Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise

Moby ID: 8552

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 82% (based on 5 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 19 ratings with 1 reviews)

An interesting curiosity that takes some steps in the right direction

The Good
This is probably one of the most obscure of the Junior Adventures, and it's not hard to see why. Like the first two Putt-Putt games, it was released before Humongous Entertainment had their breakthrough with Freddi Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds. But whereas the popularity of later Putt-Putt games gave the first two some retroactive recognition, Fatty Bear never got any sequels and was ultimately reduced to a footnote in the company's history. But when you disregard its relatively small impact on Humongous' overall history and regard it simply as a followup to Putt-Putt Joins the Parade, it's not a bad effort.

Mechanically, the game has much in common with its predecessor and seems to be aimed at the same age group. So the puzzles are once again very easy, though they are a bit more complex and numerous. Though this game mostly follows the standard formula for Junior Adventures with independent objectives, it also deviates from it in a few ways. While it immediately opens up most of its world to you (without even the need to go through an introductory segment first), it doesn't disclose all of its objectives to you right off the bat, instead introducing additional objectives after certain events occur, though you can still tackle them in any order. It's an interesting change of pace compared to how these games usually handle it.

The game also has an unusual approach to clickpoints. They feel a lot more integrated into the game's world than usual. There are many screens where almost everything that isn't gameplay-relevant is a clickpoint. In fact, some screens seem to exist more for the sake of clickpoints than anything else. Fatty Bear also interacts with quite a few of them, in contrast to other Junior Adventures where the protagonists usually ignore them completely. They help give the game a personality of its own, even if I still prefer the clickpoints of later games for their more humorous nature.

It's also worth noting that this game did introduce one mechanic that would later become a staple of the series. Namely the fact that some of its puzzles change on every playthrough, which gives it some replay value, an aspect in which this genre is usually very lacking.

Finally, both the graphics and especially the music are an improvement over Putt-Putt Joins the Parade, even if they're still dated. The former have a much greater sense of depth, while the latter gives the game a unique atmosphere of childishness with a slight hint of creepiness.

The Bad
Despite all these improvements however, the game is still pretty rough around the edges. For one, the writing is once again really basic and unremarkable. A lot of this game be blamed on the very generic cast of characters whose dialogue still consists largely just of gameplay-relevant information with little flavor text. The voice acting isn't that big of an improvement either.

And while the fact that the game hands you additional objectives as you progress is interesting at first, it can get annoying on subsequent playthroughs, as you should always focus on getting all of these objectives first in order to avoid having to backtrack through all its locations a second time later.

The game also doesn't change nearly as drastically on subsequent playthroughs as later Junior Adventures. Though some of the items you need to find are randomized, they all serve the same purpose. All that really sets them apart is their location. So most of the game always stays the game. Combine that with Fatty Bear's slow movement speed and replaying the game over and over to see everything it has to offer suddenly sounds far less appealing.

Furthermore, this is the only game in the series in which not all puzzles have to be completed. Two of them can be skipped entirely if you never meet the conditions for starting them. Perhaps this was done to give smart players the ability to finish the game quicker on subsequent playthroughs if they know what they're doing. But it's also very much possible to avoid them by accident without even realizing you missed out on them. So overall, I'm going to have to consider this a poor design decision.

As usual, there are also some minigames. They certainly aren't as lazy as the lawn mowing and pachinko minigames in Putt-Putt Joins the Parade, but they're still rather primitive. The bowling game in particular can actually be considered anti-educational, as it expects you to throw the ball in the absolute middle, which isn't how bowling is supposed to be played. Minigames are one thing that Humongous never really got the hang of even in their later years, so you can expect them to be a regular feature in the negative section of my reviews. At least they're completely optional this time, so their presence doesn't really make the game worse. It just doesn't make it much better.

The Bottom Line
Unlike Parade, which I would consider a pretty weak game now that its successors completely overshadow it, Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise is still a somewhat passable game, in addition to being a bit of an oddball in the series. But not anything more. Much better games were still to come.

DOS · by SomeRandomHEFan (164) · 2020

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Scaryfun, Kayburt, Patrick Bregger, Big John WV.