is functional enough, but it starts to loose it's direction by the second half of the game in which you lose your cartoon sidekick and which basically ditches the plot if favor of a "get out of the haunted castle" scenario. The ending is left wide open either because they ran out of money to complete the game or because they were hoping for a sequel that never got made. And finally, there are some clocking issues with today's machines which require you to use a slowdown utility if you want to play the game in anything past Pentiums 2-3 class processors.

The Bottom Line
Too ambitious? Who knows... Toonstruck is an above-average adventure game whose flaws are born mostly from lack of direction. With a tighter story and a less ambitious scope (the game sets out to be end-all, be-all cartoon adventure) this game could have been a classic of the genre. But as it stands today it's merely a cult hit due mostly to the fantastic animation it has. If only for that, collectors and adventure fans should seek it out, everyone else on the other hand can pass it.

DOS · by Zovni (10504) · 2005

Discussion

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stew pot jacob post Feb 17, 2010

Trivia

Controversy

The game apparently caused a bit of controversy in Poland upon its release. The following passage (translated from Polish to English) comes from a review of the game, published in the "Reset" magazine (May 1997 issue, p. 57):

Well, the same people who created those perfect puzzles, graphics and sound decided to have some hardcore fun when designing the game's box and instruction cover. There is an unpleasant-looking clown drawn on them, who is sticking a pin into his smaller colleague's eye. Brrr... makes you shiver. The whole affair caused quite a stir in the media, among others "Gazeta Wyborcza" [one of Poland's most prominent newspapers] wrote a lot about it.

This refers to the European box art, which does indeed depict a creepy clown (Spike, a minor character in the game), sticking a pin into the eye of a balloon animal (not a living creature - but at first glance it's easy to mistake it for a real animal.)

Development

The project began in October '93 and was completed over three years later in November '96. The total cost of production: over $8 million. The animation was produced at unnecessarily high levels of sophistication, exceeding even Disney movie quality. However, only 35% of this animation made it into the finished game. The game's engine was based off of Westwood's Kyrandia series' engine, and required the project's team to spend an extra 18 months ironing out bugs and glitches.

German version

The creators of the German version of the game did wonders by translating the many typically English jokes into German. Still, many jokes seem extremely artificial in the German version, simply because they are based entirely on the English language and cannot be translated. A good example is the whole first part of the game, where you have to gather items to put in the machine in the castle. All those items and the slots to place them correctly are based on typically English sayings and proverbs. They tried to translate the whole thing into German, but the result was, of course, unsatisfying. There is also one character in the game who talks with various accents of the English language. The German version makes them talk with Dutch and Swiss accent. They even translated some names, for example, Drew Blank became "Mal Block".

Media

Some early publicity for Toonstruck stated that it would come on three CDs; when the game was released, it was on two CDs. (Whether the game was condensed right down to fit on two, or the information was simply an early estimate / typographical error is unknown).

Sales

Virgin never quite recovered from Toonstruck. The cost to produce all that animation (and hire the top voice talent) was enormous, and the game was a commercial flop. This is probably the reason why the sequel, which set up at the game's ending, was never made.

References

  • Christopher Lloyd's side-kick in the game is called Flux - a possible reference to the blockbuster movie Back To The Future (1985) and its sequels, in which Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd)'s DeLorean time machine is powered by aid of "the flux capacitor".
  • One of the creatures that gets zapped by the Malevolator during the game’s intro, turns into something strongly resembling the Warner Brothers cartoon character ‘Taz of Tazmania’.
  • Costumes in the costume shop include ones that resemble Elmer Fudd’s hunting costume, Marvin the Martian’s garb, and a familiar WB-style robot (as often seen in Marvin the Martin cartoons), also resembling Robby The Robot from TVs Lost In Space.
  • The lower half of the Robot Maker resembles the lower half of a Dalek, the famous nemeses of ‘Doctor Who’. In fact, with his humanoid upper half and his Dalek-like base, the Robot Maker vaguely resembles Davros, the Daleks creator. He even quotes the Daleks famous line, “Exterminate”, as well as “Resistance Is Futile” – the saying associated with the Borg, the arch-enemy in several Star Trek series.

Awards

  • PC Powerplay (Germany)
    • Issue 06/2005 - #6 Likeable Secondary Character (for Flux)

Information also contributed by CaptainCanuck, Jayson Firestorm, Unicorn Lynx and Ye Old Infocomme Shoppe

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Vohaul.

Windows, Linux, Macintosh added by ZeTomes.

Additional contributors: Havoc Crow, Patrick Bregger.

Game added December 3, 1999. Last modified June 8, 2024.